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Teachers Head Back to School Ready to Build Community in the Classroom

Latimer Lane third-grade teacher Kim Roth

Latimer Lane third grade teacher Kim Roth was back preparing her classroom weeks before her students’ return.

Many Connecticut students and teachers are heading back to school this week, and teachers are setting the stage for a positive school year with projects and activities to introduce themselves to their students and acclimate them to a new classroom and grade level.

Students will start back to school at Latimer Lane Elementary in Simsbury this Wednesday. Returning teachers are back for their first official day today, but they’ve been in the classroom preparing for students for weeks now.

“It’s my 20th year teaching, and I still love it,” said third grade teacher Kim Roth. “I still get nervous before the first day of school.”

Roth is ready to start the year off for her students with a scavenger hunt around the classroom that gives students a chance to get to know one another, Roth, and the classroom.

“The goal for me is always to build community first,” Roth says. “It’s not my classroom, it’s our classroom.”

At the end of every school year, Roth asks her students to write a booklet reviewing what their favorite parts of the year were in order to prepare the next class of incoming third graders. She has the booklets that last year’s students wrote waiting on each new student’s desk.

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Other beginning of the year actives Roth has prepared include a survey for students to take and a personal shield project where students depict information about themselves and their favorite animal, food, and sport. Students then present their shield to the rest of the class as a means of introducing themselves.

Second grade teacher Cathleen Falk also prioritizes getting to know her students and creating a classroom community. She says she uses the Responsive Classroom approach and dedicates plenty of time at the beginning of the year for students to get to know each other and the classroom routine.

Cathleen Falk

Second grade teacher Cathleen Falk was hard at work preparing her classroom on a muggy August day with the help of her eight- and eleven-year-old daughters.

“Setting up the routines and structure is so important for young students,” she says. “If they don’t have that, they can’t learn.”

Falk also sees movement as an essential facilitator of student learning. She schedules regular movement breaks for her students that include a variety of exercises.

“By the end of year, my students can hold a plank for a full minute,” Falk says.

One of the projects Falk has worked on before heading back to school recognizes that the learning community extends beyond her classroom door. She recorded video for a flipped classroom presentation for both students and their parents since, she said, many parents don’t understand how math is now taught at the school

Falk is on the district’s Technology Innovation Committee and last year taught all Simsbury grade two teachers how to do flipped classrooms on Google Drive.

Falk says that the Simsbury public education community is very supportive.

“People are always willing to help each other out—we can always ask colleagues for assistance, and we work really well together and respect each other,” she said. “It’s what I like most about the district.”

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