Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7th - 10 more teaching days and then 16 vacation days (not that I'm counting!)

Looking back, I would say I had a week of reflection. Looking back it was filled with both up and down times. For example, on Tuesday I told students who were done their essay on whether chocolate milk should or should not be offered at our school, that they could start to gather research for and against their next essay topic. During the first period, students had an idea of their own but didn't know how to get an article on the topic to take notes. I had suggested 3 topics and had a list of links to articles on these to read (thanks to TCRPW) but some had another idea and then spend (wasted) time not reading and taking notes. I was frustrated by not anticipating this. I tried to "sell" the topics more with my 2nd class. But then during lunch I still felt deflated. The links for the 3 topics I was "selling" - recycling, green energy, and censorship - was a list from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (just search for 5th grade text sets). So an article was listed with the URL and then the students had to meticulously type in the correct URL address. I clearly was not setting these kids up for successful notetaking during my WW time as I saw them wasting too much time just trying to get their laptop to show an article.

During lunch, I blamed a bit of my depressed feeling on that I was just hungry. As I sat and ate, I kept thinking. Then I returned to my classroom, opened the website page my 5th grade team has where we post homework and figured out how to add a page. I called it Writing Workshop Links and I cut and pasted all the links I got from TCRWP to this page. I crossed my fingers and submitted the page. It worked! NOW the students in the 2 classes I teach after lunch could get to an article faster and have time to read and take notes. However, only if they pick one of the 4 topics (I added Competitive Sports, too). I still saw kids interested in homework and pets and homelessness struggling to find places to go to read an article. And then I got observed by the Principal during my 4th and final group on Tuesday. I am still awaiting my meeting to get feedback. But her presence in my room, I think, had me reflect even more. Mostly on Tuesday, I felt tired and depressed. I am a good teacher. I have so many things in place to allow for 5th graders to arrive in my WW and grow as writers while they work for 50 minutes 5 days a week. But on Tuesday I clearly saw how much more I still need to do. This is my first time teaching Researched-Based Argument Essay and I know I can do it better next time. I haven't harmed these kids but some of their precious writing time was wasted by not anticipating the resources they would need.

Then today Mark Barnes started following me on twitter (he must have liked something that I retweeked?!) so I clicked to see who he is and found out he is: Education speaker. Author: Role Reversal, 5-Minute Teacher, Teaching the iStudent, the Global Learner, Assessment 3.0. . Publisher,

So I clicked on his blog (I like the title - Brilliant or Insane) and clicked the menu and clicked inspiration and went to this link:

and read this:

If you’re a teacher and you’re not questioning your methods daily, you might want to consider another profession. Great teachers always think they can do more for students. Outstanding teachers feel like they can be better. The best teachers ask themselves questions every day that begin with, “What if?”
Great teachers doubt their methods and question research. The best teachers in the world refuse to do something just because someone said, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Great teachers care more about their students than they do about ill-conceived principal mandates.
Great teachers don’t think about being great. They make sure that their students are.

After reading this, I decided I need to change my feelings when I reflect. It isn't about me being a deficit. It needs to be about me and how I can try to make something better. And actually maybe it is about how I can help my students to be more independent so together we solve the problems that come up. It helps when I make good things happen quickly but if I don't show my problems and how I solve them, my students will think life is easy and not hard. (So much to think about!!)

According to Mark, I am doing what great teachers do. I also need to not think about a lesson as AM I BEING GREAT...Instead, it needs to stay focused on the students...what ELSE can I do to make sure they are doing great things. Being observed threw me. Being tired this week threw me. However, I get 10 more days with these kids in 2014. I really want to make the most to help them write their next essay (on Wed/Thur) and to help them reflect on themselves as writer (Thur/Fri), and help them celebrate their writing with a Publishing Party (Mon) and then time to introduce our next unit of study - nonfiction writing (Tue/Wed) and then some fun free writing (Thur and Fri).

This profession of teaching is hard. I know that. Reading Mark Barnes' words helped me remember WHY I do the hard work. Not to impress a principal during an evaluation. Not to teach the way I always have. But to watch, listen and respond to the writers in front of me. When I do that, it WILL be messy. It WILL be tiring. It WILL bring tears to my eyes. But so what. I isn't about me. It IS about helping 10 and 11 year olds find their voice and share it in writing!!

I'm thankful that, despite being a human who feels up and down and never quite satisfied, I can keep asking questions and searching for answers and thanks to twitter today, I got the inspiration I needed from Mark Barnes.

I typed that this profession is hard...well, life itself is hard and so I need to admit that, accept it and keep at it. I am a great teacher who questions. And those questions will lead to 10 more great days in WW in 2104.

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