I can’t help but be impatient for school to start again so as to move forward with my students. Break often reminds me how much more progress we still have to make (and also how hard it is for me to slow down; the pace of a break is definitely not in my nature.) Yet at the same time, I am thankful for a reflective period to better my practice as a student and teacher. I am challenged daily by my PLN to question my practices so as to improve my pedagogy and leadership abilities for students; I can’t help but be refreshed and revitalized as an educator.
And as I reflect, I look at this past year as having been a remarkable growth period within myself as a teacher. For such, I owe many thanks to the individuals who have pushed me to understand not only what it means to be a teacher, but how to teach: my students.
I’ve been challenged by my students this year to be the best educator I can be due to the dynamic environment we have collaborated to create. I can’t help but think of how much further our classroom community has to go, while also proudly acknowledging how far we’ve come.
I vowed to myself at the start of the year I’d begin progressing the classroom more strategically, and more aligned to the necessary view of true personalized learning for students. I’d teach content, but give equal weight to the skills I had observed at a deficit within students presently and years prior. I vowed I’d better instruct process skills of questioning, research, communication, and design (you know, those skills that aren’t necessarily tested by our present assessment models, but are imperative for the success of our students in years ahead.) Most importantly, I wanted my students leaving my room as “learners.” As a result, our class has begun blended learning, gamification, backwards PBL and deeper literacy approaches all centered upon better data collection. All new techniques I’ve never employed, but I do such because our classroom data was showing deficits in critical areas I had no addressed well. Additionally, I’ve tried to do a better job of blending all the fields so isolation of content is removed, and deeper simulation of associations can occur cumulatively. I’ve tried to help transition my students to focus on ownership of learning, not the “grade.”
The coming trend? I’m trying because my students need me to.
I am learning alongside my students, which is equally as rewarding and challenging. (I grew up with the perception that teachers had all the answer, and here I am without said “answers.”) It requires vulnerability and consistent flexibility. It involves frequent transparency between myself and students (who are tough, but the most honest critics.) I am honest with my mistakes and failures, which has progressed our classroom tremendously for students are not focused on failure as an end-all.
I am thankful for my students who have challenged me to become a better teacher. I am thankful for their flexibility and honesty with new approaches. Most importantly, I am thankful for the understanding we have with one another to try at equal exchange. Do we still have frustrating moments? Of course! Do I still have challenges meeting all my students needs? Yep. Are we both trying to overcome such? Yes, and this has been a game-changer. There is immense struggle, but also progress. Encouraging student voice and contribution in classroom decisions has been monumental. When it comes down to it, they are the ones in the classroom, why not ask them?
I am excited for the year ahead to further expand upon our learning community. However, as much as I am thankful, that does not limit my fearfulness in all we are continuing with. I can’t help but think, “will I have enough time to expose my students to what I want them to understand? Will I be able to show them that they are more than a score, and learning is so much more than right vs. wrong? Will I have time to be courageous enough in providing them with unique learning opportunities and connections?”
I am unsure, but I will give it a try as much as I have this year. I always feel there is more I can do, but I am thankful for this challenge. I am thankful for my students who continually push me to better learning environments for them, and for the opportunity to learn alongside them. Their stories, successes, failures, and so much more are helping me understand more and more each day not only what it means to be a teacher, but how to be one.
I leave 2014 much the same that I enter 2015, with a grateful heart for my students and the challenges ahead.
What are you grateful for this year as an educator?