Tuesday, June 12, 2012

End of the Year Reflection

One of my favorite blogs to follow is twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. A few weeks ago, Ruth Ayres posted her own reflection on the end of the year, using the following three thinking stems.
  • I learned…
  • I was stretched by….
  • I am excited about…
  • I’m beginning to realize…
Responding to these thinking stems has been on my list since I read her post but I have been distracted by all of the end of the year reports, IEPs and some personal issues. However, I'm addressing these great thinking stems now!

I learned so much about adult learners this year. As part of my internship, my principal had me help with the induction of our new teachers. We are a relatively small school so our seven new teachers represented almost every grade level. We met regularly and we developed almost a curriculum for these teachers. Recognizing the amount of information they had to integrate and incorporate into their daily practice was so important as we helped them prioritize, set goals, and assess their own learning. It was amazing to me to watch them grow as teachers, inspiring each other to share and take risks. 

I was stretched by how to help students write meaningfully. I spent a lot of time thinking about the underlying skill sets of writing compositions of various genres. From there, I created a scaffolded set of isolated skills so that I could effectively teach students and also monitor and assess their progress. Most of my 4th to 6th graders became much more effective at developing topics and incorporating meaningful details or events to support them. Just today, we had a conversation with our sixth graders about the difference between learning to write and writing to learn, such an important place on the learning-to-write continuum. I will continue to stretch my thinking about the process, helping students find their voice and recognize the many purposes of written expression. Writing this blog has helped me (and stretched me!) to think about the learning, insight, and reflection that happens when learners sit and write and I am loving that some of my students are beginning to experience learning from writing

Over the year, I used more and more technology in my daily teaching and I am excited to continue this! One of our end-of-the-year professional development days is entirely devoted to technology and teachers will be selecting various workshops to attend. My iPad has helped my productivity and, while I love being able to access documents electronically, it has also been an engaging and highly effective way to teach and assess reluctant learners. Twitter (another exciting aspect of my year) offers me regular suggestions of new ways to incorporate the iPad and other technology into my practice and this integration will remain a top priority for my professional development.

I don't know where to begin what I'm beginning to realize because this statement is at the core of my daily work--I am ALWAYS beginning to realize something within my teaching profession. I think one of the most important responses to this stem is that teaching is coaching at all levels.  Over the course of the year, I read Opening Minds by Peter Johnston and Mindset by Carol Dweck. Both books emphasize the power of how we approach tasks within our learning processes but they also emphasize the power of language with children and adults. I have been constantly realizing how subtle language is and what strong messages we can unintentionally send. These are books that I will reread often, along with Choice Words by Peter Johnston and the Power of Our Words by Paula Denton.

Thank you again to Ruth Ayres for putting these thinking stems out there and compelling me to sit and really think about some of the learning highlights of the year. I admire the simplicity and depth of her statements and encourage anyone making it to the bottom of this post to link to twowritingteachers.wordpress.com and read her post. I also encourage people to spend some time with these thinking stems, revisiting the year's learning. Happy reflecting!

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