“Good morning, Rowan; good morning, Leo; good morning, Mia. . . . ” Welcome to every morning in my classroom, when I greet each of my students as they walk in the door. Regardless of subway problems, spilled breakfast yogurt, or last-minute schedule changes, by the time I have finished greeting my scholars, I am invariably grinning and ready to begin the day. The ritual is at least as much for me as for my students!
My name is Alycia Zimmerman, and I teach a 3rd grade gifted and talented class at P.S. 33 Chelsea Prep in Manhattan. Chelsea Prep is a gem of an elementary school, nestled between the new High Line park, Penn Station, and the Chelsea art galleries. Our relatively small school reflects the diversity of the neighborhood, with students from dozens of different countries and a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. I am thrilled when my students bring their array of perspectives and experiences to bear in the classroom. As part of the 3rd grade curriculum, we will be studying communities around the world throughout the year, and I can’t wait to see where my students lead our country studies.
A bit about me: My calling to our esteemed profession came late. You see, both of my parents are educators, not to mention some of my aunts and uncles, and it was initially difficult to admit that the “family business” was in my blood, too. So, after graduating with a history degree from Princeton University, I worked in academic publishing for several years. Suffice it to say that the realization that I was not fulfilled professionally led me to become a New York City Teaching Fellow. Perhaps I should also admit that a certain Ms. Frizzle was one of my role models long before I ever thought about becoming a teacher — so who was I kidding?!
My classroom is truly a work in progress, and I heartily embrace the requisite chaos, noise, and edge-of-the-seat excitement that goes along with the daily struggles of self-exploration and communal creation. My classroom also extends far beyond the four walls of our room. One of the best parts of teaching in a city like New York is the incredibly wide range of resources that are just a walk or subway ride away. My classroom also includes a fenced-in patch of dirt in front of the school that my students have claimed and are nurturing into a thriving organic vegetable garden. (I can’t wait to share our journey as we become urban farmers!) And, of course, my classroom spills into cyberspace. I love exploring new technologies, a passion my students share.
I have my share of trial-by-fire stories from those first years of teaching, but even early on, I thrived on sharing my joy in learning with other learners. I believe that a learning community should celebrate the passions and talents of all of its individuals, as well as the hard work, mistakes, and struggles that precede accomplishment. Nothing bothers me more than a child who feels that he must apologize for or hide his uniqueness. Our world desperately needs divergent, creative thinkers, and the talents of every child must be nurtured. Likewise, I love celebrating the talents of my amazing colleagues. We must nurture and support each other in the creative endeavor that is teaching, and I am so thrilled to be part of this community to do just that!