Reflecting

Whew. I’ve been meaning to blog for a while as a means of reflecting on the school year. I’m finally getting around to and I find that I am still processing and learning!

This year brought some changes for me as an educator…
– I took a leap and decided to start a makerspace as an after school program at our middle school
– A professor at BHSU reached out to me with an interest in creating a local robotics competition
– A grant that I wrote to start a student tech squad was funded and we got our start
– I didn’t add any ‘new’ classes to what I was teaching (although I made changes to how I taught from last year)
– I completed Level 1 & 2 of my Google Certification
– Finally, I gained some confidence and started speaking up more
– I stopped just watching on Twitter and became actively involved

In some ways this school year was very challenging, for me personally and with events at ‘work’. I’m not as positive and optimistic as I would like to be, but I have been working hard to not be a negative complainer all the time. I know that this reduced my stress level related to work. If I got caught up in the complaining or others seemed frustrated I would try to share a positive, either about staff but mostly about something a student had accomplished or tried. Hearing about those students who often struggle but reach success really make a teacher smile and remember why we show up each and every day for these students.

One of the things that had the biggest impact on my school year, was Twitter. When I was younger I was often afraid to try new things, to fail or look ‘stupid’ in front of others. When I first got on Twitter I just watched, I was afraid of saying something ‘dumb’. I finally decided to just dive in and start participating, so many educators on Twitter were encouraging and positive. I found out about #sdedchat from Travis Lape (@travislape) and I started joining in on the conversations and then started to help moderate. Once I started to help Travis and Lenessa moderate the chats I really became more invested in Twitter. I am grateful for the connections that have been built thanks to Twitter, the motivation and inspiration I get from weekly chats, and feeling like I’ve helped others learn more about teaching.

My administrator has challenged me with the question of ‘what’s next’ for me. I have been referred to as a teacher leader, and at the beginning of the year I slightly fought that idea. As the year went on I was challenged and encouraged and by the end of the year I wasn’t so leery of the term ‘teacher leader’. During my last evaluation thought, my administrator wanted to know what I thought was next… and I still don’t have an answer!

This year also marked my 3rd year at Spearfish Middle School, for as long as I can remember I have heard great educators say “it takes at least 3 years”. Although this is my 5th year of teaching, my first 2 teaching positions were very different. As I think about the school year as its own I am also thinking about how much has changed over the 3 years I have been at the school.

My first year I was so strict about typing, everyone spending the exact same amount of time, using key covers, and assigning homework. Students had to all learn the same vocabulary, study it, and then quizzed over the long list of words. I had projects that students could complete, but they all had the same type of word document to complete and then powerpoint template. Students had a choice of topic, but the rest was very controlled by me. I was overwhelmed with grading, I thought I had to and needed to grade everything and I was assigning so much to my 120+ students a trimester, that it was very time consuming to grade. I was often behind on grading, so my students didn’t really get feedback. Although I had a good relationship with students I could tell that the students who already knew or could do what were learning were very frustrated and bored with class.

My second year I got away from assigning and quizzing vocabulary in the same way. I started to realize I didn’t need to grade every little thing. I also realized that many students were already proficient at typing so I tried to find a way to accommodate the diverse needs. I started teaching more coding, which brought me joy to teaching but also helped my students become problem solvers and they started relying on each other for help, rather than giving up or trying to get an answer out of the teacher.

This year I let students ‘test out’ of typing, I provided a lot of coding resources and lessons for students to work on for when they finished with other work. Whenever students had a project I tried to give them choice on topic or product if possible. I stopped grading formative work and I started giving immediate feedback either on Google Classroom or in person. This year, I heard far less from students “What is my grade?” “How many points is this worth?”. I started hearing more frequently “Can I work on coding when I’m done?”. This year I had more students coming in before school to play Minecraft, to code, to edit photos, or to work on projects! Students are also more comfortable giving me suggestions, letting me know if something is ‘boring’, telling me when the directions don’t make any sense, and even telling me when they absolutely love a project.

I’m excited for this summer and what changes I’ll be making next year.

 

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