Bringing Learning to Life in My Classroom
25 January 2024
By Ms. Sharonda Tutson, Second-Grade Teacher at Reavis Math and Science Specialty School
When I was looking for my first teaching job, Reavis was one of the first schools that interviewed me, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It is an honor to teach in Bronzeville—The Black Metropolis.
I tell my students that they are living in history. Every block you walk in this neighborhood has such a rich and amazing culture. There are so many beautiful stories engraved in the concrete of this place. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.
On top of all of that, I keep coming back to Reavis because it’s a small school that feels like a family. I’m now in my fourth year of teaching, and I’ve taught so many siblings and cousins. The families here are what keep Reavis great.
I think my students would describe my teaching style as quirky, fun, and explorative. I have a performing arts background, which I love incorporating into my lessons.
Let’s say that we’re working on a word problem. I enlist my students as actors to help bring it to life. Some of them might play characters or objects in the word problem. One of them might even be its question mark. My students love seeing what they are learning being performed and displayed in front of them.
I’m grateful to be able to be teaching my first-grade students from last year for a second year. I feel like I am already building stronger relationships with them and learning things about them that I didn’t know about them in first grade. Now, we have an extra year to create positive memories together.
One of my favorite memories of the school year thus far connects to my classroom’s focus on reading and literacy. My students love our novel reading time because they know we are going to read one of my favorite books—Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
My students look up to me and want to listen to one of my favorite stories. One of my students even bought a similar book to read herself.
To increase my students’ intrinsic motivation for reading, I’ve brought part of the story into our classroom. A key part of Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the “Cheese Touch,” which is a moldy piece of cheese that the students in the book avoid on the playground. We now have our own “Cheese Touch” in my classroom—don’t worry, it’s protected by two Ziploc bags!
This goal also requires me to build stronger connections with my parents. I created an at-home plan for them, which is a daily schedule they can use to incorporate more reading into their routines. I know that my parents try very hard to support their students’ academics, and individualizing these plans to meet them where they are has been a big help.
Promoting this intrinsic motivation is a great starting place to help my students take initiative in all of their subjects and develop additional skills, such as agency and organization. These skills can support them throughout the rest of elementary school, and in high school, college, and their careers. Starting early is key.
I even have to remind myself of these skills from time to time. As a young teacher, I also have to remind myself not to beat myself up when the day doesn’t go according to plan.
At the very least, I know that my students value me as their teacher and are excited to be in my class. I see that excitement every time we read a novel together or tackle a word problem.
Ms. Tutson describes herself as a theater kid “to the core.” Her passion for teaching blossomed at Columbia College Chicago, where she pursued early childhood education.
23 February 2024
Take Five with Chrishan David, English and AP African American Studies Teacher at Gwendolyn Brooks High School
Two years ago, Ms. David became one of 60 educators to teach the AP African American Studies Pilot 1 program, offering students a rich introduction to African American history and culture.