Thursday, October 25, 2018

Report from the field: on the occasion of the full moon and other tasty tidbits

It's 7:11 and I'm sitting at my desk, cup of hot coffee in hand. The weather is finally cooling down, and the most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner (yes, Halloween... but also.... winter!) I find myself, in this quiet moment before my kids come in for their midterm exam, strangely relaxed. Maybe it's my coffee, maybe it's my finally organised bullet journal, or maybe it's the full moon.

This year has been full of challenges so far, but they are challenges that, for the first time in two years, I've felt that I can face head on. I am inspired in ways that I haven't needed to be inspired in a while. By that I mean, I've always been inspired by my students to do my best for them and to create compelling materials, but this year has required some extra creativity to provide the support and input needed for my students to succeed. If I sit and think about it, it quickly becomes overwhelming between testing (in all forms), processing concerns, teaching three preps for the first time in four years, "8th period" classes, and all the other things teachers face every day. And yet, here I sit, now watching my students file in, completely relaxed. side note: this post may be considered a prequel to my upcoming post on the curriculum for my IVs this semester.

I will spend today testing every student that I teach and, on the surface, it is gearing up to be a very monotonous day. But let's break that down for a minute. Today is also a day where:

  1. I will get to do a "check in" with every student and where they are, individually, in the "grand scheme" of their program this year. 
  2. I will get to watch them test, see where they get frustrated, see what classroom factors affect them, and adjust accordingly. Perhaps they'll need extra time, maybe they need a quieter space, maybe they need the test in a different format. Some of these I've already addressed, but I know (and my kids know) that more adjustments can and will be made as needed. 
  3. My colleagues and I will likely discuss the results of the testing today and in the coming days. We will discuss what went well, and what we want to change for next time. This discussion, I have found is key to success. A few years ago, we messed up with the Latin I midterm. We've learned since then. You can read about our experiences here: Part I, Part II
  4.   I will reflect. I often find testing days to be very productive, but also very reflective. I am known for reading too much into everything. I analyse every piece I can in the hopes of improving and being a better (teacher, colleague, friend, partner, person, etc). I will take each piece of information I receive today and consider what it's telling me about my teaching, my students, and our program. 
I often wonder if other teachers take in class testing the way I do. Is it just the anxious part of my being that causes me to look deeply into all these things, or is this all teachers? 

I need to pause here, as I begin to close my thoughts in this post, and (if you haven't seen my tweets this morning) give a major message of gratitude to my colleagues. Without Rachel Ash, Keith Toda, John Foulk, Robert Patrick, and Brent Cavedo, I would not be where I am, have the confidence I do, or likely be able to tackle all this head on.  So, to them.... THANK YOU! You make teaching very enjoyable for me and I love working with a group of amazing teachers. 

Now, to my closing... I'd like to challenge us to look at our classroom assessments as something more than grades and extra work. I'd like to challenge us to really listen to what these things tell us. The message may not be what you expect. In this year alone, my assessments have told me such things as:
  • who needs extra assistance
  • who is having a bad day
  • who is going through something outside of class
  • who is scared
  • who is confident
  • whether I am actually preparing my students
  • to be clearer in some instructions
  • to trust my students more
  • to trust the pace at which I am moving
  • that my gut and instincts are often correct and I should listen more

What are your assessments telling you? How can you use them to change for the better (and no, I'm not talking about typical data here.... :) ) Share in the comments below or tag us #steppingintoci