Friday, July 25, 2014

10 Goals for my first year teaching

Last year I was fortunate enough to not only complete my student teaching in a 6th grade classroom in Michigan, but I also completed a 7th grade long-term-sub position in a South Carolina classroom. The differences between the communities and schools was a culture shock for me in many ways, and the group of 7th grade students I had were a more challenging group than our team usually saw. I learned so much from both experiences and now I am so happy to be starting my full-time teaching job in an 8th grade ELA classroom. As I start my first year teaching, I want to reflect on the experiences I have had so far and to give myself a few goals for the new year. Here is what I have come up with:

1. Be Present, Be involved, Stay positive 

It seems too easy to slip into auto-pilot at times, and this year I want to make sure that I keep my energy and enthusiasm up at all times. Last year if I was having a bad day I always found it so much better to have fun and really get involved with the kids, rather than to just watch the clock during that tough class.

Middle school is full of drama, attitudes, and energy and this year I want to really make sure I'm embracing it at all times.  Also, this year I'll be attending more concerts and sporting events for the kids. I think it's important that they see me there supporting them.

Happiness Binder- This is a great idea I found. My plan is to put together one of these before school starts that includes notes from past students, letters and cards from friends, inspiring quotes, pictures, and anything else to cheer me up. I think this would be great to keep at work and I really need a good place to store all of those drawings, cards, poems, and letters I've collected.

2.  Try Something New 

Again, this really comes down to making sure I'm finding ways to keep the kids engaged and interested in what they're doing. Also, as a first year teacher I feel like there is a ton of room for improvement and I really need to experiment with what is going to work for me. I'm nervous about trying new things because there is really no telling how it will go, but I feel like sometimes trial and error is really the only way of knowing what will work and what won't. I have come across so many great new ideas that I would love to try this year, but I think I need to make sure that I am not trying too many at once. Maybe I will stick to trying one new thing every few weeks to see how it goes.

  • Interactive student notebooks. These have really been blowing up all over Pinterest and I think they are a great idea. (More on that in another post) 

  • Absent work system -I'm also going to start an absent work filing system this year  as opposed to last year's pocket chart. (more on this later once I set it up. 

  • Boggle board - This is also new this year, although I am probably going to wait a while to implement that one as well. 

  • Monthy Journaling -The students receive a page of prompts to finish by the end of each month. This would be great for them to work on when they finish early. 

  • New seating arrangements 
  • Weekly Socratic seminars/circles (possibly on socrative) -Imagine a silent discussion, completely online. 
  • Daily Oral Language for warm-ups at times. I may use this book for warm-ups also: 
  • Weekly Assignments - I like the idea of giving the students a list of 5 tasks that need to be completed by the end of the week. (Sort of like centers with groups) They must do one a day and complete all of them by the end of the week, but they can do them in whichever order they choose. 
  • Technology - I have so many ideas for incorporating new technology, so this brings us to my next goal. 
  • Swear Jar (or something like it) It's used to break habits such as swearing in class, having their phones out, talking, being disrespectful... 
3. Integrate technology into the classroom (OFTEN)  
  • Student blogs 
  • Class website 
  • Remind (previously Remind101) - text your kids or parents reminders if they subscribe, and they never know your phone number. 
  • Class Dojo - an awesome class management tool 
  • Edmodo -A facebook like website for students/teachers 
  • Socrative - a website for in-class discussions, polls, quizzes, and games. (Student response system) 

4. Motivate 

This is easy to say, but hard to do. 

There is a great video that I think every person on earth needs to see, but especially middle school students. I will be showing it to my kids the first week of school this year, to set the tone for how I expect our classroom community to be. (encouraging) 

We will also work on: 
  • Becoming good readers and writers 
  • Having good attitudes 
  • Eliminating drama and bullying 
  • Improving study skills 
  • Having empathy and compassion for others 
  • Setting goals for ourselves 
  • Becoming involved in the community 
5. Make Connections 

I will strive to make connections with my students, colleagues, and parents by: 
  • Relating to students. (I still like the same movies, books, music, stores, video games etc. as them.) 
  • Connecting with colleagues by reaching out. (This one is always tough since I'm more of an introvert.) 
  • Writing personal letters to a few students each week (something I did last year) 
  • Post-it notes each day 
  • Frequent contact with parents -"good" and "bad" 
  • Student-teacher conferences 
  • Parent-teacher conferences 
6.  Balance & Boundaries 

When I say this I mean both boundaries and balance between my work and life outside the classroom and also my student-teacher relationships. Here are few of my goals for accomplishing this: 
  • Don't spend all night of every night of the week working until I go to bed (take an evening off!)  
  • Don't spend all weekend working 
  • Remember, although they are "young adults", they're still "kids" too. 
  • Be their teacher/not their friend. (They have enough of those) 
  • Everything needs to have a consequence that is set and stuck to throughout the year. 
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Set good boundaries and expectations from the beginning
7. Stay Organized 
  • Stay ahead when planning and grading whenever possible 
  • Establish good routines and traditions 
  • File things! (parent contact, student work, student behavior, handouts...) 
  • Give students jobs 
  • Use technology to stay in touch 
8. High Expectations 

I completely believe that high expectations lead to improvement, where low expectations do not. I will make sure to set my expectations high from the beginning to make sure that students know what to expect. Then, gradually I can begin to raise the bar for each student. They are different-remember this! 

  • Frequent reading and writing 
  • Effort 
  • No sloppy work 
  • No incomplete work 
  • Strive for improvements 
  • No excuses 
  • Consequences 
  • Prepare for high school - prepare for the "real world" 
  • Setting goals and working to achieve them. 
9. "So What?" -Relating lessons to the "real world." 

I had a professor in college that forced us to consider a "so what" question while planning lessons. He said to expect the student to ask, "so what?" or "why do I need to know this?" I know that isn't always an easy question to answer, but it really is important to relate the lessons to what is relevant to them. 
  • Current events 
  • Publishing work 
  • Book talks 
  • Real-world skills 
  • 21st century learners 
  • Social media 
10. Quality not Quantity for Assessments 

I do believe there is a place for both summative and formative assessments and that both are very important. However, when planning for both of these I need to remember to keep in mind that the quality of an assessment is more important the the quantity of assessments I give. Last year I feel like the kids and I were really flying through things, trying to catch up because they had fallen behind with their teaching being out a lot. Sadly, I hink a lot of assessments were rushed through and not really considered thoroughly on my part. This year, I need to insure that the assessments I do give will be differentiated as best as possible, will require students to really think at a higher level, and will be meaningful for both me and the students. Sometimes less is more and I need to keep that in mind for BOTH of us.  

Go Slow to Go fast!  

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