Part of the Process

Thoughts on becoming a teacher.


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Feedback

Looking back over the quarter, one of the areas where I have grown the most is with feedback. I wasn’t always comfortable with feedback. I worried that I wouldn’t respond well to what someone was saying, or that I would take it too personally. I’ve come to see feedback as a gift. When someone gives me thoughtful feedback, I see it as a gift of their time and energy. The feedback that I have received from classmates, professors and my Cooperating Teacher, Principal and Field Instructor has been so valuable to me. Gaining insight from these individuals has expanded my thinking, deepened my perspective and allowed me to justify my own position at times. I’ve also been able to take this feedback to set growth goals for myself.

This feedback is part of the larger process of being reflective. I feel that I have become more reflective as I move through this program. I’ve been able to get to know my students better over the past several weeks and a lot of this is due to reflection. Almost everyday after school, my CT and I sit and talk about how the day went, specific students and general plans for the future. We don’t get much down in writing in the plan book, but this reflective process has been so powerful. I’ve been able to use what I’ve uncovered to help plan lessons and differentiate my instruction for specific students.

I look forward to translating this new approach to feedback to benefit my students. I’m planning on building in more opportunities to give my students feedback. I hope they will use this as an opportunity to think more deeply about their own learning and to take more ownership.


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2 Weeks

The last two weeks with my 6th graders have been funny, tiring, stressful and I could go on here, but really like a whirlwind. My CT always jokes about how fast the weeks fly by and he is right. The main thing that I’ve taken from the last two weeks is that I feel like I have really grown as a teacher. I was able to do a lot more teaching these last two weeks, I learn so much with every lesson. The lessons I taught over the past two weeks taught me what I need to work on in terms of classroom management, where we’re at as a classroom community as well as a lot about pacing, team teaching and things about individual students.

I also feel like I got to know my students better and I am feeling more like a part of the classroom community (not that I didn’t before, it’s just stronger now). Being around more has also made me feel more like  a part of the larger school community as well. I was able to get out and do a few observations in other classes this week as well as have more conversations with specialists and other staff about students. I’m looking forward to being back full-time and developing these relationships even more.

 


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Goals

I’ve had the opportunity to teach a few writing lessons with my 6th graders over the past several weeks. All of the lessons have been fairly short, but I have really enjoyed teaching them. The first one I had the chance to do was on goals. Every student set an academic goal for themselves in the fall, these were shared with parents at conferences.IMG_0204 They identified a goal, as well as things they needed to do to help them reach their goal, how they would know and two things that would help them stick to their goal.  I had the students return to those goals and reflect on their progress. I wanted them to write about whether or not they had reached their goal. If they hadn’t, did they need to modify it? Was it an attainable goal? Did they need to identify additional ways to stick with their goal? This type of reflection didn’t come easy to most students, but I think it can be a powerful exercise in thinking about your own learning and used as a way to promote ownership.

The next day, I let students know that we would all be setting new goals. This time students could choose an academic goal or a personal goal. I planned to model my own goal setting and let them choose if I they wanted me to write a personal or academic goal for myself. Not surprisingly, they all wanted me to model a personal goal. I asked the class for help with my own goal and to share ideas of how I could stick to it, they were eager to help me out! Every student set at least one new goal, and many students chose to set both a personal and academic goal. Many of the students set goals in the subject areas that they struggle in.

These goal sheets are printed on heavy card-stock and students keep them in their binders. I have seen students referring to their goal sheets on several occasions. I thought this activity was great because my students were engaged, we got to know each other better and it gave students a chance to reflect on their own learning and behavior. As the year goes on and my students are looking ahead to middle school, this ownership and ability to reflect is something I want to continue supporting.


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One Less Chore

Blogging has become much more enjoyable for me over the past few months. When I began this blog last spring, I always felt like it was one more item on my to-do list. I would think and think about what to write. Often I would end up not feeling very passionate about writing anything. Honestly, it felt like a  chore. Luckily, I don’t feel that way now. I think the change came from being able to write about the things I am experiencing, not just things I am reading about. There have been many times this quarter where I see or experience something in a classroom that I want to reflect on through writing. The feedback I’ve received has helped me take on a different perspective and helped me think about issues more deeply.

I’ve also been enjoying reading the blogs of my classmates. I can see the same passion coming through for them as well. Across the cohort, blogging has taken more of a conversational tone and we are all growing as educators because of it. I’ve enjoyed all the questions people are raising. The championing of positive experiences have been a lot of fun to read too: the lessons that went well, the child who was reached through an activity, the teacher with a great idea.

Blogging has been a way to have conversations that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. We have limited time with each other and even more limited time to discuss our experiences out in classrooms. I think blogging is a great way to strengthen a community as well. Ideas are shared, common experiences are uncovered and by making ourselves vulnerable at times, we are able to build trust. I’ve seen commiseration, joy and a lot of support coming through in the blog conversations these past few months.

I have a long way to go to becoming a “blogger” (maybe a capital B blogger?), but at least I am enjoying the process.


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Looking Back

One year ago, I spent a week in Yakima observing at the middle school my dad and stepmom teach at, as well as in the elementary school where a close friend teaches at. I’ve been thinking about that week, remembering all the different experiences I had. Reflecting back on that week has really opened my eyes to all the learning that I have done this year. I have so many new ways to view and interpret those experiences. I have many more understandings about why things were done they way they were.

For the past several weeks, I have felt overwhelmed on many occasions. Overwhelmed by my present and overwhelmed by the future. Trying to look forward too far is a daunting task. I’ve found that reflecting back on my week spent observing in Yakima has helped me not only celebrate how far I’ve come, but it also alleviates some of the worry for the future.


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Taking Care of Ourselves

IMG_0011This week has me thinking about how we can take care of ourselves during times of stress. I feel like many people around me are thinking about the same thing. We all have so much going on in our lives and it doesn’t take much to upset the balance. I recently read a post by Starr Sackstein talking about this very issue, she lists some of the things she does to take time for herself. She also talks about why it is important for her to do this. I think the consequences of not taking time for ourselves are especially powerful, such as misplaced anger. I think taking time can lead to being more productive in the long run too.

Taking time for ourselves often feels like the last thing we are able to do, but it is so important. Right now, my go to activity for stress relief is to grab my dog and head out for a quiet walk. Sometimes we just go for twenty minutes, sometimes we go for more than an hour. I purposefully leave headphones at home and use that time to not only notice my surroundings and appreciate the beauty around me but as a time for quiet reflection.

How do you take time for yourself? What are your favorite methods of relieving stress? How can these skills make us better teachers?