As with most summers, this one has gone by quickly. Fortunately I was able to find some time to relax and attend a few different workshops/conferences this summer. One of the highlights was being able to attend a visible learning conference with colleagues from my own school. Being able to purposefully plan with colleagues has it’s advantages. I also had opportunities to read for enjoyment over the summer and put together some ideas for the new school year. After reflecting on what I’ve been learning I decided to prioritize two personal initiatives for the new school year. The two ideas below are not new, and I feel like they’re obvious to some, but I’m finding deeper reasons for why they’re essential in the classroom. The ideas are general and I expound on them in a narrative first and how I plan on using them in my own practice second. By writing them down I’m hoping to review the ideas throughout the year to see what progress has been made. It’s also a way to keep me accountable. Here are a few things I want to keep my eye on during this upcoming school year:
Relationships and culture matter
I don’t think educators can say and see this in practice enough. Building a relationship with students in a class matters. It matters to the students on a personal level and helps in the learning process. Although many educators feel pressured to jump right into curriculum, spending time building a community-centered learning space is important. Students learn better when they think their teacher cares about them. Building a classroom community from day one pays dividends throughout the year. Students need to feel like they can make mistakes in the classroom. That doesn’t happen unless students feel safe in the classroom.
I plan on taking the first few days of school to engage students in community building activities. The class will be completing a “get to know you” survey and set expectations for the class. We’ll also be completing the marshmallow challenge and have some rich conversations around math and mindset. I feel like instructional strategies make little impact if students have a fixed mindset. The same could be said for teachers. Before delving into content I want to ensure that the classroom community is moving in the right direction.
Learning is more important than the teaching
Learning happens in a variety of forms. In schools the learning is more important than the teaching. Students often learn when they’re empowered to do so. Teachers can create the right environment and give students strategies to learn, but the learning is ultimately their responsibility. I believe learning needs to be visible to the students and the teacher. Documenting the learning through paper, digital, audio, or video means can give both students and teachers artifacts that can be utilized to show growth.
I‘d like to make learning more visible in the classroom. I’m planning on having students use math journals to reflect and document their learning journey. I’m also planning on using effect size data to show student growth over time. To do this I’ll need to create additional pre-assessments to analyze pre/post data. I’m also planning on moving away from letter grades on unit assessments. Instead, I’m going to have students reflect more on the skills being learned in class. This is a change from past practices so a lot of modeling may be needed.
School is soon approaching and I’m close to being ready. Most educators that I know are fixing up their classrooms or getting ready to start school very soon. With a new year comes a new group of students and another opportunity to make an impact. How will you make an impact?