Jun 2, 2009

Top 5 Things I Lost During Year 2

I still see myself a baby to the teacher game. Yet, I'm fortunate enough to be notching a 2nd year under belt so early in the game. This means I've got 2 years to reflect on as I shape myself up for year 3. Looking back, here are the top 5 things I wish I carried over from year one to year two. Ensuring their return during year 3 is top priority.

1. Starting EVERY Period EVERY Day Greeting Students at the Door
Leaving the first year does not signify the end of 'hard work outside of work.' Though I've grown more adept at winging lessons out of thin air, and I've learned to switch up flawed lessons mid-delivery, nothing replaces a well-planned, well-thought lesson plan. Students have a sixth sense for unplanned teachers; conversely, students know when a teacher means business. Engagement rises, off-task behavior lessens, class runs smooth. Additionally, starting off class completely planned eliminates the need to scramble minutes before students enter the room, opening up the opportunity to spend precious (& ever elusive) one-on-one time with each individual as they enter the room. I should strive to make this happen EVERY period EVERY day. No excuses.

2. More Consistent Grade Updates
Last year, students appreciated grade updates. They were thankful for a teacher who updated them regularly, and I questioned the teacher who failed to provide it. If students know their exact grade ALL THE TIME, they know exactly what they need to do to raise it ALL THE TIME. No excuses. Students understand the fluidity of their grades. Gratification granted for hard work as they catch their grades literally rise. Negative feedback pushes the student who's fallen off their winning formula. Students know when they're doing well and students know when they aren't. All of this is driven by consistent grade updates. This year, I became the teacher I questioned a year ago. Enough w/ the laziness, Mr. G. Give the kids what they need. More consistency, please.

3. Stricter Enforcement on Binders & Notes
I can't decide which chore I hate more: washing dishes or checking binders? Why go around sticking mini-star stickers on kids' binders when they should know organization & note-taking is essential to success. Notes? Just take them. Quizzes? Just be sure to put em in the right place. Easy, right?

It doesn't work that way w/ high schoolers. They NEED to be guided in every dimension of their learning. Last year, kids' killed for those mini-star stickers. Why did I move away from them? Training students towards better organization and opening their eyes to the benefits of good note-taking and organization is as important as teaching them to solve for x. Major fail on my part. 10 minutes a period, once a month is well worth the effort, no matter how chore-ish a duty it may be.

4. Stricter Enforcement on Concept Checklists
For those out of the know, I'm an adopter of the dy/dan assessment method. It's a system that assesses for mastery while leaving the door open for remediation, differentiation, and constant re-learning. I see no other effective way to assess my students. Year 2 on the system's been as successful as the first, aside from one major hole. Again, I'm at fault. I did not enforce updates of concept checklists the way I should've. Concept checklists send the message that YOU CAN recover from a bad test day; YOU CAN master concepts you've struggled w/. Students see progress in front of them. Students KNOW what they need to do. But all this is to naught if checklists aren't updated. Next year, checklists will be the most important sheet in each student's binder. No exceptions.

5. Call Home More
When teacher and parent are on the same page, a student is more likely to succeed. I've been an advocate of this since day one, yet, this year, I neglected to call home time and time again. I think I fear long-winded conversations that lead to nowhere, or pushback from parents who put up defenses against apparent teacher attacks. I don't question your parenting, ma'am. I just want to keep you updated. I should set up a script that keeps things quick and to the point. Calling home needs to happen more regularly. In fact, how about this commitment - make a minimum of 5 calls a week. Year 3 Mr. G, no exceptions.


Bkcpisme said...

you should tell the parents "I understand, but.."

i forget where i learned that from... hmm...

Nick said...

Thoughtful list. I've been thinking about that this week. I feel as if I've made compromises this year into how/what I should be teaching. It's also a rough few weeks to try and be inspired. On my list would be targeted remediation. I spent a lot of time last year with the numbers crunched from tests, pairing kids up and having them work on what they struggled with. I sat them high-low so that kids who were stuck could get help from the kid next door, and I recorded test scores broken into skills in the gradebook, so student grades reflected skill acquisition. This year its Chapter Tests w/o breakdowns which feels insufficient.