Greetings! Catamount Corner is back. Every month I will bring you news about teaching and learning at the St. Johnsbury School. It is Wednesday evening as I write this account, our third day of being in session. We have had a terrific start. I am so impressed with students' respect, kindness, and curiosity and with teachers' and paras' dedication and commitment to serving students. The mood throughout the building for these three days has been upbeat, energized, and enthusiastic.

I am choosing to present the beginning of the year through the eyes of our students. Fourth graders have been working on class expectations. Here are some of their ideas related to being respectful: be a good friend; listen to the teacher; help others if they need help; say nice words, and do not break pencils. Their ideas related to doing their best included: work quickly and efficiently; stay on task; try hard everyday; try hard and think hard; never give up. Fourth graders got quite practical with their thoughts on staying safe: walk and tie your shoes.

Fifth graders wrote three sentence summaries describing their hopes for the year. One fifth grader wrote, "My hope this year is to read a lot of good books. One way I will try to achieve this is by making sure I read 15 pages or more every day. By June, I will have read at least 90 books." Another student chose math as his focus, and he wrote, "My hope this year is to do the best in math that I can do. One way I will try to achieve this is to pay attention in class and ask for help when I need it. By June, I hope to achieve new math learning." Another student also chose math as his goal but he described his strategy this way. "My hope is to improve in math, and one way I will try to achieve this is by studying my math skills and asking questions when I am confused."

Writing was another student's choice. One fifth grader wrote, "My hope this year is working on my writing. One way I will achieve this is by participating in quick, fun writing to learn and practice what good writers do. By the end of the school year I will write better." Another student chose behavior, and she wrote, "My dream this year is I am going to try to have a good year with my behavior. One way I will try to achieve this is to stay more focused in class. By June (and before!) I will behave very well in school." Another student's goal related to homework. "My hope this year is to make my brother stop bugging me when I do homework. One way I will achieve this is try to move to a new area. By June and earlier, I will be doing my homework without being bothered."

Middle school students tackled this question in starting up their science work: What does the perfect science class look like, sound like and feel like? Students had several ideas. One of them wrote, "The perfect science class looks like hands on learning, sounds like partner work, and feels like excited." Another student described the perfect class with these phrases: active minds, challenging ideas, free to ask questions. One middle school student explained that everyone would have an understanding of what was going, people would be working in groups, and it would feel like a place that anyone could come in and learn. These were adjectives that came up often: fun, friendly, safe, welcoming, comfortable, productive, and positive. Another student got very specific. "We would be in the lab mixing chemicals and studying chemical reactions. You would be working with your friends and talking."

The students also tackled this question: Who decides what the class looks like? One student expressed, "It's decided by how each person acts in the class and how we respect each other." The same idea came through in another student's words, "Everybody in class would decide by the choices they make." One student declared, "As scientists we should have some say in what we do in class." Another student felt that the students decide because of "how they want to learn," and someone else wrote, "We decide through our suggestions and questions." A different perspective came from one student, "The science teachers decide because they get together and plan."

I feel very privileged to be part of the St. Johnsbury School learning community. We have a year of powerful promise and potential ahead!

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