Checking-in in the New Year

Skyview Atlanta

The second-best picture I took in Atlanta. Again, there’s a metaphor here. I’m sure of it.

At the beginning of the school year I set goals for myself as a teacher. Right now I’m asking my students to check in on their progress toward their goals in their digital portfolios and the teachers I coach to reevaluate the goals they set at the beginning of the year, so I’m checking in on my progress as well. I also have finally set a coaching goal for myself after attending Pete Hall’s Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success workshop through ASCD.

Improve my behavior management for my “challenging” class

This is hard to admit, but I haven’t done a great job following through with this one. I’ve done many of the things that I said I was going to do, but in the more short term. The problem is, I know exactly (or at least partially) why things I’m trying aren’t working. I’ve been so focused on finding strategies to manage behavior and making those strategies work, that I’m not focused enough on planning engaging lessons to meet my students’ needs. I’m not walking into class with no plan, but I’ve been so focused on anticipating behaviors and what strategies I would use to manage these behaviors, that the content and concepts in the lessons I’ve been planning have been, well, less than stellar. So when my strategies work, the activities I have planned aren’t enough to hold the students’ attention and keep them on that good track. It hurts to admit that I dropped the ball here, but it happens and I can fix it. For the remainder of the year I want to keep implementing the strategies that are working, but refocus my efforts on lesson planning so that my students can be successful.

Better integrate the technology I have available to me into my lessons, including finding more ways to leverage “regular” technology as assistive technology for my students.

Here I’ve done much better. I’ve implemented digital portfolios for my students and I’ve been slowly refining them so they become spring-boards for student self-reflection and learning. Yesterday a student exclaimed as he had realized that our work with SRSD and Close Reading had been just as much about improving his ability to manage and regulate his attention as they had been about his reading and writing skills after going through a variety of digital and paper artifacts showing his work. I also am now able to very easily share student work with a parent who has moved back to Denmark ahead of the rest of the family.

I’ve also curated a number of resources for students on my Schoology pages for my learning support classes, including videos and interactive games (usually created by others), as well as graphic organizers (usually created by me). What’s even better is that some students are seeking out and using these resources. I think my next step here is to add more content that I’ve created (or that my students have created) to these resource pages, using podcasting, screen capture, and other methods.

Finally, the coaching goal: Go into classrooms regularly (1-2 times per week) for either very quick (30-45 seconds) or brief (5-15 minute) visits and follow up on these visits with teachers.

Or actually doing what Pete Hall calls “Rounds” and “Walk Throughs”. This goal sounds simple, but it involves a lot: coordinating schedules, figuring out “look-fors”, etc. But the biggest reason I haven’t done this is that I haven’t felt comfortable. I wasn’t given a clear description of what I would be doing as a coach at the beginning of the year, nor was it explained to teachers, so I spent most of the first semester in meetings with teachers, talking and building relationships. Now that I feel like I have a job description (even if it’s self-created with the help of a workshop and a book) and have built up fairly good relationships with many teachers, it will, I hope, be easier. The short workshop I led on Tuesday afternoon about checking in and reevaluating goals from the beginning of the year will also provide context for my visits.

How are the goals you set for your own teaching at the beginning of the year going? 

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