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.
As a coach, I often tell my teachers they they should make self-evaluation a part of their practice. But in the daily bustle, it can be hard to catch your breath, much less reflect. So as this calendar year comes to a close, I’d like to invite you to participate in something we’re calling “Reflection Fest.” For the next five days, I’ll be posing a reflection question to the Tch community. I’ll answer each question from my work as an instructional coach this year and highlight the responses from several teachers, many of whom are featured in Teaching Channel videos. Please join Reflection Fest by sharing your reflections with the community.
I look forward to hearing of your triumphs, challenges and goals over the next few days. Here’s to a wonderful, learning-filled 2014!
Reflection Fest Day 1: Most Inspiring Classroom Moment
On the first day of Reflection Fest, think about what has been your most inspiring classroom moment this year. Hopefully it’s hard to pick just one!
My most inspiring classroom moment this year happened while coaching a 6th grade teacher. Many of the students in this teacher’s class were my old students, kids I had had in my class when they were in kindergarten and first grade. One student, James, was a particularly challenging first grader. Though he was amazingly creative and bright, he struggled to complete work and often had outbursts in class. When I visited his 6th grade teacher’s class this fall, I saw her support James in writing an outstanding persuasive essay. It was inspiring to see how far James has come, and to think about all the amazing teachers he had in grades 2-5 who helped him get to this point.
Here are some responses from our Tcher community:
- “Walking into the cafeteria at third grade lunch and having all the kids cheer. Literally, it was a standing ovation because I walked in the room. How many people can say that?” — Katie Novak, K-12 Reading Coordinator, Chelmsford, MA
- “November is a hard month for my seniors: college application deadlines for state schools, we’re reading Shakespeare, and many of the students are feeling the full weight of their academic course load. So this year my student teacher and I started a ‘Wall of Appreciation.’ We put a sheet of butcher paper on the back wall and gave each table group a stack of post-its with the instructions to write down notes of gratitude to their classmates. We soon had to add a second sheet of butcher paper to the first, and I had to reinforce the entire thing with extra staples to keep the wall from collapsing under the weight of all the sticky notes. It was truly amazing to see what students wrote to one another; their clear admiration for one another (even when everyone was feeling stressed and overwhelmed). Their thoughtfulness and their kindness was truly inspiring.” — Maia Goodman, High School English Teacher, Sunnyvale, CA
- “It only took two months, but my students and I are on the same frequency. I pulled out so many tricks: using daily response journals, looking into numerology to understand their numbers, I fung shuied the classroom, I brought in boxes of Legos and piles of comic books, and it has all been worth it. I now have a classroom of students that are being safer, more respectful, and more responsible.” — Tita Ugalde, 2nd Grade Teacher, Los Angeles, CA
- “My class has been working on multiplication and up until this week we have only worked with single-digit by multi-digit factors. For our initial transition to double-digit by double-digit multiplication, students estimated if non-multiples of tens were factors. Much to my surprise, I had multiple groups not only prove why their estimates were correct, but went on to find exact products of two-digit by two-digit factors all on their own. They saw the structure within the models we had used and seamlessly applied them to these more complex numbers. When I asked them how they knew to do that, one student said, ‘Well, you made math fun and now it is easy. We just used the strategies from before.'” — Amy Spies, 4th and 5th Grade Teacher, Port Orange, FL