As I left my classroom this afternoon following the last, formal academic day at my school, sadness filled my heart while the song “It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by Boyz II Men popped into my head. I looked out onto my school’s namesake Mount Cardigan and tears started to fill my eyes. 15 years is a long time to be at one school. Memories have been washing over me recently like ocean water on a beach of sand. I remember my first year at Cardigan, right out of college. I was a wreck. It was awful. I couldn’t control the students and was teaching courses I knew very little about. Things got better though as I grew a bit wiser. Much has changed about me and the school at which I’ve worked at for the past several years. Cardigan has changed me, and hopefully I’ve left my mark on this fine educational institution. While I’m moving onto a new school for the next academic year, I will bring much of what I’ve learned in my time here, to my new school.
As I hop and skip down memory lane in my final days here on the Point, it’s prudent that I reflect on my progress as an educator this year. Did I meet my professional goals? Did I grow as a teacher? How’d I do in the classroom?
It was an awesome year in the sixth grade. My students made much progress both socially and academically, due in part to the strong program my co-teacher and I created this year. We helped the boys work through communication and coexistence issues while also helping them to develop as readers, writers, critical thinkers, and problem solvers.
I tried a few new things this year that I felt went very well…
- The mindfulness curriculum that my co-teacher and I developed and implemented during the fall term and throughout the year seemed to really help focus the students mentally and socially. While by the end of the year, they did joke a bit with each other about it. “Make sure you are mindful now boys,” they would say to one another, which is great because it means that they got it, they see the power in living in the present moment, staying calm, and avoiding external and internal distractions.
- I created a unit on Figurative Language for my Humanities class that I used during the spring term. During the past several years, I’ve used the same unit on the Middle East region during the final academic term of the year. While I’ve enjoyed this unit and feel as though the students do get a lot out of it, I always wondered if I was properly preparing them to think critically about literature. In the past, I have focused mostly on basic reading and writing strategies and skills, and have found that some of my students do not feel prepared for the rigors of seventh grade English class. As the expectations are ratcheted up quite a bit, the students are expected to know how to analyze literature. So, I changed my final unit of the year so that I could help my students be and feel more prepared for life in the seventh grade. It was so much fun, and probably my most favorite unit of the year. Every piece of Humanities class fit together so perfectly during this unit, from our Idiom of the Day bellringers to our class read aloud and poetry activities. It was awesome. The students had a blast learning how to make their writing more colorful and creative while also learning how to interpret figurative language used in works of literature.
- Our big field trip of the year to Chewonki in Maine was a huge success. While the boys seemed to not enjoy it in the moment, as it was hard and asked them to step way outside of their comfort zone, they are already beginning to see the great benefits and fun that came from this great experience. This was a completely new trip for the sixth grade, but I was ready for a change as we had been going to the same place in Cape Cod for nine years. Chewonki was that change, and boy was it a great change at that.
I also met my two professional goals that I set way back in October of last year…
- I want to gather data on how rubrics and project introductions help promote or reduce the amount of creativity students are able to put into their work so that I can begin to understand how to best introduce a new task or assignment to my students.
- After much work on this topic throughout the year, I’ve realized that my original hypothesis is correct and that rubrics are futile tools that simply steal creativity and critical thinking opportunities from students. The only group that I found in my research that gets any use out of a rubric is the ESL students, as rubrics tend to use simple English language that is manageable for them to process easily and quickly. Mission accomplished.
- I want to incorporate ideas and skills covered during our Mindfulness Unit in Team Time and our Brain Unit from PEAKS class into my Humanities class.
- While I didn’t necessarily do this as much as I would have liked to have done it and, perhaps, as meaningfully, I do feel as though I did accomplish this goal. We incorporated mindfulness activities into our study skills class at least once a week during the spring term. We had the students complete a guided meditation that we led before having them share how others have helped them or how they have helped others in the class. These activities helped to focus the students while allowing them to develop compassion and gratitude. I also made use of the big ideas behind mindfulness, including growth mindset, perspective, and open-mindedness, in my Humanities class throughout the year. Every part of our curriculum came down to helping them broaden their perspective as a way to be more kind, compassionate, and thoughtful, and I reminded them of that often in class. Although I wish I could have met with the students at the start of the academic day daily, our schedule didn’t allow for that. Had it though, I would have conducted a Class Meeting that contained a mindfulness activity as well as some student sharing. My goal is to make use of this type of Morning Meeting on a daily basis in my classroom at my new school starting in August.
Thinking back on the year as a whole, it felt very productive, and I feel as though I did a great job helping my students to grow and develop as students and people. Yes, it is hard to say goodbye to my current school, but I’m doing so on good and positive terms. It’s time for me to move on and start a new adventure. I now have much to do this summer to prepare for the next academic year at my new school. I can’t wait to start jumping into things in a few short weeks. For now though, I will live in the present moment and make the most of the time I have left at my current school. Until the summer when I will inevitably be reflecting on life at my new school, I’m out.