An Interview with 5th Grade Teacher Jessica Robertson

We took a field trip to visit Jessica Robertson, a fifth grade teacher in Merida, Mexico. She shared what’s on her mind this year as she gets ready for back to school!

Jessica Robertson 5th Grade Teacher Headshot

Pick one word that is your focus or intention this school year.

Jessica: Student Agency

What are some traditions or superstitions you have for the first day of school?

Jessica: I always take a first day of school picture of the students individually and as a group, and mark their height on the wall in pencil. They love looking back at the end to see how much they have grown and changed throughout the year!

What is your favorite activity to build classroom community during the first week of school?

Jessica: I like to set the tone about meaningful peer feedback by watching the video about5th Grade Students Collaborating Austin’sButterfly and teaching students to ask and give feedback from their classmates. To give them space to practice, students make self-portraits and get their classmates’ advice (the more specific, the better!) about how to make their drawings the best they can be. They are amazed by how well they come out with the help of their peer, and really get a chance to observe each other and interact in a positive way.

How does Seesaw bring learning to life in your classroom?

Jessica: I see Seesaw as a way to take a snapshot of the students’ thinking in time and help them document their learning. I love hearing them use the microphone tool to explain their thinking process or take pictures of themselves in different activities.

How do you use Seesaw to connect with families?

Jessica: I love the message feature to send group messages about upcoming activities, materials, schedules, etc. Likewise, each Friday, I use the progress feature to send parents updates about what assignments students have completed or have pending from the week.

If you were able to have an unlimited amount of something for your classroom, what would it be and why?

5th grade teacher demonstrating an activity in front of the class

Jessica: It’s such a simple tool, but I love white boards, dry erase markers, and erasers. They givestudents a chance to all participate actively and working with them lets me as a teacher have a diagnostic tool for formative evaluation and differentiation.

Share one Seesaw goosebumps moment. Was there a time learning was captured on Seesaw that gave you goosebumps?

Jessica: For the first month or two of the pandemic before we started with Zoom classes, Seesaw was my only communication with students. At the beginning, students completed assignments and did their best work, but soon after they began to use it to search for that oh-so-necessary human connection. I would get voice messages just to say hi, beautiful drawings, and pictures of students’ pets and houses. It was amazing how it allowed us to stay in contact in such a complicated time, and it truly moved me how much each of us needed it.

What are your tips to build relationships with families at the start of the school year?

Jessica: From the very beginning I try to let parents know that I value them and would love for them to be as involved as possible. At Back to School night, I always take attendance and pass around a list where parents can write any areas of expertise that they have and could share with students, and refer to this while planning experiences during our different units. When possible, I try to give them small opportunities to participate with their students or assignments at home so they have a glimpse into what is happening in the classroom. Likewise, I send Seesaw progress reports every Friday, so parents can check what their students have been working on. They love the constant communication and we are then able to work together during the year.

What is your favorite “teacher hack” or tip?

Jessica: Your coworkers are your best friends! If you have the possibility to plan and work collaboratively, it makes life so much easier – you don’t have to be a hero and do it all on your own, a team can be your best ally!

What is a classroom challenge you’ve conquered that you are most proud of?

Jessica: When I first started teaching, I believed I needed to have everything completely planned out for the whole unit before we started. Slowly, I have come to realize that students really need to take part in their own learning process. For me, it was a big challenge to let go of the control and let students take over, but it has been one of my most successful decisions as a teacher.

What is your favorite quote of all time?

Jessica: “You don’t want to cover a subject, you want to uncover it.” – Eleanor Duckworth

What would your students be surprised to find out about you?

Jessica: I play the trumpet and the violin in my church group.

If participants take away one thing from your #Connect2023 session, what would you want it to be?

Jessica: I hope teachers come away from the session excited about using provocations in their classroom, and confident with at least one or two provocation techniques that they can apply immediately in their classroom.

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