This year has been an incredible learning journey for me so far. As I have worked to give power back over to my students in the classroom and to help them take more ownership of their learning, I have seen dramatic results. This classroom is quickly becoming a shared space. One in which both my students and I feel empowered to make choices that allow us to do our best work. Students are learning to be more reflective and to think about what they need in order to learn new things.
I want to give my students the kind of choices that I value in the real world. And one of the things that I value is being able to work in a way that meets my needs in a given moment. At the end of a really long day, I like to do my work curled up on my oversized chair. At the start of a busy day, I like to sit in my porch room with a cup of coffee to read. And when I am gearing up for a large writing task, I like to sit at my kitchen table where I am least likely to get distracted. No matter what spots we choose for the tasks before us, the important part is in the choosing. We choose the seats that work best for us in order for us to accomplish our current work. We choose the seats that honor who we are and what we need in that moment.
I want my students to have that choice.
Right now, we are pretty limited in our selection of working spaces in my classroom. I have one rocking chair (which the kids are always eager to sit in/fight over), we have two office-type desk chairs (again, a hot commodity during work times) we have large pillows, floor chairs, clipboards, regular chairs and stools. The kids are always welcome to choose from these options, but it often just doesn’t seem like it is enough.
So this past Friday night, I became rather obsessed with researching alternative seating for classrooms. I recognize that researching chairs on a Friday night highlights all of my “un-coolness,” but it is also a pretty honest reflection of my life. Anyway, I got really excited about some of the options that I discovered, but realized that there was no way I could purchase these chairs with my own money (unless I removed all food from my child and all the pets in my house for the near future and that just didn’t seem right).
Enter Donors Choose.
I had heard about the website Donors Choose before, but I have always been incredibly fortunate to have most of my teaching needs met by the wonderful district that I work in. It wasn’t until this year, when I started to reach beyond just what we needed to get by, that I started to realize that I wanted things for my students that I could not fund myself. The Donors Choose website is a wonderful place where teachers can post projects that they hope will be funded and anyone can make a donation, of any amount, to help teachers fund those projects. The amazing thing about this crowd sourcing website is that everyone’s small donation adds up to create something really big for kids. It is the internet at its very best. It is social media at its very best. It is this small way to show that when we come together, we can do a lot of really great things for kids.
So I began my very first Donors Choose project. And it is somewhat terrifying because unless the whole project is funded, you don’t get any of the money that is donated. So it’s all or nothing. I, and now my 40 fifth graders, are sincerely hoping for all.
The project went live on Saturday and because my Twitter network of teachers is the most amazing group of people, I have already made a great amount of progress towards my goal. But we still have a really long way to go. So now, I am asking for your help. Anyone who should happen to come across this blog post. If you have even a few dollars to be able to give to our project, it would be so very much appreciated. Not just by me, but my very excited students (we will get to their words in a moment). And here is the best part:
FOR THE NEXT WEEK ONLY (UNTIL SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15th) EVERY DOLLAR YOU DONATE WILL BE MATCHED AND DOUBLED IF YOU ENTER THE PROMOTIONAL CODE “SPARK” AT CHECKOUT. That is huge!
When I shared this project with my students today, the expressions on their faces were enough motivation to keep working towards this goal. They were so excited at the thought of these new seating options. They immediately recognized what an impact these seats would make on their learning. I had them do some writing about why they think these chairs would help us in the classroom and what they had to say was incredible. They posted their thoughts on our blog and they can be found in full, here and here. But in case you just want some highlights of what they had to say, just take a look at these:
Nell said: “I can NEVER get to the rocking chair on time. When I try to sit in a Crazy Creek and rock I flip over on my head. I want to stretch, to keep that beat into my life and have a comfortable position as well. Our teachers have already spent enough money. We need your help to encourage focus, to encourage fun.”
Brady said: “The normal mid-day fidgets hit me at 1:34 and so suddenly my feet can’t stop tapping, pencils can’t stop hitting my desk. Then my teacher glares at me in a nice way but with the look in her eyes that I was distracting her. But I can’t help it I need movement recess was already so far away and I don’t think I would be able to make it through the school day. But there is a solution for kids to get higher grades with more movement. If we earn enough money this will teach us that if we work together we can accomplish big things and that is a lesson that is not just a kid lesson but a life lesson.”
Drew said: “We have started a donation for some chairs that allow movement for us and we think that it will maximize our learning experience by help us focus. For example, these chairs allow us to move around safely, whereas with the standard chairs, we greatly enjoy leaning back in our chairs in which the front legs of the chairs come off the floor, which is quite dangerous because you can fall over and hit your head on the floor. All kids are “jumpy”. We move around and lean in our chairs because we can’t sit still. We have a good reason for that though. We need to be able to focus. We can’t focus if we are energetic. Therefore, we move around and lean in our chairs. With these chairs we can get our energy out in class, while not worrying the teachers. You really should donate. If we get these chairs we will be more happy, and we will learn much easier.”
Pretty incredible, right?
So here is the link for our Donors Choose project:
Every tiny bit helps, and I know a whole bunch of 5th graders who would appreciate any small effort you can make. Remember to use the code SPARK during checkout to have your donation doubled!
We would love your help, even if that just means passing along this blog post. Nothing is too small in helping these kids do the important work of learning.
I am excited to see the power of the internet come to life for my students. And I am excited to get them the kind of seating options that value who they are and what they need. Thanks so much for helping in any way you can!