Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Starting Points

Hi Danielle,

I've been thinking and doing a lot of work on the Writing In The Middle Project, and envisioning what we want it to become, which got me thinking about the blog, and what that could be too. I was really inspired by what Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier have been doing over at the Bridging Differences blog just by writing back and forth to one another about educational ideas that excite, inspire, or challenge their thinking. I love the model, and think we could do that well too.

I saw this post today and really loved the simple reflective nature of the prompt. It's just four ideas to consider at the end of the year. This could fit into a classroom quite easily, but also be useful for us as teachers. So here's my end of the year reflection to Ruth Ayers' four starters:
  • I learned…
  • I was stretched by….
  • I am excited about…
  • I’m beginning to realize…
I learned that my classroom doesn't need me to be in control the way that I used to think that it did. A while ago I spent most of my teaching time anticipating all of the ways things could go wrong and actively working against that fear. This year, I tried hard to take more risks and surrender more control. Working with a co-teacher for the first time, leaving half way through the year for sabbatical, and leaping into risky projects like NaNoWriMo forced me to take these risks, and they paid off big time. My students were so successful and so happy with me, and they continued to grow and flourish after I left. The more freedom I gave them, the more they were able to surprise me with their accomplishments.

I was stretched by trying to reconcile my own views on grading and assessment with the trends of my district and the state. While I don't agree with a lot of the things going on in this area, I am starting to see how frequent small scale formative assessments can be really helpful in differentiating for all of my students and really can help each one of them move forward. Now if only we could find a way to help students move at their own pace in a system so obsessed with standardization.

I am excited about the work that I've done on the big things- writing novels in a month, the spring Shakespeare show, working in the organic veggie garden, my sabbatical project. Each of these has the element of being a huge all consuming project that takes over everything, but has a clear deadline and a concrete reward at the end. Students have thrived so much more by working on these big projects than they do on the little day to day lessons. I want to build more authentic projects into my teaching next year. 

I'm beginning to realize that I can define myself outside of the role of the classroom teacher. This semester of working with other teachers has provided many unanticipated challenges and frustrations, but has also been so rewarding, and the time for researching, writing, and thinking has been invaluable. I've started thinking about ways to move forward and beyond what I have been doing to help myself grow even more. Who knows what the future will hold for me, but I'm starting to see many different paths that I can choose from if I want to.

As your year winds down I'd love to hear some of the things that you want to reflect on. Keep up the energy, there are only a few weeks left until vacation and our Summer Institute.


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