Here We Go Again

The second half of the 2019-2020 school year was unlike anything any of us have ever experienced before. To say it was a steep learning curve would be an understatement. To say that it was fun would be a lie. It was stressful, exhausting, and traumatic, for probably every teacher and student and parent on the planet.

But we got through it. We survived. And most of us are back again for another round of adventure. We really don’t know what this coming school year will bring, but we’re much better prepared than we were in February. We’ve got each other to lean on. The kids have shown their resilience. And we’re hopefully going to all pull together to make this year as good as it can be, no matter what happens.

I was super impressed with my Humanities team last semester and how well we worked together for the benefit of ALL of the sixth graders. We made massive adjustments to the curriculum and made care and personalized learning at the heart of all of our decisions. We checked in with kids regularly, provided consistent feedback, communicated with parents and with each other, and built each other up when we were feeling down. It’s really hard to talk about my own strengths over the last semester without recognizing the other people that were involved in that success. Everything that went well in my own classes went well thanks to Krista, Greg, Julie, Sisu, Tony, Jess, and others who collaborated constantly over 19 stressful weeks.

So what do I hope for this coming year? I hope to collaborate just as well with my new team. Some of our members have moved on, but I hope that Grade 6 Humanities will be just as strong this year as we were in the latter half of last year. I anticipate that my tech skills will continue to grow. I look forward to more face-to-face time with my students. I worry about building relationships at the start of the year without physically being present, but I will be as dedicated to building those relationships as I always am. My 5Cs goal this year will be Captivate. I really want to make sure that I am working to engage the kids as much as possible, through a combination of screencasts, live lessons, full class and small group discussions, games, activities, and one-on-one conferring. I will reach out to my team, my CAL Jess, and Krista, our instructional coach, for ideas and inspiration that will better help me reach this goal.

As nervous as I am for the upcoming school year, I am also eager to meet my new kiddos and get started. I just can’t wait to be back there and in the room with them!

Survey Results and Reflection

The Tripod survey results came out last night, and overall, I was pretty pleased with the results. Having participated in the pilot last year, I knew that “Consolidate” was an area I wanted to focus on. Once again, this is the area where I scored the lowest, and so I would like to continue to make this my goal this year.

I find that summarizing at the end of the block is really challenging, because I’m trying to teach so much and so quickly, while also allowing the kids plenty of independent work time. What that means is that I’m often running out of time, working until the last minute and then rushing kids out the door to their next class without really wrapping up.

Moving forward, I’d like to finish the class five minutes before the block ends in order to allow the kids to share their work and their learning, as well as recap what we’ve done that day (and potentially preview what we’ll be doing the next day). Setting an alarm for five minutes before the scheduled end of the block would be helpful, and would provide a better routine both for me and for the kids, allowing us to end our time together in a more productive, calm way.

Additionally, I want to work on further questioning the students as I’m teaching, in order to ensure that they are following along. This is another indicator from the “Consolidate” component that I think will keep them engaged as well as allow me to check in on their learning with more frequency.

I do plan to share these results, as well as my plans for improving, with the students in both of my classes. I’d also like to allow them to give anonymous feedback on suggestions for what THEY think I can do better. As a teacher, I’m always giving them feedback on how they can improve, but I want to model for them that learning continues even as an adult and a teacher, and that I value their opinions as well. Once I share the results with them, I’d be interested to see what they think would be helpful for me to do in order to improve their experience in my class. Stay tuned for the next post, where I reflect on this experience and share how it went…

New Goals for 2019-2020

Based on the results of my surveys last year, as well as my own comfort level with all things ISB this year, my focus areas for the 2019-2020 school year will be in the areas of Classroom Management and Consolidate.

As an elementary teacher for many years, I always had many strategies for managing student behavior, focus, and transitions among activities. However, I did find certain aspects of managing middle schoolers challenging last year. I believe that part of this stemmed from my relationship with that particular group of students, because as their Humanities teacher AND mentor, the lines were sometimes blurry. I felt that my other Humanities class was managed much better–and perhaps the results would have reflected that–but that was not the class that took the survey.

I feel that I’ve begun much stronger this year in setting up routines and expectations for my students, due in no small part to the fact that I, as the teacher, know what to expect. I anticipate things a lot better and know how to answer questions that I couldn’t answer last year because I was new and learning my way around both middle school and ISB in general.

My specific goal will be centered around getting the students settled and working quickly while not wasting time during class. We have a lot to do in Humanities, and off-task students or long transitions between activities eat up precious minutes.

The other area I want to continue focusing on is that of Consolidate. I will continue working to summarize and wrap up the day’s learning at the end of lessons, as well as require more summarizing and synthesizing from the students as those concepts relate to what they learned that day. I will also focus more on using this vocabulary (summarize and synthesize) with them, so that they are aware it is happening.

