Monday, July 3, 2017

Summer Isn't Really Vacation--at least for me!

I can't speak for all teachers, but Summer isn't purely vacation time.

True, I don't teach summer school. True, I take as many vacations as monetarily possible. True, I stay up late and sleep in late. True, I watch A LOT of Netflix!

However, I am also busy thinking, planning, reading, learning, experimenting, practicing, discussing, and working towards my goals for the next school year. My brain never stops. It's always wondering what I can do better next time, and so much of my Summer is spent pondering this.

I will be providing several training sessions for teachers prior to the first day with students. To prep for these, I have been watching videos to remind myself about best practice, what I already know (like strategies and activities), and add a few more things to my existing toolbelt.

Honestly, I am not different from your students. Give me a few weeks vacation, and my brain turns to sludge. Don't get me wrong--I firmly believe we all need to give our brains a break--but there's also plenty of days of summer that I feel I need to keep my brain lightly engaged so that I don't go completely off the rails!

The time I spend "thinking" about my work enhances the work I do later on. And let's be honest, summer provides us with the time we all so desperately need! Some carefully constructed planning throughout summer can lighten the stress of planning and prepping during the upcoming instructional year.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

End of Year Reflecting

As the school year winds down, many of us take some time to think about how it went. When I was in the classroom, I often asked myself what I would do differently, what I would continue doing, and where I felt like I needed to explore a little more to improve and build my skills.

One tool I used year after year was a student survey. These surveys varied from year to year depending on the courses I was teaching and my group of students. 

When surveying students, I asked them to keep it honest, but in feedback form. It was ok to say they didn't enjoy something--that kind of feedback was important to me, but also to say why they didn't enjoy it, and how could they have enjoyed it; and, conversely, important that they say why they did enjoy something. I also emphasized how much their opinions mattered to me as they are my clientele.

I generally broke my survey into four parts regarding activities, assignments, structure of class, teacher's style, etc: 1) What did you love? 2) What did you hate? 3) What should I keep for next year? 4) What should I eliminate for next year?

It always amazed me the open, thoughtful responses I received from students. Interestingly, some things they hated, they thought I should keep, often for similar reasons, such as "it forced me out of my comfort zone" or "I had to really think on that one". Some responses are funny, too, like "I hated "x" but think you should keep it because my sister will have you next year and I want her to be tortured!!!"

I read through every survey, and while I was reading, I compiled a list by question. This helped guide my planning for the next year.