Thursday, April 9, 2015

Meet Michelle + Make it Positive

Hey ya'll!  I'm Michelle Tomaszewski from Michelle + the Colorful Classroom.  I am thrilled and honored to collaborate with such a fabulous group of educators within the iTeach Second community!  

Although it's April (as I'm mid-Spring Break...Woo!), I reminisce to the first days of school when we get to know our students.  Part of setting a productive learning environment and building a strong rapport with students includes fostering a positive and trusting relationship between student and teacher.  I always want my students to know:  
You're important and I care about you.
My intention with this blogging experience is to do just that between you and me!  Whether we're celebrating our students' progress or nearly ripping our hair out with frustration...remember: You're important and I care about you.  We're in this journey together: educating little ones, shaping young minds, and making a difference.

Well, to ring in this new experience, as we get to know one another and build community with some amazing 2nd grade teachers, I wanted to share 10 Fun Facts about me: 
1. I'm born and raised a "Jersey Girl" - although I don't say "caw-fee" {That would be a phonics "no-no" for this Reading Interventionist.} or go tanning.
2. I'm 100% Polish and am a 1st generation American.  I was raised speaking both English & Polish and am extremely proud of my cultural roots & traditions.
3. I am currently a 2nd grade Reading Interventionist {My school calls us "Academic Support Teachers".} I pull students out of class into small groups to target their literacy needs.  Side note: prior, I was a 2nd grade classroom teacher.
4. I have been a Teacher Author on TpT since 2012 and am abundantly passionate about creating {and sharing} resources with colleagues worldwide.    
5. I worked as an assistant designer for a color + textile design firm for 10 years throughout high school and college, where my love of design and "creating things" was initially awakened... which brings me to my design sense --- 
6. Within the classroom, I love modern style with fun, bright, vibrant colors.  I'm a sucker for a hot pink chevron and turquoise polka dot when it comes to the kiddos.  However, my personal design sense is more simple, neutral, vintage-y, and rustic.  I absolutely adore barns, farmhouse tables, wooden beams, burlap, baskets, etc. 
7. I'm an organizational enthusiast.  Yes, my closet is color coded {by category...all on white hangers}.  Yes, my pantry looks like a supermarket shelf.  I think that's why I also enjoy creating sorting activities because I, myself, love to categorize things!
8. I am addicted to going on adventures and being active! I love to travel; I have been very blessed to have had to the opportunity to venture to 13 countries thus far in life. I love the outdoors and exploring new places; I'll take hiking a woodsy trail over watching a movie any day of the week.  I love to exercise {...although I haven't been graced with much "sporty" ability, like slam dunking a basketball!}; bootcamp, cycling, yoga, and dance classes are always in my weekly repertoire.  
9. I'm a bit of a health nut.  While, I strongly believe in the "everything in moderation" lifestyle, I certainly take part in the occasional juice cleanse, indulge in some green smoothies, and enjoy researching natural health remedies. {...but don't get me wrong, I love me some steaks + chocolate...just not mixed ha!}
10. God created me with a permanent smile on my face {...except, of course, when I have to put on my "teacher face"}.  I swear I smile in my sleep and am convinced my cheeks are now muscles.  All in all, I'm a pretty positive gal! 

Now - time for Tipster Thursday {woop, woop}!  I think back to my first year of teaching: I was graced with my very own 2nd grade class and one of my {non-educational} goals was to instill good citizenship in the classroom.  At this point of my career, I worked in a small, private school.  We used manners. We showed respect.  We helped others.  For goodness sake, I even had my little gentlemen always letting the ladies into the classroom first.  My students knew what a "good citizen" looked like, sounded like, and acted like - and when I caught them in the act, they'd certainly receive the praise!  At the end of each week, I'd even distribute a certificate to a student who displayed good citizenship.  A couple of months into school, I randomly received a beautiful hand-written note from a parent thanking me for promoting character education in the classroom.  She charmingly recounted a family event between my student and her little brother; when the mother asked this little girl why she did what she did, the 7 year-old replied, "I wanted to be a good citizen. Ms. T. taught me that." Of course, I was teary-eyed at the sweet sentiment, thinking: 
Wow, teachers DO make a difference 
every... single... day. 
...but what also struck me with great joy was:
Students can choose to do good and to be good...
when no one is looking 
just because...
they know it's the right thing to do.

