This is a year of pushing in and focusing deeply on the classroom and school team--how can I contribute more and better to teach well?
As I think about the teaching path ahead, and this central question, I identify the following efforts that are empowering direction:
Family-Teachers-Students Teaching/Learning Team
Family members have been an incredible source of capacity this year. I have reached out to numerous parents to support me with the efforts to teach math well, and they have responded with incredible honesty, care, and support. This level of teaming is resulting in much greater student investment, understanding, and development which is awesome. I want to continue to make more time for this in ways that matter. In some cases, this requires push since some families are difficult to get ahold of and others are sometimes more difficult to understand with regard to their needs and what will help, but instead of turning away from the challenging situations, I want to work with my colleagues to be more inviting and making the family-teacher-student team accessible and successful for all.
Extra Help: Homework Club
By making time for extra help, I am gaining tremendous capacity with regard to student-teacher relationships, understanding my learners, and the ability to help students in ways that matter. In the past, I was unable to provide this extra support due to my own parenting schedule and duties, but now that my children are older, I have that extra half hour most days to open the classroom up to students who want to drop in, ask questions, gain support, and work on their home study at school. The hum in the room during these extra help sessions is energizing, and what I learn from these young, enthusiastic learners who are choosing to be there is meaningful, inspiring, and ever so useful when it comes to teaching well.
Everyone in the Classroom is both a Teacher and Learner
To foster a culture that understands that everyone in the room is both a teacher and a learner is to gain far more teachers, and an openness to learning from your peers. Often students who master a concept will help a student who is working towards mastery. There's an eager attitude here that promotes best possible teaching and learning. When students help each other, everyone benefits and it gives me more time as the teacher to zero in on specific students and their learning needs.
Welcoming Learning Environment
The cozy chairs, bright rug, and multiple supplies make the room a cozy learning environment. This is positive, and the more I work to create that atmosphere in spirit and set-up, the better.
I encourage families and students to email me anytime they have a question. I find that this open invitation typically results in a number of emails upfront, and less after that. To answer people's questions right away is to create a sense of camaraderie and trust which leads to greater efficiency and ease of questioning after that. I tell students "Don't Stay Stuck, Ask," and I tell family members, "No question is to small, please email me with your questions and concerns."
Teacher as Learner
Vulnerability is a large part of this year's focus as you have to make yourself vulnerable so that you can learn. These vulnerability means owning your mistakes, reaching out for help, asking questions, and taking responsible risk to better what you can do for each other. The teacher as learner is the teacher who continually betters his/her work for the benefit of all. There's sometimes that tendency to close the door to new ideas, suggestions, and ways of increasing capacity, but we can't do that if we're going to teach well--we have to be ready and willing to ask questions and then to listen to the advice that our colleagues, families, students, administrators, and community members have to better our impact.
As I look deeply into my practice, the areas above are areas I want to focus on in order to build my capacity to teach and learn well. Onward.