February. Making the turn into Assessment Alley. Revised schedules. Computer labs are reserved. MacBook carts are off limits. Time is tight to wrap up grades for the quarter. Space and resources are limited to begin those 4th quarter units of study. Evaluation deadline is fast approaching. Colleagues are snippy. Kids are restless.
Remember how your school year ended? It may or may not have gone like this; however, the way it ended was probably impacted to some extent by how it started.
A new year is coming upon us. Clean. Fresh. But in order to take advantage of the new year, we must engage in candid reflection about last year, and specifically, the final 1/3 of the year. Here are some question starters for our reflection:
How was student behavior in my classroom down the stretch?
Negative behaviors and referrals may escalate if the values of the learning environment become lax. Expectations and accountability should not be seasonal or conditional. Homework completion, peer interactions, room navigation, the manner in which kids enter and exit the room, and all other processes & routines have been modeled. The calendar should not determine new ones, especially if they are diminished in effectiveness.
Tip: Set expectations we can keep, regardless of the time of year. We must set our classroom expectations in August as we want them applied in May, then firmly hold each other accountable along the way.
During standardized testing, was I prepared for potential variations to “the usual”?
We know we’re doing it. We know when. We have a pretty decent understanding of the allocation of time and resources in committing to standardized testing fidelity in our buildings. We even know it’s probably not going to go as planned.
Tip: Take time in August to take a look at scope and sequence, and stay ahead of scrambling in April to make due without a laptop cart or 5 full days of instruction per week with our kiddos.
Did classroom student learning integrity remain high during all my IEP and 504 preps and meetings?
Initials will arise. Annuals and re-evals come due. Students in our classrooms must learn. Death. And taxes. This (504 and IEP team members–not death!) is as much a part of student learning as any of our other roles, assignments, and obligations.
Tip: We are a part of a team much bigger than our classrooms. Our contributions to 504 and IEP teams are tremendously valuable and necessary to student learning. We must view this as such, as opposed to an add-on. Utilize our subs and give them the benefit of the doubt as educators when planning lessons for them. We’d rather sort through incomplete instruction than sift through babysitting referrals.
Did my evaluation take away from my “teaching”?
We know when we’re up. We know it takes time to read feedback, gather evidences, and meet for pre and post conferences.
Tip: Take time in August to understand the evaluation process in our districts and specifics as they pertain to our evaluators. Being on the same page will transition evaluation from a spring to-do list task to a way of professional life and consistent growth as an educator in the business of student learning.
Were our kids prepared for the safety drills?
Spring tornado, fire, and intruder drills. They’re already on the calendar. Student safety is as much a part of student learning as anything else.
Tip: Managing unexpected emergencies is a life skill, not a spring to-do list task. Let’s treat it as such.
How well did I balance planning instruction and learning of the school day with the extra-curriculars I’m involved in…and my family time…and my friendships…and my hobbies?
We know when areas of our lives are stressed. We also know the seasons that provide the most stress.
Tip: Let’s be intentional with our commitments to our areas of passion and obligation. Sometimes we feel like we have to do all or nothing. Can we team up with others so that we can be involved, yet still give attention to all areas of our lives that deserve it? Yes, we are educators. But we are people first.
Please share any reflective question starters or tips you may have for us to best prepare for 2015-16 student learning!