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Monday, May 11, 2015

Comparing This Year and Last Year: Review

I noticed that some were reading my "Year in Review" post from last year. So I decided to see how that review compares with this year's review almost a year later.

This was a great year when it came to putting students first. I believe the curriculum program was strong, varied, and student-centered. The growth to come here is to continue to move towards as much as possible dynamic attention to specific and collective students' needs, interests, and standards with thoughtful researched learning design and delivery.

It was great to follow so many of my fourth graders to fifth grade. That looping gave me a head start with regard to meeting their needs. I continued to have a students-first focus and goal, yet there were some challenges since I was teaching a new curriculum and new age level. Since I'll continue with the fifth grade assignment next year, I'll make it a goal to shore up the teaching map, start-of-year communication, collaboration, and routine to better meet the needs of fifth graders next year. 

Materials and Classroom Set-Up
We ordered lots of great materials last year which really helped us teach well.  I'll do the same this year. Also most materials were organized well with child-friendly, easy-to-access plastic containers. I'll work now and in the summer to create a well organized STEAM classroom made up of terrific materials.

Again the fact that I was teaching a whole new curriculum created some challenge in the materials and classroom set-up areas. There was lots of revision throughout the year and I had to buy a lot of materials during the year since we didn't have the supplies we needed at the start for some of the curriculum goals and initiatives. Thankfully the PTO and WPSF helped us with funding. Hopefully I'll have a good sense of the teaching/learning expectations for next year this spring and be able to order the needed materials so that I can start the year with a ready environment and materials for invigorated student learning. After many revisions, I have a better sense of a good environment for the fifth grade learning year. 

The more I write, read, research, design, deliver, assess, and reflect, the better my teaching gets. I simply need to continue these efforts regularly to teach well. Overall this was a strong year of teaching.

I continued these efforts in 2015 and they worked well. I want to boost efforts with regard to teaching students learning-to-learn mindsets and behaviors as well as modeling those behaviors and learning structures in all the work we do next year. 

Professional Efforts
I comment on each area in blue. 
The strong side of this included the many learning events I attended and participated in throughout the year. All of these events served to boost my teaching and learning with a focus on student success. These efforts continued and were equally successful. 

The weaker side of this was successful navigation of all the specialists and initiatives I am involved with--the lopsided equation of leaders/specialists/initiatives and time to coordinate with care resulted in challenge.  There was great growth in this area since I was responsible for 1/2 of the curriculum which meant I had 1/2 of the initiatives/leaders and coaches to respond to. There was a good match of time-on-task, coordination, and preparation which allowed for deeper teaching/learning. 

Overall, my efforts to coordinate with the special needs department grew this year thanks to the following efforts:
  • a reflective special needs teacher committed to learning and growing her program with transparency and regular share to serve children well. This continued and it was great. 
  • a start-of-the-year lengthy meeting to schedule and target services and communication with care and online scheduling and share with lead time related to all student efforts. This also continued and supported terrific collaboration. 
  • frank and honest communication, debate, and discussion about students' needs. We did a lot of this in PLC and some outside meetings and this was very helpful too. Sometimes we had to miss our special ed/classroom meetings due to timing. It would be great to make this part of the learning/teaching schedule to support even greater collaboration. 

Efforts in other areas were less successful, and I hope to develop this area with the following actions:
  • greater focus on my role, and less attention to other's roles and charge. With so many big ideas, I find myself wanting to change all aspects of school--I'll save those for my blog and center my approach at school with targeted care. I've really worked at focusing on my own role, but decided to share ideas that I think have merit with others when those ideas occur. I subscribe to the belief that good ideas should be shared. 
  • less emails, and using one Google doc for collaborative share and questions instead for multiple curriculum leaders and specialists. The collaborative document idea didn't work for the most part as it tends to get lost in people's files and no one checks in. The collaborative document did work for the share with my teaching partner. I wrote less emails, but again, I do write when I feel an idea has merit for better teaching/learning. Not everyone is in favor of this, but when good ideas stay dormant, potential is hindered so I write. 
  • somewhat less effort to integrate everything. Simply due to time and numbers, some areas of school life have to be discrete--standing alone to serve students well. Integration is advantageous to learning, but impossible in all areas at this time. Given my more specific role this year, this was not a big issue. It was much easier to work towards good integration and separation when needed related to Math and Science concepts/teaching. 
  • targeting my own goals with greater specificity, and building an ally group--a group of educators who are invested in similar goals and focus. Our PLC worked well this year. My colleagues at the grade level were terrific allies when it came to servicing all of our students well. Again, my greater role definition helped me to target my goals and work with greater definition this year. 
  • cognizant of others' debate and learning styles--in the teaching/learning world, similar to the student world, everyone learns, communicates, and develops in different ways--it's never a one-size-fits-all. This continues to be a challenge given the fact that we have little time for good collaboration with all of the people a classroom teacher coordinates with.  I believe increased communication about role definition, communication systems/intent, and collective goals and efforts will help out in this area. Also a more detailed look at who collaborates and what kind of time is available for meaningful collaboration would help in this area. There was growth in this area due to a lot of reading, research, and effort I engaged in, and I look forward to even more growth in the future. 
Overall it seems like the growth will continue to focus on targeted efforts to teach children well. The more we target our efforts as individual educators, teams, schools, and systems as well as create time and space for meaningful collaboration and effort, the better we will all do to teach children well.