Making a List and Checking it Twice

How can we improve our teaching? How can we ensure that this year will be better than the last? Reflection of course is one way to look back and recognize what worked and what didn't in the last school year. But, is that enough? Sometimes I see the things I need to improve upon but I never figure out how. I enter the new school year determined to change things up, try new things, take-risks but I never plan them in advance, they just happen. I have a 'big picture' personality. I write ad-hoc lesson plans but rarely follow them because I truly teach in the moment. Each class varies a little based on their needs & personalities. When a team member comes in and asks me for the lesson plan for what I am doing, because they like it, I have to verbally tell them, to their dismay because I rarely write it down. I just work it through moments before the bell rings. My mind is never at rest. I know the TEKS, I know the pacing, I know the content it is simply the presentation that is fluid and spontaneous. When students are in control- you honestly have no idea what is going to happen. You have to be prepared for anything.

Throughout these nearly 365 days of blogging, I have written many posts about particular lessons. I spent the last few days reading over most of them. It is amazing to see how much my writing has improved over the last year. It is a great history of my teaching as well. We tend to focus on what worked not what didn't. So this post will be about what didn't and creating some strategies to make sure that this year they do. I have set a goal, well many actually, for myself this year: create a stronger team, keep my mouth shut and let them lead, take more risks and try a different approach, do not get comfortable. Those are the main two. To make sure I do not get comfortable and complacent I must tweak and experiment with former lessons. Stir the pot. Create a little anxiety in myself because that is what pushes me- fear and anticipation. Not failing, I do that all the time. Just not presenting an idea or lesson clear enough to engage my students- challenge them and inspire them. So below are a few ideas I have to make the flow better and to keep myself more focused on the pacing and integration of mindful design.

  • One-min Check ins: start day one, have students write questions and sign up for a specific time-less free flow on this
  • Cell Book-PBL allow for more comic book style writing, more freedom means more engagement
  • Use more children's books through out the class-have a reading as an opener some days just to relax before the lesson starts
  • Business cards- have students create their own- a logo and three of their skills they would like to use in the classroom, then pin them to wall like a college quad bulletin board and group based on interests and skills
  • Field Trips- set up one for Fall and one for Spring for GT students-they deserve to do something special just for them
  • Helpers- each class has a different part of the room as described in earlier post BUT also stream-line classroom helpers- more community less responsibility
  • EDISON board- first year doing this- do not turn it into an interactive word wall, keep it flowing and changing daily-make sure students are doing the work 
  • Makerspace-put it in the center of the room so it is accessible from all sides- carts in the corners so kids are more willing to use it daily
  • Laugh more. Last year I smiled a lot. Had fun with my students. This year really dig deep and play music daily and just have more fun.
  • Create a playlist on Spotify each student picks one song-appropriate and it can be the jam for the class period (each class a different playlist)- less classical more pop culture music

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