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Our new format for teaching has been in session for a couple of weeks now and hopefully things are beginning to settle down.  Despite this educational whirlwind, it is still important to take time for reflection. Here are different ways to reflect:

  1. Use feedback from students
  2. Write it down--even sticky notes
  3. Blog it to share with colleagues
  4. Record it

These came from an Edutopia article:

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/reflective-teacher-taking-long-look-nicholas-provenzano

The school year is winding down, summer is highly anticipated, and educators are experiencing reflection and 

desiring rejuvenation. Here are a few suggestions to make this process purposeful and successful.

Reflection:

  • What was meaningful for you this past year? Did something make you happy, or satisfied? Look back in your planning book or journal and decide what you want to keep or enhance.
  • What enthused students the most? When were they the most creative or successful?
  • What did you do to make a difference in students lives? Look at thank you notes written by parents, colleagues, principals and especially students to validate your efforts. How can you continue to make a unique difference in the lives of your students? (Keep a yearly file of special notes given to you, this becomes a “happy place.”)

Rejuvenation:

  • Take care of your body through purposeful diet and exercise, and get restful sleep. Teaching is a physically demanding occupation, taking care of your physical self is crucial.
  • Your mental and emotional self needs down-time too. There are several things that can help you destress such as yoga, meditation, and the outdoors. Do what works for you.
  • Refocus on the positives of the job to create anticipation for the upcoming year, this will help you come backrenewed and refreshed.

References
Knight, S., EdD. (2017). The Heart of a Teacher:6 Ways to Refresh, Refocus and Rejuvenate [Web log post]. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.gcu.edu

Zakerzewski, V., Ph.D. (2012). Take This Job and.... Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/take_this_job_and

As we begin a new school year, it is always interesting to hear from our veteran teachers what they wish they had known as a brand new teacher. Here is what our department wishes we had known that we want to share with new educators.

"I wish I would have had a team to support me that first year. I felt like I was on my own and learned what I was teaching from the teacher manuals." --Patty Bennett

"I missed the whole first week of school because of illness. I wish I had known how important emergency sub plans were and that I had something prepared ahead of time in a sub folder. Thank goodness for great colleagues and mentors that pitched in and helped." --Debbie Fisher

"I wish I had realized how important strategies were.  At first, I believed that students learned through listening and doing worksheets.  Now I realize a variety of strategies can make all content more meaningful and memorable."--Judy Jackman

"The first few months in any job is challenging, especially so for the first few months of teaching. The intensity lessens in time; it does get better!   Routines and procedures will help establish consistency for both the teacher and the students.  Keep the routines and procedures simple and effective, and practice them with the students with frequent reminders and smiles.  It will also help establish a positive classroom community." --Rebecca Smith

"I wish that I had known how much fun I was going to have with my students! I don’t think a day went by where my students wouldn't make me smile. Students are the what our work is all about. I think I came out of college so concerned about programs and what I was teaching, that sometimes I forgot that it was all about WHO I was teaching." --Amy Wood

Congratulations! You made it to the end of the school year! During the craziness of the final days, it is important for teachers to take a moment to reflect on the past year and begin to plan toward the next. There are multiple ways teachers reflect. Elena Aguilar, an instructional coach in California and author of The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation (Jossey-Bass, 2013), shared an article with Education Week titled Reflecting on a Year of Learning (2014).

Aguilar suggests two ways we reflect are through talking and writing. "Some people like to talk more than they like to write; some like to write more than talk. Most of us benefit from a mixture of activities." She encourages teachers to find someone to reflect with (possibly a school team), and as you reflect to use talking and writing to expand your ideas.

She also suggests teachers can draw out their year and map it from beginning to end visually using art. Reflect on the whole year and design symbols or pictures to show important events.

Need help getting started? Here are some questions to ponder and begin the reflection process:

  • What is something you accomplished this year that you are proud of?
  • What did you try for the first time this year that was successful?
  • Which student in your class showed the most improvement? Why did they do so well? What did you do to help them?
  • What caused you the most stress this year? Are there things that can help eliminate that stress or make it more bearable?
  • What things do you plan to try differently next year? What support might you need? Is there someone in your building or district that can help you?

You’ve survived the craziness of the holidays and have had some time to relax. It’s a new year and with it comes new hopes, new dreams, and new possibilities.

As you reflect on your experiences so far this school year, are there things you would like to change? While all teachers can adjust their instruction, management, and teaching style at any point during the year, the beginning of a new year is always a great time to do this.

