Having had one year to work through the curriculum has given me insight into student understanding, and how they approach the subjects and develop their mind. Especially with Math, I have been able to develop curriculum that promotes student intuition and development of concepts. Many lessons last year where I told students, “This is how you do this!” through boring direct instruction have been transformed to clear tasks that ask a more intuitive question where students get to reason, debate, argue, and explore. Blogging and being on Twitter has been the catalyst for all this. I have a much clearer view of how I want to teach, and what effective teaching looks like. If not for finding blogs and educators like Dan Meyer, Frank Noschese, and Shawn Cornally (and everyone else that I follow on Twitter), I would not have had the starting point for authentic learning and problem solving that I feel I have now.
This year I have taken Standards Based Grading by the horns. I am no longer marking students on assignments, but on the achievement of standards. Now more than ever I can look at my grade book and know exactly where students struggle and where they need to focus their attention. This was hugely helpful with Parent Teachcer conferences, and for once I felt as if I had something worthwhile to contribute, and to share with parents.
My parent communication has been much more open this year as well. Every week I send an update e-mail for my classes, just to let them know what the next week will look like, and any tests or assignments that are due in the week. I am also using Edmodo to post grades (obviously using the same standards as my gradebook). They love it and appreciate it, and I feel that keeping that connection with parents has established a stronger healthier classroom environment.
Knowing exactly what I want out of classes are great, but since my expertise (what little expertise I have) lies mainly in Math (it is also my greatest passion) I become strapped for ideas in French and Science. I am constantly finding cool new #anyqs and #wcydwt moments, but I do not know how to turn those into Science and French lessons, especially ones that work together as a whole. In fact my greatest moment in Science class ever has only occurred when I stole, pretty much verbatim, Jason Buell’s introduction to matter. It was excellent, and I need to find more of those units. I need to find more reflections of great educators that post these, so I can creatively steal and implement their ideas into my curriculum, but right now I am strapped for creating my own. The story is even sadder in French. I put so much love into Math, and so much time into Science, my French classes get the shaft. This is what hurts the most because I do not want any of my classes to suck, but as many people tell me, sometimes you just have to make your one course be amazing, and work on the others later. That feels like a cop out, and I don’t want to do that. I want to find worthwhile resources that help me.
Since being a second year teacher means that I have some experience, but very little, I find myself reworking much of my curriculum. It is like I am a still first year teacher, just with a little more focus. This means I am still making up a lot as I go, and in my classes I have a lot of need for educational assistance. Working with my EA’s is fantastic, but it seems like every time I go to collaborate with them, I have nothing worthwhile to offer. Our school has a beautiful inclusive model, and learning to operate within those parameters is very difficult, but extremely rewarding. I enjoy the challenge, but I feel that week after week, I am struggling to develop curriculum that is accessible to all abilities and clear enough that my EA’s can understand as well and help where they need to.
I have caught myself looking at other educators in my school and online, and thinking, “I will never be as good as them!” and it keeps me from moving forward. That is not the attitude that I want my students to have and therefore it is an attitude that I sure want eradicate from my own thought. The more that I develop these inquiry based problems, and the more that I think about SBG (specifically) the more I realize that I am simply on a journey towards being one of those teachers whom I admire. I heard the other day somebody say, “We cannot compare ourselves to other people, because either we rationalize ourselves to inactivity or we send ourselves to despair. What we must do is compare ourselves to our potential.” I love that idea, because if I judge myself based on MY potential I can only improve. I can push myself beyond where I am, but I don’t have to make an unreasonable goal to be someone else. The gains that I have made this year tell me that I do have potential, and what I need is time to develop all of my abilities as a teacher. I can’t wait to do that, and do it well!