Gimme Five – What the Teacher Learned

 

Did you know that Since 2002, the third Thursday of April is recognized as National High Five Day? Well, I’ll be honest, I had no clue. So, to make up for the oversight, I’d like to give you all a HIGH FIVE! Here are five ways that I have grown, changed, or transformed in the past year.

Not everything needs to be graded. This year I have allowed myself to take a step back from grading. That doesn’t mean the students are doing less or that there isn’t value in what the students are doing, it just means that not everything needs to be graded. Students need to time to practice and fail and in that same mindset shouldn’t be punished with a low grade because they tried something and it didn’t work, or they weren’t successful. For a long time I have held the belief that more grades in the grade book would quantify the end grade. I found myself debating over half points to assure students were given the appropriate credit for what they had completed. This was exhausting and it perpetuated the mindset that it was the grade or the score that seemed to matter more than the learning. Students had little room for error in practice and homework. I still expect students to complete the practice or homework, but the “score” in the gradebook shows completion, not correctness. And, that’s ok.


Hand over control to the students. I seek to create a classroom where students have choices, but also one where the voice of students is heard with more frequency than that of the teacher. It has been a challenge to take a step back in the classroom. I want to talk. I want to share, but in the end, it isn’t about me. It really isn’t. It is about my students and what they think and coming to their own conclusions. There has been a lot of planning and front loading to prepare for my classes, but when handed over to the students, there are many who excel. Not all, and I need to work on that for next year, but I like that I have moved forward in creating a more student centered classroom. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking a step back and listening and in turn, learning from my students.

Strengthening my Twitter PLC. For a very long time my teaching experience has been one of isolation. I am in a department of two and no one else teaches the same courses . Google was my friend. If I needed an idea for a lesson, I googled it. I scoured teacher websites and blogs looking for materials and ideas to add to my educational cache. I did find some great materials through this process, but it was very impersonal. Three years ago our new administrators encouraged us to give Twitter a try. And one cold February morning after church I stumbled upon #APLitChat. The best PD this year has been my Twitter PLC. Each week it has helped me grow as a teacher. There has been a wealth of knowledge shared on our weekly chats for which I am incredibly grateful. I have never met any of the members of this group, but feel a closeness and sense of community that has helped me to develop and continue to grow as a teacher. There is so much learning taking place online and I have found a great network.

Communication, Communication, Communication. Education is saturated with technological tools to be used in the classroom. And, I’ll admit, I am always looking for the next cool thing in ed tech. This year, I have found two tools that have transformed my communication with parents and students. Remind.com has been a fantastic tool to send out assignments and attach documents. Parents and students receive emails and text messages with assignments, due dates, and messages. Most of my students are digital natives and to reach them, I have to use the tools they are using. As a recommendation from and #aplitchat member, I have also started using GroupMe with my incoming AP Lit. students. This will be our communication tool for summer reading. Communicating with both students and parents allows for transparency and accessibility.

Practice what you preach. Being a life-long learner is one of the driving forces behind who I am as a teacher. I am always looking to grow in my profession and add to my education. I strive to step outside of my comfort zone with personal learning and in classroom decision making. I have tried new ideas and concepts and have not been successful. The new buzz-word in education is “grit”. It bothers me to be quite honest. Grit isn’t new, it’s been around for years. For me, modeling resiliency, risk-taking, and perseverance is the best way to teach our students. This year I have tried new approaches and methods of teaching. I wasn’t always successful, but I learned from my mistakes.

I have heard it said that it’s one thing to be a teacher for thirty years, it’s quite another to teach the same year thirty times. My goal as an educator is to challenge myself to grow and change and try something new each year. Thank you all for your help and insights this past year – you deserve a HIGH FIVE!