Search form

Continuity Over Packing it in: The Case for Looping Up with Your Students

As teachers we are focused on the emotional impact we had with our students. We care about the memories and relationships that were made and not the test scores. We wish we could have done more for some students but we recognize that time simply was not on our side. I have felt this way before and I had come to accept it as a natural consequence of teaching in elementary school. 

Enter the pandemic. The pandemic brought about many new challenges but also it brought around an incredibly unique public school opportunity that needs to be highlighted more. Due to personnel shifts in my school I was able to teach the same group of students not once, not twice but thrice! I taught the same group of students for 3rd grade, 4th grade and 5th grade consecutively. 

This unlocked continuity with my students never before seen in my school. It came across in test scores, sure, let’s keep admin happy, but also and most importantly through student-teacher relationships and through teacher-guardian relationships. Our classroom became less about any behavior system, ClassDojo, tickets, school money etc. to the students working together to function as a collective with whole group goals just like a family would. 

There were struggles but there were also celebrations. Celebrations that mattered where it didn’t feel trivial like growing a couple points on a test but instead unlocking concepts or creating lifelong habits. The students set a goal for the end of 3rd grade to be able to read for thirty minutes uninterrupted. They started at seven  minutes uninterrupted and  increased the time weekly or biweekly. By the end of 5th grade however the students challenged themselves to be able to read for an hour and fifteen minutes uninterrupted. We celebrated not only their reading stamina increasing in a school year, we celebrated their reading stamina increasing as lifelong readers. It was more than me saying great job but instead the entire classroom community rallied behind each other as we grew as readers, learners and as a community. This kind of real world life changing habit forming we know is only possible through repetition yet our school system is not set up for that kind of repetition where new teachers and moving of students classes from year to year changes the dynamics of the community immensely. 

Not only did this create a classroom community that I have never experienced before as a teacher but also allowed me to connect with parents in the community through continuity. Parent teacher conferences no longer felt like a traditional business meeting but became more “it takes a village to raise a child” and that opened up more direct conversations about what strategies were working for their student and what strategies were not. Since I had been with their student for three years by the end of elementary school the trust was there so even if there were disruptions to the classroom community the parents knew that I was speaking from a place of genuine care for the village and not just an authoritative stance. 

This experience changed my entire career path. Next year I will once again be rounding up with those same students to the middle school level as their sixth grade team leader. I have decided for the time being to leave general education or content specialist teaching behind and move towards teaching students with motivational challenges in the alternative program because I believe relationship building and cultivating a love for lifelong learning is the most important part and that is where I will be happiest with my career choice. 

That’s just me, what does this mean for you? I encourage any teachers experienced or new to look into rounding up with their students. The growth that you will see is truly life changing and life affirming as you can see your impact double or even triple! I encourage administrators that are experiencing a shifting staff to think about rounding up their teachers and hiring for their position as opposed to hiring for a teacher that left the school. Lastly, I encourage all teachers to lessen the individualistic goal setting patterns that we have become so comfortable with and move towards setting whole group classroom goals about lifelong habits, healthy living, reading and writing. I believe with the community working towards that the rest will fall into place. The classroom can feel like a village or community. It just takes a little extra time. 

Written by Adam Howard @teachkindling, Education World Contributing Writer

Copyright© 2022 Education World