When I was a first-year teacher, I had many dreams of what my classroom was going to look like. On a list of goals I set out for myself, I included having the students highly engaged in all the work they do. This was a lofty goal for my first year, but it was something that I felt really passionate about. Out of all the subjects that I was going to be taking on as a 4th-grade teacher, I was sure that writing could potentially be the easiest. I assumed all the students knew how to write and that we would just be building on the skills they had learned as early as kindergarten.
My 4th-grade classroom at Brennan-Rogers School of Communication and Media in New Haven, CT, is much different from any classroom I have ever experienced in my time preparing to be a teacher. The students inside my classroom have many more life experiences than I could have even imagined. They come from all walks of life and are at a wide range of different academic levels. I work with some students with abilities as low as kindergarten level, all the way to some advanced students working at the fifth and sixth grade level. I have to find a way to let all of the students have their voices be heard through their writing. They all have a lot to say. I just need to differentiate the way they can express their thoughts and ideas. Writing is a process, one that seems to take a long time at the fourth-grade level. We go through the many steps of this process to get a complete essay in the end. Unfortunately, in a classroom that has a lot of needs and an ever-changing curriculum expectations, writing is a constant struggle. When we run out of minutes in the day, something seems to always get pushed aside. Sometimes that something is writing. With the writing process being such a time consuming thing, it is hard to stay the course and get finished writing products in a timely manner. Since I am an elementary teacher in a classroom where I am in charge of giving instruction on all subjects every day, it is a struggle at times. I need to find as many ways as possible to excite and engage the students in as many lessons as I can. My goal as a teacher has changed dramatically as I finish my fourth year of teaching. My goal for my students now is that they can learn something new, enjoy being at school, and get work done at their level so that they feel as though they have accomplished something every day. With my experience, I have learned that I am lucky that one of these goals is reached for some of my students sometimes. This unit will help to pull all the students in and to connect them to something they know well. By doing that, I hope that they can learn something new, enjoy their work, and get it finished.