Reorganizing, Reflecting, and Running into Summer

I end every school year with the three Rs: reorganizing, reflecting, and running down 100 South and out the door at break-neck speed.

Since I’m not organized by nature, reorganizing is really more like organizing until I lose interest (about 2 minutes in) and wander down the hall to talk to someone or search YouTube for videos of dogs swimming in their owner’s pools when they are at work (don’t judge unless you are a teacher at the end of the year). Can we take a moment to admire my clean desk?

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Reflection, on the other hand, is something I take quite seriously and can spend hours upon hours pouring over end-of-the-year student surveys and thinking back on my own instruction. Room 128 is as much of a classroom for me as it is for my students, and I learn as much if not more each year than they do. These reflections pave the way for another year, a better year because I have taken time to sift through what works, what doesn’t, and make adjustments. Here’s what I learned in 2017:

Choice Reading

I am a o̶l̶d̶  seasoned teacher which means I have to work hard to stay current with education research and pedagogy and be bold enough to try things outside of my comfort zone in Room 128. Choice reading was one of my experiments this year, and this will remain a part of my class. If my students read for 15 minutes each day,  they get 100s for the week for reading the book of their choice – no test, no book report, no poster. How do you know what they’re comprehending? What if they’re really not reading? What if . . . . . . .? All I know is my students are wearing a path from my room to the library and talking about books; that’s all I need.

Feedback not grades

When I first heard about the TTOG (Teachers Throwing Out Grades) movement, I was skeptical but am becoming more and more intrigued and aligned to this way of thinking. My current district requires grades so throwing out grades completely is not an option. I have, however,  tried to focus more on feedback and less on grades. I am still figuring out what this looks like in my class but was encouraged when I found this on a student survey: “I love our classroom because everything is based around learning and not assignments.” And I love that this student says “our classroom” – added bonus!

Content, Culture, and Community

Survey question: What is something we did this year that you think you will remember for the rest of your life?

A few answers:

Trivia on Friday and pancakes in class

Breakfast in class

Reading The Things They Carried and playing trivia

Senior year evaluation and advice on the football field

Pancakes

The Things They Carried

Commencement speeches and The Things They Carried

Trivia

The chaos of trivia

Now can I serve pancakes, play trivia, and take the kids to the football field for a motivational speech every day? Of course not. (If you know of a job where I can do this, please let me know). But when I can do these things on occasion, students will work harder and learn more because we are personally invested in each other. Classroom culture deserves a teacher’s attention.

Stories matter

I LOVE listening to teachers tell a success story and believe there is great power in a good story. Teachers are often discouraged from being overworked, harassed by parents, or not supported in their schools, and we owe it to ourselves and our profession to tell our stories. Are there challenges in education? Yes. Is the system flawed? Yes. Are some parents crazy? Yes. Are some teachers crazy? Yes. Do these things define us? No. In an attempt to be proactive about teachers and parents sharing positive education stories, I have created a Teach with Class Facebook page as forum for celebrating the good in education. Here’s what I ask of you, my faithful reader: like the page, post a positive education story on it or something your learned this year, and share with others. I am tired of the news and a few Negative Nancys or Nathans (I promise this is not in reference to my son-in-law, it’s the only N name I can think of) defining education. Use your voice to tell your story!

What did you learn this year? I’d love to learn from you and have plenty of time to read since I am still nursing a pulled hamstring that happened while running out the 100 South door into summer. 

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