As we wrap up this first semester - one word comes to my mind: REFLECTION. Ahh. It's either a teacher's best friend or worst enemy. In my case, it's definitely my best friend. I used to think that reflection was a time that I could look back and snicker, scoff, and feel bad about all of the decisions that I made that were less than mediocre. Now I realize that reflection is a necessity for ALL teachers, no matter if you've been teaching a year or twenty years. Being a teacher is all about growing - and yes. LEARNING. If you want to be a better teacher, then you need to reflect. If you're already a better teacher and you want to stay that way, you need to reflect. Even if it means you have to look at things that you did and say: "Well huh. That probably wasn't the best idea. I think I'd better come up with something better for next year." That's difficult to do and keep a positive attitude! Especially if you say that about everything that you did! But alas, you must press on.
For me, the reflection of my first semester in my very own classroom is a difficult one to face. I spent the first two and a half months miserable sick from my pregnancy. And so my grandiose dreams of having each and every lesson planned out from the beginning inevitably failed. They would have failed even had I not been sick. Lesson learned: It is impossible to plan out months and months worth of lessons before you know who your students are and how they will progress.
After my sickness wore off, I spent too much time wishing I had done things "right" the first time around. Next lesson learned: There is no "right" or "wrong" way to teach. The only "wrong" way to teach is to assume your students will all "get it" the first time you teach it and then to assume it's ok to plan way, way ahead without taking into consideration the reality: they will NOT all get it the first time around! I am constantly afraid that I'm doing it wrong. I really need to work on being more confident as a teacher. And I am starting by reflecting!
My struggle now lies within the delivery of the content of what I'm teaching. Am I correct when I justify lecture-type lessons by saying that for some things, there is no other way to get the material into students' heads? Are the students gaining anything from the supplemental activities that I have them do? Do they enjoy science? What can I do to make it better? And the BIGGEST struggle of all time - How can I incorporate quality questions that are authentic in nature? Gee whiz - that's the kicker right there. It is SO DIFFICULT to do this!!! Quality questioning that leaves students still talking about it weeks and weeks later. I know I have lots and lots of growing room in this area. LOTS. and LOTS. LOTS.
This is my rant. I just needed to get this in writing so that I can see exactly what I am facing within myself. I know there has to be other teachers out there - first year or experienced - that are likely going through the same thing. Being a teacher is more than just showing up and teaching. It's reflecting and improving and learning and growing and more learning.
Here are some of the things that I know I want to improve over the next few months in my science classroom:
- Science Journals - I need to use these not only more often, but more importantly, more purposefully. Students need to understand the true importance of the journals and I need to put more emphasis on them. More scientific writing, more foldables, more tangible evidence of learning. That's what we need in my room.
- Daily Discoveries - These are quick, attention-grabbing brain teasers that get the brain moving first thing when students come in. I'd like to implement these on a more consistent basis. My students ask about these if we don't have them and lately, we have had more days without them than with them. Sad face.
- Multi-Subject Integration - More reading and writing, please! Especially in science, where writing about what's being learned can definitely help students understand and organize their thinking. I gotta read more on this. I am the queen of clueless when it comes to trying to incorporate writing into science. I found an eBook that definitely seems promising, thanks to Ari over at The Science Penguin that I will definitely be checking out. I also found a big fat list of science-related trade books that might just be the ticket to bringing reading into my science classroom.
- Daily/Weekly Assessment - I need to really find a structured way to assess my kids on each one of the learning targets that I teach. I have 72 students since I am departmentalized, so this is very intimidating to me. I will be stalking you teacher bloggers out there for guidance!
- Confidence. This, I think, will be the pivotal factor in my second semester. I need to get to a point to where I feel 100% sure about what I'm teaching, how I'm teaching it, and how I need to assess what I'm teaching. I think that will come along with more and more practice and time in the classroom. And checking off the aforementioned goals! These are certainly not unrealistic goals by any means.
Keep Calm and Reflect On!