Take a few minutes to consider these tips to help you start 2018 as an even more effective and confident teacher:

  • Focus on curriculum development and teaching strategies using your newfound confidence and energy.
  • Try something new with your students and talk about the results with other teachers, even if it didn’t work out the way you had expected it to.  Now that you have made it through some difficult times, you have valuable experience to share.
  • Expand your professional network to include new and experienced teachers. Pooling ideas from multiple sources gives you many more ideas.
  • Go back and examine your vision of successful teaching.  Honestly evaluate your teaching efforts from the beginning of the school year to see how far you have come as an educator.

These questions can help you recognize your successes and determine your future actions:

  • What worked?
  • What didn't work?
  • What’s next?

Make the new year a fresh start in your classroom for you and your students.

Handling Frustration Around The Holidays

Below you will find a few ideas to help decrease the stress that is creating a negative impact on your health. It is important to find ways to cope and empower yourself to face the stress of the holidays.

  • Acknowledge your feelings
  • Reach out
  • Be realistic
  • Take a breather
  • Seek professional help if you need it
  • Learn to say no
  • Don't abandon healthy habits
  • Set aside differences
  • Stick to a budget

The mindset of a teacher contributes greatly to his or her ability to see the needs of students.  It you view a child through a deficit lens, the  child will not be given opportunities to grow.   Deficit thinking is making assumptions about a child's ability based on perceived deficits such as race, income status, or English language acquisition.

What is your definition of  " Differentiation?".  Ask several of you colleagues and you will likely get five different responses.

Differentiation
the way a teacher responds to a student's needs so that each  student is challenged at the appropriate level

What instructional structures are in place to guarantee a responsive learning environment in your classroom?

Step 1: Preview and Pre-assess- find out what students know about a particular skill, or concept, or topic planning for instruction. Previewing provides an opportunity for students to activate background knowledge and previous learning prior to a pre-assessment so that results will be a better reflection of what they understand. This should take 5 minutes or less. Pre-assessment respects a student's time and prior knowledge. Front-ed differentiation allows for teachers to provide an opportunity for students to accelerate within the content topic at the beginning of the learning sequence.

Step 2: Curriculum Compacting- was originally developed by Joseph Renzulli and Linda Smith.  This  instructional strategy streamlines grade-level curriculum by eliminating content that students have previously learned.  Compacting buys time for students to go deeper and wider into the content and /or accelerate to above-grade level indicators. The pre-assessment plays a major role in determining students who would benefit from curriculum compacting.  Look for other behaviors in the classroom that may give you a clue that a student needs to be moved into a deeper understanding of the concepts.

  • show great interest or motivation in the area of study
  • finishes work early and accurately
  • expresses interest in in pursuing advanced topics
  • create their own diversions in class( filling their time with less productive behaviors)

Step 3: Flexible Grouping-maintaining flexible small groups across content areas is an essential component of a differentiated, growth mind set class culture.  Evidence of grouping should be found in an any content area and at any grade level.  It may not be an everyday occurrence at the secondary level, but it should be an important component of the class structure and used routinely.

Step 4: Management- having clear expectations are the single most important aspect of managing multiple groups in the classroom.  Carol Ann Tomlinson, author of How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms, suggests the use of anchor activities.  These anchors should enrich the learning of the content being studied.  They are similar to centers but are typically available for the duration of a unit of study, a quarter or semester.

Step 5 Acceleration and Enrichment- Every child deserves to learn every day. A growth mindset on the part of the teacher and the student is necessary.

Acceleration
moving faster through the content, allowing students who have already mastered content or who master content quickly to move into above-grade level content
                                                Enrichment
learning with greater depth and breadth;going deep and wide into the content

Whether acceleration/an or enrichment occur, it is important to look carefully at instructional experiences to make sure they are laden with opportunities to think critically.

Step 6 Formative Assessment-formative assessment, or checking for understanding, is  non-negotiable in a responsive, growth mindset classroom.  It is a reflective tool for a teacher to keep groups fluid and flexible. Formative assessment improves teaching and learning, and it allows growth for all students.

Step 7 Summative Assessment-the assessment must match the learning that has taken place for each group or, in some cases, an individual student. Grades should be based on mastery of the content that was tailored to the student.

Mindsets in the Classroom

Provide opportunities for students to be challenged from the beginning. Be responsive to their needs and the potential of all they can accomplish. With practice, effort, motivation, and yes a growth mindset, differentiated, responsive instruction  can become the heart of instruction. Responding to the needs of all learners is a responsibility that we all have as educators.

The next chapter in Mindsets in the Classroom, will look at why critical thinking is so important in a growth mindset class culture.