Reflection Fest Day 4: Favorite New Thing You’ve Tried
One of my favorite things is sharing resources with teachers. Today, let’s share the favorite new things that we’ve tried this year.
I still feeling like I’m learning so much about coaching. One of the things I’ve been doing this year is bring new teachers to observe veteran teachers.
Reflection Fest Day 3: Biggest Challenge
Today, let’s reflect on our challenges so far this year. What has kept you up at night, made you worry, or tested your resolve? This may be a single moment or an ongoing struggle.
Reflection Fest Day 2: Funniest Classroom Moment
Today’s reflection is a fun one: Think about your funniest classroom moment this year.
Humor is an essential part of classroom life. I used to spend all my days around kindergartners and first graders, laughing my head off at their amazing way of approaching the world. Luckily, through my coaching work, I still go into kindergarten classes every so often — and my funniest moment this year happened when I was observing a kindergarten math lesson. As I sat in the back of the class, a teensy little boy walked up to me. Looking me straight in the eyes, he started stroking the sides of my face while whispering, “You are safe. You are safe.” It was so bizarre… and hilarious!
Teachers get to celebrate two new years: one at the beginning of the academic year, and one in January. With 2013 coming to a close, it’s a perfect time to reflect on what’s come of the 2013-14 school year so far, and use our reflections to set meaningful goals for the rest of the school year.
Reflection can be a tricky necessity. Sometimes it leads to celebration as you see how particular approaches have really worked. Other times, close examination can mean confronting hard-to-swallow truths. When I was a new teacher, I remember trying desperately to get my students to work productively in groups during math. From playing endless cooperative games to giving my students roles to play in groups, I spent a lot of time trying to help my students collaborate. But when I reflected on this process, I realized that my students hadn’t been learning enough math. I had spent so much time trying to facilitate productive group work that I hadn’t spent enough time teaching content. Oops.
Editor’s Note: We’ve teamed up with Participant Media for a special holiday event. From December 27-29, we’re giving you a free screening of TEACH, a film by Academy-Award winner Davis Guggenheim. TEACH follows the struggles and triumphs of America’s education system through the eyes, minds and hearts of four school teachers.
Just a few days ago, the doorbell rang. There stood my dad with his mixed look of insistence and pride. Stepping aside, he revealed the reason for his surprise visit. “You’re going to need this,” he said, showing me the snowblower. I looked past him to dry streets and blue skies thinking he might be over-planning. Not 18 hours later, the snow started to fall and I realized that once again he knew what I needed before I knew I needed it.
Although I’m not delivering snow removal equipment, I hope this finds you “before you knew you needed it” as you approach a much needed winter break. Without a doubt, you’ll need this time to take some deep breaths, to forget which day of the week it is, and to have at least one weekend without that Sunday night frenzy. Those “deep breaths” for me often create some space to do the slower thinking I never seem to be able to do while I’m seeing students every day. That’s what this blog is about: giving you a chance to dive into some professional learning. Whether it’s a shallow or a deep dive, hopefully you’ll find something here to help you think about one of the quandaries I always seem to be pursuing: how to make my students learners.
If you have one hour you can learn more about a growth mindset and the way it can help create new potential in your learners.
I often wonder why, as a student, it feels like some lessons go on forever, while others fly by. The key, I think, lies in the sometimes vague but crucial concept of engagement. When I am engaged, I don’t even pay attention to the passing time. However, when I am not engaged, it can feel like a class is never-ending.
When my environmental science teacher asks a question, I feel engaged. Tons of people raise their hands, and he makes a conscious effort to get everyone involved. I remember one day we were doing a project on the solar system: we got into groups of three and we picked the planet we wanted to research. Each group researched how far the planet was from the sun, how big it was, and two other interesting facts about the planet. We also found a picture of our planet. The teacher then had us move beyond the classroom, taking our learning outside.
At the beginning of the year, my kindergarteners reminded me of kittens just beginning to open their eyes. They were just starting to become aware of the world and, as egocentric little beings, had trouble seeing the world through anyone else’s perspective. Sometimes they had trouble even understanding that others were out there.
As the year went on, my kindergarteners’ eyes started to open. We did a lot of work with the Mosaic Project, an amazing nonprofit devoted to teaching students community building and peacemaking skills. One of my main goals as a teacher was to help my students be empathetic and kind. But how do you teach empathy to students who can barely see beyond themselves? (This song should inspire you!)