Little People Who Make BIG Things

By Sara Arranz January 14th, 2014 1:30 PM

While I always have a plan for my lesson when I arrive in the morning, what I love most is that I never know where my class will end up.

Welcome to our little world at Cleveland Elementary, where early childhood classrooms use the Creative Curriculum. Students are the explorers, searching for and discovering the ways they want to learn. As their teacher, I am there to support them with whatever it is that they need.

In September 2013, I greeted my group of 20 four year olds for the first time by saying, “Buenos días constructores (Good morning builders).” That greeting soon turned into “Buenos días diseñadores” (designers), “Buenos días ingenieros” (engineers), and “Buenos días deliniantes” (drafters). I wanted my students to understand that they would be able to build and design their own lessons and that they were directing their own learning.  I wanted them to discover the world on their own, through action and hands-on activities.

Throughout the year, my students and I “built” our lessons together, crafting objectives, resources, and goals based on the natural pace of their learning desires and needs.  Our classroom became a “construction site” where tools and materials where strewn everywhere. Professional builders and engineers visited us on multiple occasions and shared with us their expertise. During one of these visits, an expert led us through an investigation of our classroom and around our school neighborhood to explore the area more deeply. At the end of our “never-ending” investigation, our class went to the Building Museum for a big celebration. The most amazing part of this trip was not only the discoveries of my students, but the fact that all of this was happening in Spanish!

It was not always like this, though. Moving from Spain to DC was a challenge for me, and I soon realized all the changes I would face both as a foreigner and as a new teacher in the district. What I did not expect was the support and benefits that I would gain as a public school teacher joining a district in the nation’s capital. Every challenge I encountered that year was turned into an opportunity for me to grow, not only as an educator but also as a person.

DCPS pushes me to plan well, work hard, and be accountable to my students, and that improves the quality of my practice every day. However, As an early childhood teacher, I would not have been able to make this progress on my own. I have the pleasure of working with another educator in the room, an educational aide, who understands what it means to teach Early Stages. He is the eyes that I need to observe me for suggestions, the colleague I need to discuss changes to my lessons, and the only other person who understands what my students need.

As teachers, we need these positive critics to encourage us to be more reflective in our work. I encourage all educators to develop a relationship like this with a colleague. In that way, we will all be able to “build” the future of this great nation.

Sara Arranz Ramiro is a pre-kindergarten Spanish immersion teacher at Cleveland Elementary School in Washington, D.C.