Our learning as teachers rarely takes a vacation. Whether you’re attending an Edcamp or basking in the colorful murals of San Francisco’s Mission District, as I did last summer, we all learn over the break. I use these moments to introduce myself to new students and to establish a classroom culture that values different ways of learning. 

To achieve this, I create a bulletin board display that makes my learning process visible to students and parents. Consider these tips when developing your display—or when encouraging students to identify their learning moments and share their own stories.

Choose Your Moment

I am on the lookout throughout the summer for large and small learning moments. Many of these come from new experiences, such as perfecting Julia Child’s pie crust recipe or learning to swim. If you traveled this summer or took on a new hobby, consider what you learned in the process.

Design an Engaging Visual Story

▶ Have a Headline: A good title grabs attention. A favorite of mine, “Fun Times With Fungi,” comes from a colleague.

▶ Show, Don’t Tell: Use photographs, drawings, or interviews to document the process of learning. Don’t be afraid of selfies—students love them!

▶ Connect the Dots: Write a question that connects to the lesson you learned. For example, after facing her fear of heights by riding a gondola among the tops of California redwood trees, a teacher friend of mine asked, “How do I safely encounter my fears to better understand those of my students?”

▶ Reflect: Share what you learned through the process. What do you now know that you did not know before? How will you use that new knowledge?

My Summer Learning Moment: When Walls Talk

The murals of San Francisco’s Mission District taught me that the soul of a community is written on the walls. How can a mural reveal the values of a community? For example, the face of a skeleton seems out of place among deep-sea divers and an octopus in a mural on the wall of a public pool. This wasn’t part of the original plan but was secretly added to the mural at night by a local artist of Mexican descent who believed the children of the neighborhood needed a protector to guard them as they swam.

Since images of skeletons in Mexican folk art and culture represent the powerful relationship the living have with their ancestral dead, the planners of the mural decided this significant addition would remain.
As a result, what was once unintended became the mural’s soul for the community. This mural taught me to listen to the quiet, subtle, and initially misunderstood voices. As we start a new school year, let us work to create a community through our unique voices and experiences to tell our stories and to share our values.


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Image: Courtesy of John DePasquale