These are my current areas of focus. I’ll be interested to see how the first student survey goes this year, and whether my new group of students sees any improvement over last year’s group. I’m also interested to see if they note other areas of need in my instruction.

The Results Are In, and I’ve Reflected…

In my most recent post a few weeks ago, I made a few predictions about what I thought the kids might recognize in my progress this year, as well as areas that I thought might show a lower score based on a variety of factors and events. I was correct in that my score for “Care” went up a few points, and that makes me proud. I’m glad that the kids notice and recognize that I care about them…that is very important to me. My other areas of strength are Confer and Clarify, areas in which I scored well on both student surveys this year.

I was also correct in my assumption that “Classroom Management” would have a lower score than at the start of the year. The difference was significant, and while I said in my previous post that it wouldn’t bother me, it did. As a former elementary teacher, I have all sorts of tricks up my sleeve for classroom management, and I’m usually pretty good at managing behavior, time, and transitions. Again, as I said previously, the problems that I’ve encountered with student behavior and lack of focus are primarily with my homeroom class. This is also the class that I see three times a week for Mentoring. I believe that the fun games and activities we do during Mentoring have led to somewhat “blurry lines” during humanities class with that particular group. It’s not out of control in this classroom by any stretch, but my homeroom class is very chatty and tends to get off-task easily, which does frustrate me at times. I am looking forward to a fresh start with a new group of kids, and making sure that my expectations are super clear next year from day one.

The component of the survey that surprised me the most was the area of Consolidate, which was the goal I selected. I had been looking forward to getting the results to see if the students noticed my efforts in the area of summarizing what had been taught each day. In fact, this indicator, which had been scored “Medium” in the fall, went down to “Low” during the spring. I’m a bit baffled, really, because I feel like I’ve been making a strong effort in that regard. One thing I thought about since receiving the results is that I haven’t actually used the words “summarize” at the end of each class. Therefore, maybe they don’t recognize that’s what I’m doing. Perhaps I should have been saying, “To summarize what we’ve done today…” in order for that to be more clear.

Overall, to be honest, it’s been a tough year. I made a huge move to a new city, new country, new school, and new grade level. I underwent massive personal changes in my life. We had an unexpected death in the family, which shocked us and saddened us to our cores. It’s been frustrating and lonely in so many ways. And yet, there were a lot of successes as well. I feel that I’ve learned a lot about middle school, ISB, and the content I’m teaching. I feel that my students know I care about them. I think they learned some things, despite me often feeling like my teaching wasn’t great. I can take comfort in knowing that next year, I will come back to a home in Beijing, and a bit of a clue as to how things work around here. I will know what to expect in terms of content, curriculum, and the general flow of ISB. It will be a fresh start, but I won’t be starting from scratch. And that gives me comfort and confidence that it will be a better year all around—in the 7 Cs and in my feeling about my role here in general. I’m looking forward to it.

Making Predictions

Last Friday, I gave my homeroom class the second Tripod survey. Obviously, I don’t have the results back yet, but I am already anticipating what they will reveal. I am hoping that the students will recognize the changes that I’ve made with regards to consolidating their learning, summarizing at the end of class and giving them a heads-up as to what’s to come.

In addition, since the beginning of the year, I have come to know these students on a more personal level. I understand what they like and don’t like, what their hobbies are, and what makes them tick. I can tell when they are tired or sick and when they need a brain break. Hopefully, they will see that I value them and respect them, and that will reflect in the area of Care—an area I feel SHOULD be one of my biggest strengths.

Unfortunately, I can also predict that there will be some areas that will show regression since the beginning of the year. One area that I feel will be a lower score is that of Classroom Management. I recall there being one question that states, “Student behavior in this class makes my teacher angry.” Only a few days before the kids took this survey, I was in the middle of a sentence, giving instructions, when about 6 or 7 kids got up and walked out of the classroom to get their computers. Needless to say, I was livid. When they came back into the classroom, I tore into them; it was the first time all year that I can say that I actually lost my cool and screamed at the class. As a result, I have few doubts that this area will have a lower score than at the beginning of the year, especially since it was so fresh in their minds. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but I’m not letting myself get too upset about it. I feel like a lot of these kids aren’t told “no” or held accountable for much in terms of overall respect and discipline, and it was due time that someone put them in their place. So if that reflects in their view of my management style, then so be it. I can deal with that.

Another question I can see the kids assigning a lower value to is the question that says, “In this class, we learn a lot almost every day.” I would say that I often TRY to get a lot done with them, though sometimes things take longer than I anticipate, or student chit-chat and off-task behavior doesn’t allow us to get as much done. This has primarily been an issue in the last several weeks. I attribute it to “spring fever”, and in speaking with colleagues, it seems I’m not the only one dealing with this issue at the moment.

