I work as a course evaluator for Learners Edge, which provides online courses/book studies for educators to earn credits for lane/pay increases, renew licenses, keep up-to-date with new practices, etc.
I have done a lot of grading this summer and decided to keep a list of some of the learning and thoughts I had when reading through educators’ submissions. Being an evaluator is almost like mini-PD sessions for me, as I not only participate by reading the books but more so because reading through teacher reflections and making connections gives me insight or thoughts about my own teaching philosophy and classroom practices. Here are three things that have come up over and over:
- Students and families are changing, thus changing a teacher’s role.
Educators are now, more than ever, needing to provide some of the things a family unit use to. Students today are lacking more social skills and manners than ever before, because they aren’t being taught them by their family. Take family dinners, for example, these seem too infrequent in many families because a variety of reasons-parents working late hours, split households, sports or extra-curricular activities, etc. Because of this, students aren’t learning how to be patient, wait their turn, ask politely for something to be passed (instead they reach and grab,) and can’t hold a conversation. So, educators are having to teach these skills either explicitly, or think of creative ways to tie them into lessons. Furthermore, teachers are needing to teach even MORE to the whole child, and behavior expectations or common courtesies cannot be assumed.
- Technology is not going away, so embrace the “evil” and use it to your advantage!
We can read case studies or articles by doctors/experts until we’re blue in the face about the negative impact that devices, social media, gaming, etc. have on students and kids. However, technology is not going to be wiped out of schools–in fact, more and more districts are moving 1:1. Teachers tend to be frustrated because they aren’t given the proper training to use the equipment given, and it is another thing to add to their plate and police in the classroom. Instead of being frustrated, teachers should try to embrace this tech and look for ways that it can be used to enhance lessons and engage students in the lesson. Are you teaching about ancient Egypt? “Fly” there on a virtual field trip or use Google Earth. Teaching fractions? Start the lesson with a fun video or song from YouTube that helps bring background knowledge to the forefront on their mind and makes the learning stick. Asking students to complete a report? Can it be turned in digitally to be graded easier, or could students use a different platform to give you the same summative information you are looking for? The training might have to come on your own time, but there is also a wealth of resources out there to support teachers as they add more tech into their classroom. I have a few favorite “go-to” educators out there with blogs that I follow for tips and tricks.
Being reflective is good practice, and there is more we can do.
Yes, I think we all know this, but we also all know the educator who has been doing the same thing for many years and hasn’t changed. Just as students, families, etc. are changing, so must we. Whether you have been teaching for 25 years or 5, it is good practice to evaluate yourself and ask yourself “What more can I do to help my students be successful?” This doesn’t mean you have to stay up late at night writing a dynamic lesson and filling plans out minute-by minute. It does mean, though, to look at your students and meet them where they are in their learning. If they struggle with math facts, they will then also struggle with Area and Perimeter, so you must first start with getting students to know their facts before you can take the next step. Take stock of your students and how they learn. I am going to have more EL students is my class this year than I have in the past, so I am looking about how I can create a print-rich room to support them. If a lesson doesn’t hit the goals I have in mind this year, I have intentions to not push forward (although we have so much material to cover in so little time,) but rather take a step back and think about reteaching the material in a different way until students reach mastery
Sara Drazkowski is a 5th grade teacher in Farmington, Minnesota. She has also taught 6th grade Reading/Language Arts. She has a Masters Degree along with a Reading Certification. This is Sara’s second year as an evaluator for Learners Edge and she has clearly excelled in providing her tremendous insight and expertise to her role. We are grateful to have her as part of the Learners Edge team!
Read more of Sara’s blogs at: