How have I changed and grown this year as a teacher?
Environment/relationships: This past year I have been very aware of my relationships with my students. I realized while I was blogging every week about my teaching, I spent most of my time writing about my feelings, relationships, and connections with the kids. Now, I am so aware of how my actions affect my students. I consciously keep in mind what I say to my students, how I feel towards them, and what bothers me throughout the week. I have found that I use much less praise and am choosing my words in an encouraging way. I also realize that when I have inner reactions towards kids, they pick up on the energy I give off. Thus, I am focusing on what things bother me. I have found the things that I react to now were the exact ways I behaved as a child and the exact things I said as a child. Now that I have been able to make my connections to the past, I have begun to change my thinking as soon as I feel myself reacting to the students; consequently, I have found myself being able to be positive and loving most of the time instead of some of the time.
Instruction (how you teach): Once again, I am much more informed on how I teach my students. Instead of my imparting my knowledge on them, I have begun to be more of a facilitator, letting the students direct where the learning will take us. I start with what they know and where they are at and let the questioning and discussions come from them. I also let them know what we are doing in class and why. In the past I would give them an assessment and they wouldn’t know why. Now I explain to them what I am looking for and that it is OK if they don’t know what it is or how to do it. I assure them I want to know what they know so we can plan from there. They have been really relaxed and I have observed them falling fearlessly into our learning together. This is not what I was planning on but I actually had students tell me they weren’t going to read this summer because they want to have me again next year. In 10 years I’ve never had anyone say that to me. Obviously they are connecting to my new approach to the classroom and I’m glad they feel comfortable BUT oh my. I can see this approach really does affect the students in a positive way.
Discipline/content (what you teach): I had a chance at the end of the year to change what I teach by taking a unit in the reading curriculum and creating a backward design. I was amazed at how much more focused I was while learning with the students and keeping a focus on the essential understanding. Instead of just telling them we were going to do a unit on “….”, I let them know we were going to explore and investigate “….” Their understandings were not only considered first in the planning but the starting point and then moving from there. I also changed some of my reading strategies. I researched, reflected on, and implemented early literacy skills needed to be a strong reader. I most recently have read, reflected on and implemented some best practices in reading. I appreciate being more informed in my teaching because when I sit in meetings, talk with parents, and lead small groups I am a much more confident and prepared advocate for students.
Assessment: Since I started teaching I have always been a “data” junky, in part because I have to use multiple assessments to qualify students for Title 1. I have spent hundreds of hours poring over screeners like AIMSweb and diagnostic assessments like MAPS and MCA’s. Slowly, I am beginning to see that these types of assessments take much time away from the classroom and aren’t always a good reflection of the total child. I am realizing that a lot of classroom time is devoted to “teaching to the test”. Kids are being presented with short reading passages along with being asked fact based multiple choice questions. I now see how superficial this kind of testing can be. Now, I much prefer formative assessments. I have started to recognize that these types of assessments provide so much more information for me as a teacher. I can truly keep the student at the center of my designing because I am so much more informed about where they are at. I love telling the students I am not grading anything. I only want to know what they know. They relax and they stop looking at their neighbor’s paper. They can see I only want to know about them, keeping their best interests in mind. I can clearly see that trust is being built between us. I now can be an advocate for assessments that are useful and give life to my teaching.