Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What if I am doing it all wrong?

The end of the marking period is upon us. The second marking period has flown by, very much like the first. We are "officially" half way through the school year. This makes almost 20 years of being a public educator for me. But I have had this constant worry in my gut the last few years. I have never really been able to describe it, but I know it is there. This feeling resurfaces several times throughout the year, but is specifically present during report card and interim time. I never could put my finger on it, until I read this post by Dr. Justin Tarte (@justintarte) on Twitter: What if I am doing this all wrong?

It was like he was hearing the "voices" in my head! That was exactly the question I was bouncing around in my head for the last couple of years. What if my idea of allowing retakes and redoes to my students is not welcomed by their high school teachers? What if those teachers expect things to be done when they are due with no chance of showing improvement? I know some of the teachers my students will have next year do not allow time to show that they have improved their learning on topics, so am I doing my students a disservice by allowing them to do that with me? Am I setting them up for disappointment in the years ahead? These are the questions the "voices" in my head keep shouting out...What if I am doing this all wrong?

I have noticed that several of my students do not always hand in their best work the first time because they know they can resubmit at a later date. Should I be requiring a better first effort or grateful that they understand that I am looking for improvement in their learning to be the main goal? Would I get that better effort on the initial submission if there was no shot at a retake on the activity? Again, these are questions that I am constantly asking myself...

I hear my colleagues' comments about our students: "They immediately want to know if they can make corrections. Shocker! They did not hand in great work the first time! How can they retake a multiple choice test?" I can not help but feel partly responsible for this because my students expect this in my room. The have learned that I will take multiple tries at mastery from them. They know I allow them to use alternative methods to show their understanding (even though few ever take me up on this!). Am I aiding in their struggle with meeting deadlines for assignments?

I firmly believe that students should be able to have multiple attempts to show their understanding of topics. I never want my students to realize that they now understand something, but the time has passed to hand in the activity. But, what if by doing this, I have taught them that deadlines are not important? How do I get them to complete an activity in a specified time period? There are times in life when things need to be done on time...So again I ask, what if I am doing it all wrong?

Feedback and comments are greatly appreciated...
Thank you for letting me argue with the "voices" in my head!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My One Word: Growth

This post is very late in writing. Since the new year, I have read several posts by great educators sharing their "One Word" for the 2015 calendar year. It has been great being able to learn from so many people. Being connected has allowed me to learn a lot from so many of you, and I am extremely thankful for that.

My "One Word" this year is Growth. I wanted to choose a word that would keep challenging me every week and month of the upcoming year. I loved the idea of focusing on one word instead of a list of resolutions. These commitments generally get pushed to the back burner when life gets hectic and busy. This is why the "One Word" Challenge intrigued me. I think the word I chose allows me to branch out into so many different directions. The following paragraphs will explain how the start of this year has been a Growth Experience for me already.

I challenged myself to grow first in the area of conferencing with my students. I have been wanting to schedule time to meet with my students individually, but something always got in the way. To be honest, the excuses were usually self-created because I was convinced I did not have the time for it. Well, after the Winter Break, I decided to just jump in and do it. I decided to limit the conferencing to one class. I informed them that they would meet with me to be able to demonstrate their understanding of solving systems of linear equations. I quickly blocked out times to meet with all 21 students. This took about over four periods in addition to two lunch sessions. Needless to say, I had to plan activities for the students to work on while meeting with these students.

Overall, the conferences went well. Most of the students did a great job demonstrating their understanding of the topics. This was a big jump for me, but I am glad that I took this opportunity to change things up. I need additional time to process this experience, and I will write about this in more detail in the near future.

In addition to this classroom experience, I have used my "One Word" to push myself to more actively pursue my interest in obtaining a job in administration. I am happy to report that since the break, I have had two interviews: one for an Assistant Principal's job at a middle school. The second was for an Elementary Principal's position. I found out a couple of days ago that I have been asked back for a second interview for the Principal's position. I am excited about the potential growth in my learning this opportunity will provide me. I am excited for this great opportunity and potential growth opportunities it could provide me. I will provide a follow up later this week...

What have you chosen as your "One Word"? Please share!