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Kelly Patterson

Middle School Geography
13 Years Teaching, 10 at Country Day

How do you build strong relationships with your students?

I really want students to feel comfortable in my class, so I listen to them. I trust them. I support them even when they doubt themselves. I want them to know it’s OK to take risks in my class, and it’s OK to mess up and to fail. That’s the glory of seventh grade. I think it’s important to carve out time to get to know my students outside of the classroom. I love to read, and I’ve hosted book clubs so we can read together. I have Breakfast Club where kids can come and just hang out before school, eat doughnuts, and we’ll talk about life. I really enjoy writing notes to my students. I love stationery, pens, and paper, so I’ll write notes to my students as a way to connect and practice gratitude. My job is to journey with these students, and I want them to know they are important to me, and that I see them. In this digital age, it’s fun to receive an “old-fashioned” note, and I cherish the notes they give me in return.

How do you keep students engaged?

I keep my students engaged through structure, balance, and a ton of creativity. I change my curriculum each year and with that comes the opportunity to do new things in my classroom. For instance, over the summer I had a vision for how to bring more of my passion for reading into my classroom. I created First Chapter Fridays. This is when I read the first chapter of a new book that is set in the region we are currently studying in class. I’m growing my classroom library, introducing books, and reading to my students weekly. Not only am I reading more, but my students are reading more, too, while we study the world. When I started this, my goal was to foster their interest in reading and further the goal of inclusivity in my classroom. By using these read-alouds, I am also creating an environment of belonging that just happens organically as I read about different countries.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started teaching?

I wish I knew that I should write in pencil in my calendar and on my lesson plan, because sometimes the best plans are not the best plans for the day. There’s always a gem in a discussion or an opportunity that presents itself. I wish I had the confidence then that I have now to know that I don’t have to be perfect. I can roll with it when a lesson plan flops and be flexible. It’s OK to keep the pace of the students and not necessarily my own pace. The students know what’s best sometimes. Listening to them is important.