Sunday, June 23, 2013

10 Things to Repeat

The year is over, and before I can begin adequately planning for next year, it is important to reflect.  My first reflection is to focus on the positive.  While this past year was not perfect, it was far from a failure.  I want to take time to reflect on what went right and what I want to carry with me into the future.

1.  I was super organized.  
As a first year teacher, it is a huge compliment to be giving veteran teachers ideas.  Especially when it is for simple classroom procedures that they have been using for years. I love it when people come into my classroom, take a look around, and say "I love how you did that."  I also love when they ask questions, like "how do you use/do this?"  I love helping other teachers.

2.  I relate well to my students.
It's almost a given that I'm going to relate to my students because I'm only 10 years older than they are.  I don't want to lose how I relate to my students, and I don't want to become unapproachable to my students as older teachers sometimes do.  Even as I age, I don't want to forget what it was like to be their age, and about the little things that they go through that at that age are the big things.

3.  Food + Activity = Successful Lesson
When I polled my Contemporary Math classes about the year, they remember the activities we did involving m&ms and Oreos the most.  I wasn't surprised, but it was definitely a reaffirmation.  I'm sure if I polled my Geometry classes they would have said the same things.  It's a simple formula for success.

4.  Welcome Input
On the note of polling my classes, I definitely want to do that again next year.  Moreover, I want to expand the poll to my Geometry classes as well.  It always bothers me when students are afraid to share their unsolicited input.  Students timidly ask if I can slow down, not talk as they copy notes, etc.  I always try to make an example of these questions at the beginning of the year by reminding students that I'm there for them, and whatever it is that I can do to help them (within reason), I will do.

5.  Incorporate Assessments into Regents Review
In the past, I got to Regents review and hit the ground running.  This year, I sacrificed the time to assess my students on Regents questions, and I found it to be beneficial.  Firstly, I was able to hold students accountable for still doing work during review.  Too often students take review to mean "we're done here."  Secondly, it gives me a better idea of my students' strengths and weaknesses, which helped to further prepare for review.

6.  Anchor Charts Everywhere
I decorated my classroom with content-rich posters.  It served me throughout the year, especially when we needed to use topics in later lessons.  I could just point to the poster and the visual set off light bulbs of recognition.  I loved this, and want to do it again next year.  I also want to get my kids in on the decorating again next year.  Poster decorating was a fun/relaxing activity that allowed students to review what they learned, but in a less demanding way.  My students this year were wonderful, and were able to work cooperatively and productively.

7.  Grades Updated Weekly
At my school, I'm very fortunate to have School Tool set up as an attendance and grade management system.  Every Friday I updated my students' grades, and by setting up that routine I was able to keep my grading manageable.  It also meant that I had to keep up with grading.  I think quick feedback is vital, especially in mathematics.  We want to fix our students' mistakes so they don't keep repeating them, and can learn from them sooner.  My routine also set a routine for my students and their parents to keep on top of their grades.

8.  QR Code Overload
I love using  QR codes in the classroom.  I only actually used them 4-6 times throughout the school year, but next year I want to use them more.  Our principal is wonderful and advocates for us allowing our students to use the technology that they have available to them.  At the end of the year a red-yellow-green policy was instituted to allow students to use their cell phones with restrictions based on each teacher's preference.  With this in mind, I want to actively look for ways to allow cell phones in my classroom.  (If students are too busy learning with their phones, they won't have time to text, or so I hope.)  This will definitely take awhile to achieve, but QR codes are my start.

9.  Be Available
I dedicated so much of my time to my students.  I allowed my students to come in before school, during my preps, during my lunch, and after school for extra help or to make up work.  I want to continue this.  It gives students one less excuse why they can't succeed.  For my content area, it is vital that students spend the extra time learning the content.

10.  Make some "me" time
On the other hand, for my sanity, I definitely need to take some time out for myself.  Toward the end of the year, I was able to get into some routines that gave me back some of my time for myself, my fiance, my friends, and my family.  I need to refine my routines, and plan productively.

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