The results of my spring survey came in, and because I need to see it side-by-side to make sense of the data, I had to take the fall and spring data and put it into a spreadsheet, and then turned it into a graph. Initially I was disappointed, but after taking a look at the data bit by bit and comparing with the fall results, I can see that it turned out better than anticipated. I definitely have areas where, according to the survey, I’m not reaching every student in the classroom. But I’m guessing that my definition of “My teacher cares about me” is different than an 11-year-old’s definition. My definition of caring about my students involves having high expectations of their behavior and holding kids accountable for their words and actions, and sometimes kids don’t want to have adults do that — which may seem in the moment like the teacher doesn’t care, when actually it’s the opposite. So, it’s hard not to take the results too personally, but I know that ultimately me caring about them sometimes looks like me asking them to work to their best ability and not giving up on them, even though they’re pushing and pushing and asking for attention in very unhelpful ways. But even as I’m saying this, I’m talking about the outliers, not the class as a whole, and I need to remember this when I look at the results holistically.
It does give me a lot to think about as we’re winding down for the year. I am in a different place than I was at the start of the school year being new here, and I have lots of thoughts about how to start next year off on a different note. This school is very different than my last school, and the start of this school year was rough — I’m not going to sugar-coat it. I can see now reflecting back that I wasn’t prepared for all of the student-related challenges that I would face this year. But going into next year I’ll have a better idea of so many things, so I anticipate a much smoother entry to the school year, which I hope will ultimately mean a smoother year overall.
I have definitely focused a lot since attending the SIOP/C6 training in February on consolidation and clarify: I write the content objectives on my board every day, and usually work them into my lesson at some point during the lesson. These were survey areas I didn’t specifically note as focusing on earlier on, but I felt that once I had attended the training with José Medina, the how and why of content and language objectives became more clear, and it was something I felt like I had the tools to actually improve on. It’s become a habit to think the objectives through and to write them down in a dedicated place on my board; now my next real step will be to intentionally state them aloud each day. Sometimes I will have a student read them at the beginning of the lesson, but I know an actionable step will be to have the students check in at the end of the lesson to see if we achieved those objectives.
The survey area that I have been intentionally focusing on is classroom management, because I felt like working on that area would help in other ways as well. This has been a challenge. I have tried lots and lots of different things relating to classroom management this year, some with better results than others, and am curious to see what the students think about how things are going thus far.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the language I use in the classroom, and how that can help or hinder classroom management. I came across this blog post and there were several really useful points about what well-chosen words can do, and how what we say in response to off-task behavior can either put kids on the defensive, or help to empower them to make a better and more reflective choice.
It was an interesting article, particularly as I’m in the midst of the SIOP/C6 training at ISB. One of the things I’ve been working on being more intentional about is writing my content objective for each area (literacy, math, inquiry), and then taking a moment to debrief at the end of a lesson and ask: did we achieve this objective? It goes back to the choice of language, and being intentional. Thinking through and being explicit about what and how and why we’re learning something, is similar to being intentional about what and how and why when we’re talking to students, particularly when they’re off-task or disruptive.
I particularly liked this part of the article:
Instead of saying: “Some groups did very well today, but I was very disappointed by what I saw in other groups. Tomorrow I need to see a big improvement.”
Try this: “What problems did you come across today?”
And then: “How did you solve them?”
And then: “What will you do differently tomorrow?”
The first option prioritizes the teacher’s feelings over the learning process, and it communicates the belief that working as a group should be easy: Any problems that occurred were simply due to bad behavior. By contrast, the second option (Johnston, p. 32) sends the message that problems are a normal part of learning, especially in groups, and that students are capable of solving those problems. By inviting students to consider ways they can troubleshoot, the teacher not only gives them the time and space to find creative solutions, but also increases their sense of agency over their own challenges.
Holiday break has historically been a time that I do some reflecting on what’s been working in the classroom, what’s not working, and then do some research to implement some changes in the new year. It’s a perfect time to reset; I know the kids and their needs, but we still have a lot of the school year to go, so even small changes can make a big difference. I also like having the time to really think and work through an idea, and the fast pace during the school year doesn’t always allow for that time to really sit with a big idea and craft it out.
During this break I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to restructure my literacy times, particularly through the lens of classroom management. Right now I have two very separate Writing and Reading blocks, and I’d like to see about how to best adjust those to be Literacy blocks. I may still do a writing mini lesson or a reading focus group during those specific blocks, but I would like to move toward more choice and autonomy for the students for the remaining time in the blocks.
One education blog that I follow is by a teacher named Michael Friermood (blog name: The Thinker Builder). I’ve been reading his work for some time, and I always come away with practical and simple tools for improving my teaching. Today I found this article: What to do with the rest of the class during reading workshop or rotations. In this article, he details out some of the management practices he’s put in place for students to make choices with how to spend their time, but also make sure they’re accountable for certain “must-do” tasks. This is something I’d like to get started with in my classroom, and I think it’ll also allow for better opportunity for my EAL co-teacher and I to target student literacy needs, whether they are writing or reading specific.
After receiving the results of the student survey, I’ve had some time to think through the goal for the year, and to make some decisions about what, if anything, to adjust. Classroom Management was an area that I was scored relatively fine on, but I think for me, it’s the best spot to continue to focus on. Other areas that were relatively lower for me, such as Consolidate, would only really be effective to focus on if I am able to build the time into the lesson consistently. In order to do that, I need to continue firming up our transition times and reduce “wasted” time. When a lesson is going smoothly and transitions are going well, there is time for consolidating at the end. When we’re rushing to finish something, or something takes too long to get started, I realize that consolidating at the end is definitely the piece that gets lost.
For my Professional Growth goal this year, prior to seeing the results of my student survey, I would like to look at the Classroom Management aspect of the 7Cs. I’m getting used to the differences between ISB and previous schools I have taught at, and this is an area for focus that I think would really benefit me, and subsequently my students.
One area specifically that I want to focus on is transitions. Due to the nature of my schedule this year, we have a lot of transitions in our day. Most often, these are not just moving from one activity to the next within the homeroom classroom, but moving from one part of the building to another. We come and go a lot, and there is a lot more wasted time than I would like; time that it takes to walk from one class back to the homeroom classroom, and time that it takes to get settled and ready to work. I’d like to tighten up transitions to cut out unnecessary wasted time.
A few resources I’ve started to compile for this are:
Welcome to your Professional Learning Blog! This is a place for you to post your goals, and reflect on them throughout the year.
- Decide on your goal, perhaps in consultation with your colleagues or principal, and create a post to share with this online professional learning community that you are now a part of! Categorise this post in Goal Setting. Set your goal by considering:
- Self assessment and reflection based on new teacher standards (Tripod 7C’s)
- Previous or new observation data from peers and principals
- Student surveys (online surveys developed and aligned with 7C’s)
- Identify colleagues, coaches, principals etc. that will play a supporting role in achieving your goal, and invite them to view and comment on your post. Encourage them to bookmark your blog and visit regularly.
- Throughout the year, collect and share evidence to support your progress. Categorise these posts in Reflection.
- Encourage your colleagues to share your learning journey by engaging with your blog. In return, engage with their blog (and others across the School)
- You may also like to share work that your students have created or your own professional achievements that may not be directly related to your goal setting. This is encouraged! Categorise these posts as Showcase.
If you need support using this platform, please don’t hesitate to contact Ed Tech, we are always happy to be of assistance!