The title of this post is slightly misleading. I’ve put off this post several times over the past week or two because I’m not finished reflecting on this semester. I think it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even realize I’m reflecting, but I must write the post so, here goes nothing.
This semester really surprised me. At first I thought I was just learning another way to do a running record and I slightly rolled my eyes (not out of disrespect, but because I do running records weekly with some of my students), but what I learned how to do was a true reading inventory. I learned what an inventory was and the parts of learning that are connected with the ability to read. I learned how to assess a student in multiple areas and how to make deductions about their strengths and needs by using more than words per minute, accuracy rate, and an average comprehension score. I’ve noticed (I’ve learned how to notice– or at least how to verbalize what I realize is going on) that the standard running record or fluency check is not enough for me to know what my students need. It’s much too generic. I hope to use Morris’s inventory, or pieces of it to really target my students’ needs in the future.
From our tutoring sessions I gained an appreciation for a set routine that focuses on multiple aspects of learning but in a repetitive and predictable pattern. I really enjoyed the structure of our tutoring sessions and it’s something that I hope to translate into my small group sessions and the tutoring that I do outside of school. It allows me to have a focus and an routine. This makes for easy, yet targeted preparation and instruction.
Aside from my literacy learnings, I’ve learned so much about teaching and being a leader in general. Leading a classroom isn’t about standing in the front of the room and reading a book or teaching students how to compare fractions. It’s about relationships. I thought I was doing alright in this area, and I wasn’t doing horrible, but I feel so much more confident after reading our Opening Minds and Choice Words (Peter H. Johnston). I point out what I see or notice students doing. I encourage them to point out what they’re doing or not doing or trying to do. I ask them how they do or go about things. I’ve restructured group activities to include more open ended questions and scenarios. I’ve done all of these things and several of them began to occur without too much conscious effort and I know that’s because of our readings and writings and reflections. Once I noticed myself trying something new I then purposefully focused on my behaviors and what I wanted to change, and I have had a successful start to a revolution in my practice.
I also learned a lot about coaching, or working with other teachers, this semester. It, too, is about relationships. To help assist or to collaborate with someone is a great practice to have, but you must go about it carefully. The “Notice, Wonder, Consider” platform that we used this semester is a great prompt for working with other individuals. It’s very safe, and if used correctly I can’t see a way that someone can take offense or feel attacked by any suggestions that are made. This is crucial when working with other educators because we (and I’ll speak for the majority of the educators I know) take great pride in what we do. We work extremely hard, and the ideas that we’ve honed into projects or lessons didn’t just pop into our minds– they were sculpted and purposefully altered to become what (we think) is a perfect, engaging activity for our students. It’s not hard to offend someone or someone’s work simply by making a suggestion, so I believe the “Notice” part of our prompt really allowed us to positively acknowledge each other (without direct praise), and the “Wonder” part let us question safely what was on our minds, and then the “Consider” portion of our prompt allowed us to make suggestions without having them come off as, “You need to do it this way.” Now, by no means am I saying that I’d ever speak to someone or imply that to someone, but it’s easy to feel that way when you’ve worked so hard on something and I’m thankful to have that feedback strategy in my pocket for when I work with teammates or other members of our staff at my school.
(Deep Breath! Exhale!)
This semester has been a whirlwind and I’m still processing it. I’ll be back to continue my reflections periodically! For now, thank you so much for taking this journey with me and for reading and responding to my adventure. It’s total impact is still very much unknown.