It Started With A Surprise Party!

About a month ago, I heard rumblings from a couple of my Grade 5 students about an upcoming surprise party. I honestly didn’t think too much about it. When three of my students helped our principal present the “goodbyes” at the year-end assembly, I figured that this was the surprise. I was wrong! On the last day of school, I was treated to the most incredible “goodbye” by an amazing group of Grade 5 students — my fantastic class — that many days later, made me realize how much this surprise party truly summed up my learning from this year. And so after much thinking about this party and Jonathan So‘s end of the year reflection post, let me share my own year end reflections.

Give students a voice. Not only did the students know what they wanted to do for this surprise party, but they felt confident enough to make it happen. I learned from some students afterwards that they went and met with our vice principal and even elicited her help to get me out of the classroom so that they could set-up for the surprise. They also spoke to the EA’s in our classroom, and worked with them for photograph help and lunchtime supervision assistance. The students used their voices to make this party possible, and all year long, they used their voices to share their thoughts on learning and help create the classroom environment that would meet their learning needs.

Never underestimate what students can do. Even though I heard about the possibility of this party before it happened, I think that I didn’t believe that it would happen because it was such a huge undertaking for a group of Grade 5 students. The whole class needed to work together to make this possible. There was a lot of planning to do. Much of the work needed to be done at home as I was always in the classroom. But now I apologize, as I completely underestimated what students can do! This party was a good reminder to me that we need to set expectations high, and support students (and allow them to support each other), so that they can all be successful.

Relationships matter. I’m a big believer in knowing curriculum expectations and ensuring that classroom activities align with these expectations. And the curriculum does matter — a lot — but relationships matter too. As I sat back on Friday and watched the students coordinate the party plans and socialize with each other, I realized that we really do have a “classroom family.” Yes, we have our share of disagreements, but we also have a lot of love and respect for each other, and this is something that I always want in a classroom.

Make math real. Thanks to our vice principal, this is something that I’ve been focusing on all year, but even as the year came to an end, I saw the value in meaningful math. Students used multiplication and division to figure out snack amounts for each student. They used fractions as they sliced the cake, and they even discussed what would happen to the size of each slice, if we cut the cake into fewer pieces. Students also used measurement as they figured out the dimensions for the card to fit on the classroom door. I don’t know if they realized that they were using any of this math — and shhh … I won’t tell them if you don’t 🙂 — but even on the last day of school, math may not happen in a textbook, but it can happen naturally.


Let them problem solve. This was really my first year embracing inquiry learning, and asking questions and solving problems, are such huge components of inquiry. As students spoke to me about planning and executing this surprise party, I realize how many problems they solved. From changing their speech plans to figuring out how to get me out of the classroom, the students worked through these issues together, and on Friday, they saw the incredible outcome of what they did. Students learn as they solve problems, and I’m so glad that these Grade 5’s saw the value in problem solving!

Learning is a community affair. As many of my blog readers know, I’m a huge advocate of home/school connections and a big believer in developing meaningful relationships with parents. On Friday, I was overwhelmed with the number of parents that came in to say, “goodbye,” stayed for some of our year-end party, or even emailed me their goodbye notes. Looking at parents and students interacting together in the classroom, I was reminded that learning really is a community affair, and I’ve been fortunate to work in a community that’s taken such an active role in student learning. I’m excited to work with new families and continue to build this “community” that I believe is so important in education! (This may be hard, and it may be a slow process, but it will be worth it!)

Read From The Bottom, Up: The Perfect End To A Perfect Year!

Read From The Bottom, Up: The Perfect End To A Perfect Year!

During the last week of school, I blogged to thank parents and staff for such a great nine years at Ancaster Meadow School, but now I blog to thank the students. You’ve made me laugh. You’ve made me cry. You’ve taught me something new every day. You’ve forced me to think of new ways to help you learn. You’ve helped me see what “success” is all about. And you’ve even helped this Grinch‘s heart grow a few sizes bigger than I ever thought possible. 🙂 Here’s to many more wonderful years of learning (for all of us)!


3 thoughts on “It Started With A Surprise Party!

  1. Was going to tweet but my thoughts are more than 140 characters. Great reflection aviva. You know you have been a great educator when you see and know your S’s will succeed in the real world. I know it’s a surprise party but it’s more than that. They organized, ran and brought a little pride to you. It’s amazing to look back on the growth and know that these students will do wonders. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jonathan! It’s funny — the person that would do just about anything to avoid parties may have actually learned the most from a party. 🙂 I’m so proud of my students and all that they taught me this year. I have no doubt that they’ll continue to be successful (in many ways thanks to the people like you, in my PLN, that inspired me to change my teaching practices and make things even better for them — THANK YOU!).


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