New Year, New Goals

I am one of those people that absolutely loves the idea of New Years Resolutions. I like reflecting on the past year and finding places where I can improve and change. I'm usually pretty terrible at keeping my personal resolutions but pretty decent at keeping the ones I make for my classroom. So to start the year off right, here are three resolutions I'd like to make for my teaching practice and what inspired me to make these changes.

1. Know My Students Better Than Ever

I was inspired by this article from Cult of Pedagogy on student engagement to find something new and more purposeful I could do to better build relationships and trust. While I feel like building student relationships is one of my strengths overall, I know this last semester those relationships really suffered because I was out of the classroom a lot more than usual. This is why I am going to start dialogue journals with all of my students.

I want to know more about them and find ways to be there for each of them, I thought about finding some kind of tech solution to this but there is something about passing a physical journal back and forth that I think will allow for us to share different conversations than we already do in digital spaces. I know that students are more engaged when they have positive relationships with their teachers but when I am out for PD's and conferences the momentum we started with seems to fade very quickly, I am hoping these journals will not only repair that disconnect but also help me better know and understand the students I serve. If I don't know my students, really know them, am I really able to teach them to the best of my ability?

2. Create Better Systems So We Have More Time For Magic 

An area I really failed at this last semester was systems and routines. This used to be my strength but the list of excuses I could give you as to why I struggled with this recently seems to be almost endless. One thing that I hear a lot is that when routines are too rigid, magic can't happen in the classroom. I think I was holding onto this lie as an excuse to not have solid routines that my students can depend on. The thing is, my students see 5-6 other teachers who all have different expectations and routines, so it is absurd of me to think that we will be able to make the best use of our time together if my routines are inconsistent and messy.

One area I struggled with this year was keeping the whiteboard updated (GASP! I KNOW! I STILL USE A WHITEBOARD!!!) This might seem extremely trivial but my students really struggled without having a place to look at and find the info for the day. I know I'll never update the whiteboard each day but I can update a slide deck each day, so I created this:

The idea is simple, there is a template for how we start and end class and then I've created some templates for some of the more typical lessons we do (playlists, station rotation, lectures, etc). Each day I'll update 3 slides, the bellringer, the activity for the day, and the exit ticket. The most recent days are at the top of the slide deck. I share this deck with parents and students and it will always be the first thing they see and the last thing they see in class. Everything else in-between can be magical and wild but this will remain constant for them. This also gives me a new tool to use when a student is absent, they can always check the slide deck to see what we did. I found this idea on twitter but cannot remember who shared it! If you know who came up with this idea let me know so I can give them credit!

3. Give Feedback Daily 

The research indicates that feedback is where it is at for making learning happen. It's in Hattie's top ten. My goal is to make sure students get feedback every single day. This might sound absurd at first, the idea of grading every day and having a quick turn around is daunting, especially when for three of the sections I teach writing will be the primary focus of the course, but feedback can come in a variety of different forms and while I hope to give more narrative feedback overall, I know that isn't possible to do for every student every day but there are a lot of other ways to provide students with feedback daily, here are a few I intend to be more purposeful about making a part of our every day.

  • I'll use quiz apps to give content-related feedback in an automated format (using things like Quizizz, Quizlet, and Albert.iO). 
  • If it's not an assessment, the answers will be provided immediately for students to review. 
  • I'll use station-rotations and playlists regularly to meet with students and provide writing feedback in class (because if I take it home with me it might not get done, or when I do finally do it, I will rush it.) 
  • I'll use rubrics and checklists whenever possible to help students see what they are doing well and where they need to improve. 

There is more I want to do and change and more I need to reflect on but right now, these are the three main areas that I believe need my energy the most. While the new year is a great time to sit and reflect on what to change and how to do better, this is a practice I want to make a part of my every day. Blogging is one way that helps me be more mindful and reflective but I also plan on journaling more each day, even if it's just a list of what went well and what I need to change next year, to make sure I am the best teacher I can be.

And that's the last thing I want to mention today, teaching isn't a competition. When you see teachers reflecting on what they want to do differently or what they want to change, it doesn't mean you have to do those things as well. Social Media can do amazing things for teachers in providing inspiration, resources, and support but it can also put a lot of pressure on all of us to reach some level of perfection that honestly doesn't exist. If you're feeling the weight of all these new year's posts and wondering how you will ever do it all just remember: you don't have to. You are a remarkable human for choosing to become a teacher, you don't have to do it all. Do what is right for you in your classroom and remember if you are adding something new it is okay to reflect on what you can take off your plate to make room for that new thing.

Do you have any new goals for the new year? Leave them in the comments.


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