It’s interesting, because if this survey had been done with my other class, I don’t have the same assumptions about the results. The kids in that class are more focused overall and have more self-control. My teaching and management styles are much the same in both classes, and yet the makeup of the class itself plays a significant role in the overall dynamic and how much gets accomplished day to day.

I’m looking forward to getting the results of this second survey back if for no other reason than to see if these predictions are correct. I feel that I have learned a lot this first year at ISB, and in my first year in middle school, and I am proud of how far I’ve come since August. It would be nice to receive some validation of that hard work and growth from the kids, but I neither expect nor require it. I’m pretty proud of myself for [almost] making it through this year, and that’s all I really need.

Consolidate—Final Goal

After rethinking my original goal and my thoughts about the first survey, I decided that I would focus my attention on the 7C’s area of Consolidate. In particular, I wanted to make sure that the kids felt that they were learning a lot each day (an indicator on which I had scored “Medium” in the first survey) and that I was summarizing the day’s learning each day (another indicator which was “Medium”.

In order to achieve this goal, I began by designating a section on the board called “In Humanities Today…”. Beneath this heading, I write the plan for that day’s class, so that my students are able to see what is on the agenda. At times, in order to ensure that class is moving along at an appropriate speed, I also designate a timeframe to each task. For example, I may have different items including independent reading (20 minutes), Why power matters in relationships minilesson (15 minutes), write long (20 minutes), meet with book clubs (20 minutes), and share (5 minutes) to fill an 80-minute block.

Other times, I do not assign timeframes to tasks, as I want to allow conversations to unfold naturally, then will transition to other tasks on the agenda once those conversations are finished. This sometimes leads to not completing everything that was originally in the “schedule” for the day. I realize that by not finishing what I set out to finish with the kids in a particular day, they may see that as not learning a lot. However, I hope that they will also recognize the value in strong conversation in the classroom.

I have also been working on this goal by summarizing with the kids what we have completed that day, usually in the form of a quick end-of-class share. At times, this will involve repeating the minilesson teaching point for that day, or re-reading the agenda for the kids (saying something like, “Here is what we worked on today…”). Typically, during this time, I also provide them with a quick look ahead at what we will be doing the next day during class, so that they know what to expect.

I’ve found that I’ve been very cognizant of these goals since deciding on this, and it’s been an important change in my classroom. I’m interested to see if the spring results of the student survey show that the kids also notice a change. Will the results reflect my intentional efforts in this area, or is this not something that the kids pay all that much attention to in the end? I look forward to seeing the results in the weeks to come.

Reflection on Survey Results–Challenge

This blog post is long overdue, but one I have considered for a long time. When I received the survey results, I was fairly satisfied overall, and more or less, the student responses mirrored what I had expected. I had previously read through the information on the Tripod website, and knew that I should take the survey results at face value, without judgement. Still, that was difficult to do in one aspect, and that was when it came to the area of “Challenge”. Initially, this was the area I felt I needed to focus on a bit more, but when I saw the results, I had scored high on every question but one.

The question in question was the one that stated, “In this class, my teacher accepts nothing less than our full effort.” In trying to view this question at face value, I wondered what I do that makes kids think I will accept work of any quality. But the more I thought about it, the more this question bothered me. Hence, the judgement began. 🙂

At the time that the students were given the survey, no less than five students came up to me, iPads in hand, in order to ask what that question was asking. The negative wording of the question was really a challenge to my non-native English speakers. I tried to re-phrase the question the best I could, while hopefully not affecting results.

I could have perhaps been a bit less judgmental about this question had other questions in this category also been scored low, or even medium. But being that this category was otherwise a strength, with every question scoring “high”, I attributed this low score to the wording of this particular question, and decided to focus my energy on setting another goal. New post on my new goal coming soon!


Self-Reflection and Goal-Setting

I spent quite a bit of time looking over the Tripod website and reading the indicators of an exemplary classroom. I feel like a few different indicators in “Captivate” could use a bit more of my attention, particularly in the areas of open-ended questions and the use of technology.

Technology is evolving so quickly that I have a hard time keeping up. For my students, the use of tech, especially to create new media and ideas, is intuitive. For me, it is anything but intuitive; rather, it’s a steep climb and extremely challenging. I think that I need to release some of my fears about the use of technology (and my control over it) in order to truly embrace it in my classroom. This year, I’d like to enlist the help of Laura Brown and others who may push in to my classroom for tech lessons, or whom I might meet with during prep times in order to learn new tech skills to integrate in the classroom. At this point, as a new teacher who is used to working with Google, even getting a handle on Office 365 would be amazingly helpful.

I’m interested to see what the student surveys reveal as areas requiring growth, and if the kids see the same needs, or something else entirely. I think I might be able to predict what they see as my areas of strength, but sometimes, areas of need come as a bit of a surprise during these types of surveys. Having given very similar surveys in the past, I am also interested to see how this group of students views my teaching as compared to previous students I’ve taught.


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!

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