Several years ago, right around this time of the year in fact, I decided to make a change. I wanted to grow as an educator. I didn’t want to stay stagnant any longer. I wanted to better support, challenge, and help my students. I no longer wanted to be okay with being just a good teacher. I wanted to become a great teacher. So, I started this very blog in hopes of learning something from myself. Wait a minute, that sounds strange. Shouldn’t I already have been learning from myself? While one would hope, I clearly decided that I had not been effectively learning from myself. I wanted to be more deliberate and purposeful about how I learn from myself and my teaching. I wanted to take time every day to reflect on my teaching. What went well? What did I struggle with? What was a struggle for my students? How can I do better tomorrow? That’s where the blog came in. I decided to commit to spending 15-30 minutes every teaching day to reflecting, in writing on this blog, on my teaching practices. Looking back on that time in my life, I am so thankful that I decided to bring about change within me. This blog and my daily reflections have allowed me to grow as an educator exponentially over the past few years. I am now, in my eyes at least, a great teacher because I take the time to learn from my mistakes or embrace the awesomeness each and every day. I encourage all teachers, and people for that matter regardless of your profession, to take time out of your busy schedule to reflect, even if it’s not in writing, on how your day went. It will make you a better teacher and person. Because I’m always thinking about how to grow and improve my craft as a teacher, I find myself reflecting in the moment now. How can I make the next second or minute of my teaching better than the previous one? It’s almost like the Force from Star Wars, but this is more of a reflective force. I can improve my teaching mentally, right then and there, because I’m always looking back on what just happened in order to make the next experience even better. I’m sort of like Obi-Wan except with a way better outfit.
With mental lightsaber in hand, I tackle my next reflective moment: My professional Goals. Earlier this year, I set two goals for myself as a teacher. While I’ve kept them in the forefront of my mind since then, I haven’t formally reflected on my progress in working towards my goals. How’s it going? So, what better time than right before the holiday break to reflect on my progress in working towards meeting my goals.
My first goal was to learn how to better support and help the English Language Learners (ELL) in my class. I felt as though I was lacking in this aspect of my teaching. I’ve never had formal training on how to teach ESL students and so I felt at a bit of a loss earlier this year. To help me work towards meeting this goal, I started reading a book all about how to best help ELLs in the classroom. It seems like a great resource, but I have only read about the first 20 pages. I need to devote much more time to reading this book in 2017. I have also done some research online to find out how other teachers help their ESL students. This approach hasn’t proved too fruitful yet. What I have learned and realized on my own is that I need to be mindful about my oral and written instructions. I need to simplify the English language used so that my ELLs can comprehend and understand what I’m saying or asking them to do. This has helped. I’ve been much more cognizant of the words I’m using when providing instructions for tasks or activities. I also have all of my students, but especially my ESL students, take notes on the whiteboard tables with questions they have while I’m talking. This has allowed them to more effectively ask for help or clarification. As I’ve seen much progress from the ELLs in my class, it’s hard to tell if it is as a result of the changes I’ve made in my teaching or if it’s just them. Exposure to the English language in the full immersion-style of my school has probably helped them learn a lot. They feel much more comfortable speaking the language now than they once did because their vocabulary and confidence has grown. Is this because of me or them? It could be a mix of both, me and them. Regardless, I do feel like I have a way to go to meet this goal. I want to finish reading the professional resource I started months ago and I want to add some new strategies to my toolbelt so that I can better support the ELLs in my classroom starting ASAP. I don’t like feeling lost or helpless.
My second goal was to follow through with every new idea or activity I started at the beginning of the school year. I wanted to make sure that I continued having my students work on learning to solve the Rubik’s Cube, observe and learn from their assigned Forest Plot, and learn more about coding from the online website Codecombat. So, far, I’ve met this goal. Everything I started doing in September, I’m still doing. Every other Tuesday, the students go out to the forest to observe their assigned plot of land. They record their observations in their farm journals. Every Saturday, the students work on solving the Rubik’s Cube. Five of my 14 students have already learned how to solve it. My goal is for everyone to learn how to solve it by the end of the year. Fingers crossed. My students still utilize the coding website Codecombat on a weekly basis. Many of the students even work on it outside of class as they enjoy it so much. This is excellent. I love that I found a tool that engages and teaches. I hope that I’m able to continue meeting this goal by the end of the academic year. Being sure that I include these activities in my unit plans is one very helpful way to be sure I keep on using them in the classroom.
So, there you go. I’m working towards one goal and meeting another. At this point, I don’t feel like I need to put more on my plate since I want to really focus my effort on meeting my first goal by the start of the next academic year. I need to keep on learning new strategies, trying new things, and reflecting on them. Until next year, this is me reflecting and learning from myself. Who knew that I was full of such good ideas or had so much to teach myself? The power of reflection is amazing.