It’s that time of year again. Classes began this week. Here are a few goals that come to mind as I set sail for the year.
1. Conference with my students more. I have a table set up in my room designed for this. My hope is to sit and have small group discussions on a regular basis.
2. Lag homework/practice. I see the power in requiring students to recall information while learning new concepts.
3. Lag unit exams. I see this as a corollary of lagging homework; if students are spending the majority of their practice time on “old” content, then it only makes sense that their informative assessments follow suit. Therefore, unit exams will be given in the midst of the following unit. My hope is that it will set higher expectations for preparedness and promote better long term comprehension. I may be off my rocker, so we’ll see.
4. Be a better mentor and colleague to new and developing teachers.
5. Earn highly effective. It’s a label that can be subjective, but in my eyes if I can earn it, then I deserve it.
6. Encourage my kids to show their thinking (vs. show their work).
7. Work towards NBC. It’s daunting, but a challenge I’m looking forward to.
8. Simplify my school day and focus on what matters most, both in and out of my classroom.
9. Mandate all students to retake standards on which they didn’t achieve proficiency. This was an option in the past that I didn’t push hard enough for.
10. Set higher, more rigorous expectations for my kids. This is a fine line, but I’ve become too lax and my students are suffering because of it. In conjunction with 3 and 9.
11. Seek in-depth student feedback.
12. Get my kids to understand the ‘why am I doing this?’ aspect of each lesson. Thanks Z.
13. Give students more control of their learning. I simply do too much. When they have ownership over their own learning, the need for my inspiration minimizes.
14. Have a top ten posted in my classroom. Overall and Most Improved?
2014 was an awesome year for my growth as a teacher. Here’s an abbreviated recap of my past year.
This spring, I had the opportunity to chaperon a school trip to Europe. Myself, two colleagues, and six young people ventured to London, Paris and Rome over spring break. For the students, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was truly an honor to help it become a reality.
This was my first year NOT teaching summer school. Before the summer, I wanted it be an incubation period for my own personal growth. I wanted time off to relax and recharge, of course, but I also wanted time to reflect and become a better teacher for my students. It didn’t disappoint. I will never forget the summer of 2014.
In August, I took a two-week class at United Bicycle Institute on bicycle mechanics. I’ve been enthused about bicycles for a long, long time and this was a chance to follow my passion and earn a technical certification. I expected to learn a good deal about bicycles, but I what I didn’t expect was for it to change my perspective on teaching. Forever.
Building on my goal of becoming a better teacher this summer, I attended Twitter Math Camp in July for the first time. This was by far one of the best professional development experiences I’ve ever had. The teachers were incredible. Their work and passion were both humbling and inspiring. After TMC, I started lazyocho.com, which has transformed how I view reflection and collaboration. I used to think I would never have time to write about my teaching. I’ve learned that not only do I have the time, but also that writing and reflecting is just as necessary to my teaching as writing lessons plans.
Following up on the bicycle mechanics certification I got this summer, I brought this knowledge back to my students by starting a bicycle club at my school. In preparation, in the fall I attended a six-week teacher-mechanic course provided by Karen Overton and Recycle-a-Bicycle. I then began teaching my students mechanics and will be doing some after-school groups rides in 2015.
I joined the 2014-15 professional development committee at my school. Myself and five other teachers plan weekly professional development sessions for our colleagues. I felt responsible to give back to our learning community and help harness the strengths of our teachers. The work is promising and I thoroughly enjoy it.
I have a couple resolutions for my teaching in 2015. One is to implement standard-based grading in my classroom. I want to shift the mindset of my students away from grades. Our focus in the classroom should be on learning and mastering content, not rewards or labels that mask what you truly know (or don’t know).
Thanks to my discussions with Mike Zitolo, who also shares this resolution, I want to make an extra effort to visit other teacher’s classrooms in 2015, both in my school and out. Watching and listening are incredibly underrated skills. Hopefully this resolution not only strengthens my ability to teach math, but also furthers my connections with teachers from other disciplines.
Here’s to 2014. I’ve probably never grown more than I have this year. But this was by no means a journey of one. There are so many people and organizations that helped me in varying ways. Thanks to everyone I collaborated with and all who provided me opportunities to grow in 2014.