Online will not play as much of a role in my classroom as others, as I have been Beijing the whole time and if most of my kids are here, then it won’t really be needed; however, if there is a 2nd wave or a new scare, then my class may fall out as follows.

Last year, much of my online work gravitated toward DX units, DX Thought discussions, and reflections, then weekly Zoom discussions as new content or reinforcement of material was needed.  I have the feeling that much of this will carry over into this school year when required, with small changes, being made to the frequency of Zooms, the addition of new technical supports (apps and such), and a more proactive layout of upcoming events and expectations.  Last year many things were broadcast into the future, but the routines and structures of where to find information and how to proceed were sporadic. Primarily due to the unexpected reality of the situation, certain systems were abandoned or less useful, while new systems became more prominent.  My hope is that by starting the year with the possibility of interruptions and changes on the horizon, then systems and routines will be in place to make a transition more seamless and reliable.

My peer teaching cohorts did a reasonable job of collaborating and adjusting content and assessments last year. Still, I am hopeful that the addition of some more centralized and thoughtful database systems, like the DX sandbox and department OneNote, will make the dissemination of content and continuity of delivery across sections more predictable and symbiotic.

I would like to believe that we will slowly get back to normal as we approach the Fall, but the salty pragmatic part of my nature tells me these disruptions and change will occur again. With this in mind, I feel we as a school, as a department, and I, as an individual, will be well prepared to provide highly effective and relevant learning opportunities regardless of the nature of instruction.

Goals: Reflection, eLearning, Self-Evaluation

Challenge (to advocate more critical thought and self-evaluation)  

My goal was focused around Challenge as stated above, and it initially stated I would like to include more Creating Cultures of Thinking concepts within the daily classroom routine.  I don’t think I managed to implement many specific tools from the PD in my class this year and much changed as we went online for the last 4 months; however, I do feel the core tenants of my goal have found some footing in the interactions taken during the eLearning period. 

Much of our initial communication at the beginning of eLearning went through DX as it provided a centralized communication base for comments, polls, and deadlines.  The assessment collection piece has been clunky and unreliable, so we have shifted back to Turnitin.  As the distance learning continued and activities and projects required more initial instruction and Q&A, we have shifted our model to a weekly multi time slot option that helps to accommodate kids in diverse areas and time zones.  I feel this has been largely beneficial for those students who have made and effort to attend but held some back who didn’t or couldn’t make the meetings.  Repeated calls toward self-accountability have been made and time has always been made available to meet one-on-one or in small groups through Zoom and on the rare occasion WeChat. 

 Getting beyond the struggles or success of different kids in the eLearning environment, I feel that I have been able to address some of the key concepts of my goal which were more critical thought and self-evaluation.  Many kids who have struggled and those who have flourished in this environment have been able to ask more guided and constructive questions that lead them to act and rationalize in a more critical fashion while constantly having to evaluate their current state of productivity and accountability. 

What I have found is that the lack of time constraints that are often imposed by a traditional schedule have forced many kids to become more self-reliant and evaluative.  They have needed to more critical engage and inquire through the process, which has shifted my normal pattern of conferencing from slots during the school day, to times, more easily available for a student’s schedule and helped them to consider which questions will help them most in making decisions and producing their best work. 

I think there is still much to work on with this model and there is still plenty of room to grow in this area, but despite the unexpected I think critical thinking and self-evaluation have grown this year. 

 

Challenging the Status Quo

After looking at student results this year, I noticed some changes in my strengths and weaknesses that made me wonder about the validity of looking at one section of kids to determine goals. 

I originally started this year intending to focus on Challenge, primarily due to many of the training opportunities I had last year. At this moment, I still feel that this is where I would like to devote my time, as I think the most significant benefit for students will be found in helping them to push their limits and achieve greater understanding through more lofty goals.

I already utilize an inquiry model in my classroom, but I believe there is room for more student inclusion and ownership of ideas. As they become more capable of articulating and owning their thoughts, their confidence in their abilities and their work should allow them to reach beyond their current expectations. I want to challenge their ability to reflect and synthesize new and old information.  

Going forward, I will try to bring more Creating Cultures of Thinking tools into the classroom, such as “peeling the fruit.” I would also like to partake in more Project Zero facilitated trainings that can help me to internalize the ideal of the thinking classroom.

Evaluating And Selecting Goals (2019-20)

Last spring I attended a professional development opportunity on Creating Cultures of Thinking; as well as, a summer session on Reader Notebooks at the New Hampshire Literacy Institute.  Both of these intriguing experiences prompted me to encourage and stimulate opportunities for critical thinking and reflection.  It is with these ideas in mind that I filter my re-evaluation of the Tripod 7C framework standards and find myself gravitating toward Challenge as a focus for this year’s goal.

The exact nature of this year’s goal is still a bit vague, but Ideally, I want to empower the students to evaluate what they know and why they know, so that they can create individually suited plans for growth and deeper understanding.  So that they can interact with their peers in an informed manner.  So that they can recognize when they need outside assistance or clarity and when they need to persevere.  Over the next few weeks, a more concrete and coherent goal should take shape, along with a rough plan of attack on how to implement and evaluate this goal.

What has this process fostered?

Since establishing and solidifying my goals last November I have had the opportunity to attend several professional development sessions, which helped to reframe my viewpoints on the classroom.  In early February I spent some time in Adaptive Schools training and pulled a few nuggets from the experience; mainly, that it is imperative to build a community of trust.

 

Without a healthy sense of trust in each other, in students, in the teacher, in the process, in the purpose, in general, many of the expectations of my goals would be impossible to achieve.  Student’s need to feel that they can approach me in and outside of class to seek for clarification and understanding.  I need to trust that students will let me know when they are confused, need help, or find materials helpful.  The process needs to be clear and reliable so that it can be trusted on a daily basis.  Trust is what binds the classroom as a unit, as a community, as a family.

 

The other nugget was a system of growth from small to large.  Mainly, students come in many different shapes, sizes, and mindsets and not all will flourish in a whole class setting even if the class itself is relatively small (for example 10 kids).  By building in different varieties of groups and small groups interactions, student will become more comfortable with their peers, and their ideas, which should lead to healthier community discussions and greater overall learner and feedback within the class.  Sometimes the best feedback is given by a peer.

 

Just a few weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend Cultures of Thinking which helped me to further process how groups can benefit the learning environment and improve feedback, but more importantly it provided a series of routines and tools that promote more individual thinking within the classroom and hence foster greater and more diverse analytical thought.  When I think about it, this facilitation of deeper thinking on the students’ part, helps to improve their understanding which leads to deeper questions and better feedback, whether it takes written or verbal form.

 

Ultimately, my journeys during these PDs helped me to further emphasize the importance of building authentic relationships with my kids in the hopes that trust can be truly fostered, and independent thinking can take hold.  I have started to apply some thinking routines, such as peeling the fruit in conjunction with inclusive language and open-ended questions and thus far it has been fairly successful.  I don’t feel I have gotten the chance to implement much of this during this academic year but have some good ideas to put into practice going forward.

 

On a separate note, I don’t feel I was able to spend as much time during this pilot process on developing and digging into my goals or ideas, as the day to day of school took over after the winter break.  The big challenge is how to find balance in an environment that pulls at you from every direction.