So, my tip for you: proactively make good character count in the classroom by creating a positive environment.

First things first, it's pertinent that every teacher sets clear expectations and reinforces positive behavior with praise.  Keeping with the spirit of lists for this blog post, here are 10 activities you can try while molding good little citizens and making it positive in your classroom! {...and feel free to plug in any character trait for your teaching purposes!}
1. Collaboratively make a list, poster, or even poem defining good citizenship. Post it in the classroom as a daily reminder.  
2. Model and role play what good citizenship looks like and sounds like in different scenarios.  Students can even vote on or reflect on each scenario {orally or in written form}.
3. Put on {or even have students create} a skit emphasizing good citizenship.
4. Select a "quote of the day/week/month" for students to review during the morning meeting promoting citizenship. Post it, read it, choral read it, memorize it...make it come to life! 
5. Touch upon character traits, when applicable, during your read-alouds.  If possible, even select literature to explicitly teach citizenship. {"How did the character demonstrate citizenship?  How did that make the other characters feel?"}
6. Students can artistically create pictures {or even videos} demonstrating their interpretation of what good citizenship looks like.
7. Have a "character-rich" environment. Display character education posters in the classroom {Fabulous if they're student-made, so the kiddos take more ownership!} and even put the trait names up on your word-wall.
8. Keep a "Citizenship Journal" in your Writing Center.  When students feel they've been a good citizen or if they've witnessed good citizenship, they can reflect on it in the class journal {They can even read others' past posts on the topic for encouragement + inspiration.}.
9. At the end of each day/week/month, announce to the class, "I caught ____ being a good citizen when...." to not only label proper conduct, but to also praise {Feel free to incorporate use of certificates + awards, if you'd like!}. ---OR--- Select a student to report on another classmate's outstanding behavior.  
10. Collectively create a classroom pledge of proper classroom conduct and have students sign it {Don't force anyone to pledge - allow them to decide!}.

As a "thank you" for reading my first post, kindly download a "Good Citizenship" freebie from my TpT store:
 Good Citizenship {{freebie}}
including a reference definition, a couple of graphic organizers, a sorting activity, and even a "good citizen" certificate!  Enjoy and be well! 

Michelle Tomaszewski
Michelle + the Colorful Classroom

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  1. It's so nice to meet you, Michelle; I really enjoyed reading the fun facts about you! You sound like a great person to hang out with! :) The activities for molding good little citizens are wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Oh, your sweet comment warms my heart! Nice to meet you as well! Perhaps there will be some TpT meet-ups in our future. :-) Thanks for the feedback!

  2. There are some really clever ideas for positive reinforcement in this post. Keeping an active interest in good behavior is definitely important to maintaining an effective learning environment.Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting! I love how you referenced ACTIVE interest. It's not enough to touch upon something just once. Learning is ongoing, for sure! :-)

  3. Love it Michelle! These ideas are great not only for the teachers but also to use at home with our kids
    Parents are your first teachers and we all should teach our kids good citizenship values at home
    It is great to see that you believe in teaching these values to your students at school God knows we all need more good citizens:)
    It shows that you believe in the whole picture: knowledgable and well rounded children
    Great Blog, Good Luck :)

    1. Thanks so much, Kinga! You hit the nail on the head - parents ARE the first teachers and it's always a beautiful thing when parents + teachers are on the same page in providing the best of the best for the young ones!

  4. I absolutely love your outlook on teaching Michelle, you are truly an inspiration! Teaching our students to be a good citizen will benefit them on a momentary basis and prepares them for success. It is teachers like you that our students will remember forever! Keep up the phenomenal work :)

    1. Wow, thanks Jaime! My heart is smiling over here. :-) Making a difference is the greatest reward! ...and you're absolutely right - teaching citizenship certainly prepares students for success out in the "real world". Thanks for reading!

  5. Loved this post and I learned a lot about Michelle. She has a wonderfully positive attitude and the energy that kids deserve in the classroom.

    I look forward to more advice and wish there were more teachers with this type of enthusiasm!

    1. Well then, I enthusiastically say THANK YOU! Hope you enjoy future posts! :-)