It’s time to take a trip in the wayback machine. Let’s set the clock for September of 2016. The academic year had just begun and excitement was in the air. My class was off to a great start and I was thinking of ways to grow and improve as an educator. To challenge myself to improve as an educator, I set some goals for myself. They weren’t overly lofty goals but they did push me to be better able to support and challenge my students. Now, fast forward to May of 2017. The school year is four days away from completion. It’s been an awesome year in the sixth grade. Each and everyone of my students has grown and improved in so many ways. I’m really going to miss this group. They’ve impressed me throughout the year due to their effort and compassion. They are a kind group of intelligent and creative young men. I am one of the luckiest teachers I know because I had the pleasure of working with them this year. Like my students, I’ve grown and changed a lot throughout this year as well. I’ve become more patient and open to allowing for flexibility in the classroom. I learned a little bit about computer coding. I learned how to almost solve a Rubik’s Cube. I became the math teacher that I have always wanted to be. I could go on and on, but I won’t as I’m sure you all have far better things to do than read about my amazing school year. Instead, my blog today will focus on the progress I made in working towards meeting the two professional goals I set for myself at the start of the academic year.
Goal Number 1: Learn to better support and help the ESL students in my class.
- Although I did not finish reading the professional development book I started back in October that I had hoped would provide me many great strategies regarding this goal, Educating English Learners by Loyce Nutta, Carine Strebel, Kouider Mokhtar, Florin M. Mihai, and Edwidge Crevecoeur-Bryant, I did make strides in this area. I tried some new techniques in working with the ELL students in my class. I tried simplifying the English vocabulary I used and found other pictorial ways to explain directions or new ideas to those students. I also spent lots of time working with this group of students outside of class to provide them the one-on-one support they needed to get to the place at which they are today. I am impressed by how much each of the ESL students in my class have grown this year. Their English vocabulary improved exponentially while their written and oral comprehension also grew quite immensely. By implementing new and different strategies throughout the year, I was able to best support and challenge the ELL learners in my class. While I am far from an expert on this topic and will finish reading the book I started almost a year ago, this summer, I do feel as though I made progress in working towards this goal. I wouldn’t say that I completely met or exceeded this goal, but I did focus much energy, especially early on in the year, in learning new approaches to best supporting and helping the ESL students in my class.
Goal Number 2: Follow through on the new curriculum add-ons I started this year.
- In trying to tackle quite a few new activities and lessons this year, I might have set my sights a bit too high. While I didn’t set myself up for failure by any means, I do feel as though I tried to implement too many new things in the classroom this year: I tried to use Khan Academy as a challenging supplemental to the math curriculum for my STEM course; I tried to have the students learn computer coding by using the online application Code Combat; I tried to have the students all learn how to solve the Rubik’s Cube; I tried to have the forest plot project stretch the entire year. With four new activities and lessons, one or two were bound to slip through the cracks.
- I feel as though I did a fine job having the students regularly, on a weekly basis, use Khan Academy to fill in gaps in their math learning and to challenge themselves to grow and develop as math students. Each and every student made progress with his account on Khan Academy throughout the year as I graded them on their effort and performance of concepts mastered.
- The change in the forest plot project for this year was also a huge success. With the exception of three months in the winter, the students went outside once almost every week to note changes in their plot, learn about the flora and fauna living in their plot, and think like a naturalist. The students will be completing the final portion of this project on Monday when they create a flipbook of their plot through the seasons.
- These first two changes I made this year were quite successful. Although I didn’t devote as much time to the Rubik’s Cube and Code Combat, I do feel as though I put forth great effort to keep these alive throughout the year.
- The students used Code Combat at least once almost every week throughout the year as they learned all about the Python coding language. While I wanted to do more with this and really help the students to see why this skill of computer coding may be a crucial life skill for them to possess, I really just had them work on the program independently or with a partner. I didn’t follow any of the lesson plans or other activities provided on the website to really give this activity clout in the minds of the students. A few of the students really struggled with this program and I didn’t do much to support or help them. If I were to continue this next year, I would front load more lessons and activities at the start of the year before they even got into the application itself. I would make this skill more relevant to their life and goals.
- I had similar struggles with the teaching of the skill of solving the Rubik’s Cube. As I only really memorized how to solve the first two layers of the cube, I couldn’t offer much support to my boys on how to finish the final layer. While half of my students met the goal I set for them at the start of the year, the other half were unable to solve the Rubik’s Cube. Despite providing them time in class almost weekly, because I was unable to fully support and help them understand the final stages of solving the cube, they were unable to meet this challenge. If I were to tackle this same skill next year, I would make sure that I knew exactly how to solve the cube from start to finish. That way, I would be better able to help support those students who struggled to figure out how to solve it on their own.
- While I don’t feel that I met this goal this year, I do feel as though I courageously worked towards it and persevered through to the end. I never gave up and tried to be mindful of all four new activities so that none of them would completely slip through the cracks. I kept up with every one of them, just not at the level I would have liked.
As another year winds to a close here on the Point, I’m reminded of the many changes my students and I went through this year. We all grew and developed in many ways. While my students met many of the goals they set for themselves this year, I too made great strides towards meeting my goals. While I didn’t successfully meet either of them, I am pleased with my progress. I developed a lot as an educator this year and can’t wait to see what amazing professional challenges I attempt to tackle this summer.