As I realize how valuable it is for my students to reflect on their learning throughout the day, period, and school year, I want to be sure that I am practicing and modelling reflective behavior in and out of the classroom as well. In closing today’s Humanities class by having the boys share what allowed them to meet or not meet the goal they set for themselves during today’s work period on the Globe to Flat Map Project, I was inspired to do a little reflecting myself in today’s blog post. Am I working towards my goals, and if so, how’s it going?
Back in early October, which seems like years ago now at this point in the year, I set two professional goals for the academic year.
Goal 1: Gather data on how best to introduce and explain projects and activities to students. Do rubrics work best? What kind of rubric will promote creative problem solving?
- After spending the first few months of the academic year honing in on this goal, I feel confident in the fact that I have indeed gathered much research on the use of rubrics and project handouts. I’ve varied my approach to introducing and explaining projects to the students so that I could determine if one method is more effective than another. I’ve spoken to several different faculty members on this topic as well. What works for them in the classroom? I’ve come to a few conclusions at this point in the year:
- Students need some sort of rubric or assignment explanation for any project or activity. I need to be sure that I explain the project for the students so that they know what is expected of them.
- The detail I put into the rubric doesn’t seem to make a difference in terms of promoting students to think creatively or ask questions to solve problems.
- The process the students utilize to complete the task seems to vary by student. Character and work ethic seem to be the driving factors. Students who have the academic drive and wherewithal to be successful, will do well no matter what. A rubric or what it includes will neither hinder nor help them meet the graded objectives. Students who struggle with English proficiency will face challenges regardless of the language used, but the more detailed the rubric, the more confident they seem to feel while working. Students who finish work just to get it done, will complete the required academic tasks just well enough to meet the objectives. No matter how detailed the rubric is or not will make no difference in the outcome for students who live by the status quo.
- The students themselves seem to make all the difference in the outcome of projects and tasks. Regardless of how assignments are explained to students, there will always be those students who do well and those who don’t. The specificity of a rubric or project handout seems to matter very little.
- I now need to focus on how to inspire all of my students, including those few boys who seem happy completing barely satisfactory work when they are capable of exceeding the objectives covered, to complete work that exceeds my expectations. I want to figure out how best to challenge each and every one of my students. How can I help my high functioning students reach for the next level? How do I ensure that my struggling ELLs are learning the foundational skills needed to be fully prepared for the seventh grade? How can help my mid-level guys aspire for more? This is where I need to head for the next few months regarding this goal. It’s not about the effectiveness of rubrics, it’s about all of the other stuff I’m doing behind the scenes. Effective teaching will help students to think critically and creatively while solving problems in new and unique ways.
Goal 2: Incorporate mindfulness and learning about the brain, as it pertains to utilizing a growth mindset, into every aspect of the sixth grade program. How can I best help students learn how to change their thinking to accommodate how they learn best?
- As I mentioned in an earlier blog post this week, my students seem to have risen to the next level of academic consciousness as they are applying a lot of the skills and strategies learned during the fall term. They are beginning to think critically. They are using a growth mindset and realizing that they can accomplish any goal set or task undertaken with great effort, perseverance, and determination. They are working on being mindful and present in the moment. They are better able to solve social issues and problems encountered in the classroom on their own now than they were back in September and October. I feel as though I have met this goal. The challenge for me now will be to make sure that I hold the students accountable for being able to use a mindful and growth mindset during the remainder of the year.
As I have basically met the two goals I set for myself in early October, I need something else to keep me motivated, moving forward. Should I focus on better handling behavioral issues encountered in the classroom? Should I work on being more mindful and present in the moment to be sure that I am best challenging and supporting my students? Should I try to spend more time digging into how I could implement coding into my Humanities class? Where should I go from here?
What if I try to focus on one goal a month, and then move onto the next one? Might that be a good framework for my goals for the remainder of the 2017-2018 academic year? I like that, short and simple.
So, for the next two weeks, I will focus on finding more appropriate and meaningful ways to address and handle challenging students. I will use more patience when talking with students who struggle to meet the expectations of our sixth grade program. I will attempt to try the Plan B approach suggested in the book Lost at School by Ross Greene. I will try to empathize with these students so that they feel heard, cared for, and respected. I find myself falling into the trap of disregarding their concerns and issues. I view one of my students as a compulsive tattletale and another as an apathetic student who just wants to play sports. I need to change my thinking about the difficult students in my class. How can I best help support them while also challenging them to grow and develop as people? This is my new goal for the remainder of December. Hopefully, the festive holiday spirit will fill me with the energy and compassion I need to work towards meeting this goal.