The Reflective Practioner
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Flashback: It's November 2004. Three months since the obnoxious tone signaling the start of a Miami Elementary school day let forth its first bellow of the year. For me, it also signaled the beginning of a nine-month race in many directions. A race to build rapport with the parents. A race to assess the students. A race to initiate IEPs. A race to schedule conferences. A race to learn new technologies and programs for the classroom. A race to keep the virtual in-box from overflowing. A race that I forgot I was running because I didn't schedule time to think about the race. Never again would I forget to schedule time to think about the race.
Back in the present: Happy Thanksgiving week! I would be a poor role model if I didn't say a big thank you to everyone who has made me the person I am today. Although my classroom is at maximum capacity, and I am teaching two different grade levels, I am loving my job every day. I send a thank you to my students for their hard work, their parents for the support, the Chippewa Valley district for the tools, and of course my family, friends, and colleagues. An additional thank you to Scholastic and all of you who take a moment to read this blog. Seeking ways to improve your craft is what this week's post is all about.
"Successful people do what unsuccessful people don't." This quote was given to me by a stranger on a train ride to Chicago about a decade ago. I don't remember the man's name, but I have forever remembered the quote. A successful person makes goals and periodically evaluates progress. Thanksgiving is a time for me to pause and reflect upon what I am thankful for and how I can become a better person and teacher.
Here are some ways that I utilize the skill of reflective practitioning:
- Set achievable goals. One of my goals this year is to become proficient at using our new SMART Board in the classroom.
- Write down the goals. I write my major goals down on a copy of the yearlong plan for my classroom.
- Define what successful completion of your goals will look like at various points in time. Success for building community in my classroom means that every child is interacting at recess and every child feels comfortable sharing their thoughts voluntarily by Halloween.
- Share your goals with someone. Anyone! The more people you tell, the more accountable you will be. I often tell my students my mini-goals so they can assist me. They love playing the role of the police when I mess something up.
- Journal about your goals periodically. Once a week I have the students write down their high and low moments from the week. During that time, I take a moment to think about my goals for the week and whether they met with success.
- Create a 0 – 10 scale and rate your progress daily. Each day our class goal is to get a perfect 10 in overall focus, respect, and responsibility. Each day we record our number on the wall.
- Conference with a mentor. I make it a point to sit with my favorite inspirational mentors at least twice a year. I talk about my goals and aspirations. They always encourage me to think beyond the year as they set me up for success in the future. Thank you, Jerry Evanski and Gabriella Meyers!
- Collect data. For example, I like to see the number of individuals passing their weekly timed math tests increase by at least one student a week.
- Keep photos or videos. I record some of my favorite lessons in digital format. Each summer as I am compiling my newest photos or videos, I take a moment to browse my former videos or photos. This reminds me of where I was, how far I have come, and often rekindles a forgotten idea. For instance, I might review the "Boom De Yada" video my class made, inspired by Discovery.
- Create a mini-goal for the week. Each day at the top of my lesson plans I write my mini-goal. Last week it was "Use Teaching Spot." By this, I meant that I would deliver my directions from one area in the room and one area only. Students will begin to associate my standing in that one particular spot with tuning into the program.
- Seek help from a mentor.
- Research advice on the Internet.
- Read an inspirational book, such as The Essential 55 by Ron Clark or Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire by Rafe Esquith.
- Watch an inspirational movie. Good Will Hunting, Dangerous Minds, Dead Poets' Society, and Freedom Writers are all good options.
- Read a blog. You're doing this one right now. Good job!
In this holiday week, I leave you with one final quote given to me on a little wooden block that I keep in my classroom: "Don't change the goal. Change the plan." The words are simple and couldn't be more true. Thank you, Mrs. Huntley.