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Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

“There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.”

by Joseph Barber Lightfoot

Let them in.  Let other teachers, parents, and administrators in to see the learning that takes place in your classroom.  This is the next goal that I am addressing in the 30 Goals Challenge.  When I was a department chair, I would have encouraged my department to do that. As I have presented at various conferences, I know those words have come out of my mouth. If I am to be honest, however, that is a fear of mine.

It’s a personal, not professional fear, but nonetheless a fear.  What will they think? Will I be good enough? Will they be disappointed? What will they say behind my back?  Will I become the brunt of other’s jokes because they don’t “get” what I’m doing? I’ve heard the answers to these questions about other teachers and don’t myself want to be that teacher.

Did you notice anything in particular in what I just wrote? It was all about me.  Is that what my classroom is about? There are so many other things that go on in my little community of learners. Why should I fear sharing that?

I have the unique privilege as a high school teacher to have students from their freshman year until their senior years. Not everyone at the high school level experiences that. We, my students and I, have developed quite the community together. Our experiences are far from traditional, but there is some wonderful learning going on in our community.  Why wouldn’t I want to share that? The answer? Because it’s different and people fear and judge things that are different. No one wants to be judged, and that includes me. Back to me again.

I have made conscious efforts this year to get my students collaborating, sharing and reflecting together. I haven’t, though, moved those experiences beyond the classes themselves. I’ve shared what I am doing with my department, but no one has visited or asked to visit. While not having discouraged observations, I haven’t encouraged them either.

I could take the easy way out and say that in a way I have invited people in: I regularly invite my “pod” of teachers to our annual Oktoberfest celebration and share food with our administration; I encourage the kids to invite other teachers, administrators, and even the superintendent in for our Valentine’s Day activity (they have to teach someone else how to say “Kiss me, I speak German” in German and then that person receives a Hershey’s Kiss). Those are fun activities, but there are so many other things that go on in our community.

I have classroom blogs, wikis, web pages, and a program twitter account. I do post our unit essential questions online and am available via email. My students are sharing and collaborating using web 2.o tools. I think these are steps, but I know it’s not actually “inviting them in.”

This is a long-term goal for me, but one that I would really like to make (despite my fears). I’m hoping for better parent relationships and peer relationships. We’ll see how it goes.

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“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

by Peter F. Drucker

The next challenge in the 30 Goals Challenge is to reflect on my best and worst lesson of this week or last semester. I’m really having a hard time with choosing those and that’s not because I had continually average lessons, but because the last week and the last semester have been a bit unique.  A little background might be helpful here.

The last week has really only contained about 2½ days of instruction: we’ve had 2 “cold” days (days with temperatures and wind chills too cold for students to walk to school or the bus stop), 1 snow day, and I personally had 1 pullout day for District meetings.  The days around them were preparing for absences and re-grouping from unplanned days off.  Last semester I semester I started becoming ill and ended up having major surgery. I wasn’t myself for months due to circumstances out of my direct control.  I can say that I had good days and bad days then, but I was really relying on time and procedures and relationships banked. That’s what I would really like to share today.

Relationships.  The best and the worst of a lesson, unit, day, week, year, class are all affected by the relationships established between the teacher and the students.  With positive relationships established, the best and the worst all become just another learning point from which to go from.  If we want our students to learn from the process even when the result fails, we need to not fear modeling that in the classroom. We need to not fear taking a new direction if something isn’t working: formative assessments and reflections are just a couple of tools for this. Having positive relationships with our students allows us to use these moments and turn them into something positive, maybe even the best moments. The best moments, well those are the ones where we can capitalize on that relationship building process.

Relationship building. It takes time, not in length, but effort.  It takes listening and allowing the students to share their voice. It requires respect. This foundation is a necessary building block in order for the curriculum to take shape. This foundation can make the best days and the worst days all just learning days.

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