As is usually the case when I'm not in school I've taken some time today to catch up on all of the interesting blog posts and Tweets since last weekend. And, in what seems to be sort of a natural move as I come to the end of any experience, I've been reflecting upon what I've learned this year and what I'm going to do next. Even though my future may seem a bit unsure there are two things that are definite (well, definite barring anything REALLY crazy that might happens):
1. I will be a teacher next year in the same school district.
2. I will still be facing the same curricular and testing requirements from my district and the state.
Here's what I've learned and either want to continue doing or do more of in my classroom:
1. I have learned the importance and value of a PLN and will continue to follow and learn from this group. One way I would like to improve this is to find people with differing opinions to follow so that my thinking is pushed.
2. My kids have shown me how important it is to have a genuine audience for one's writing, and their enthusiasm and excitement for blogging has reenergized my writing instruction. I will definitely continue this next year.
3. Blogging has also taught me how important connections are for kids, and we have made connections around the world to help develop the communication skills. Next year I would really like to move beyond blogging and do more with Skyping to help my kids developing their speaking and listening skills as well.
4. The blogging and little bit of Skyping has been cool, but just like Mrs. Ripp said here I would like to do more with my teammates (whomever and where ever we might be next year) to develop those face to face connections.
5. I've really revamped my reading instruction. While I still complete the required Core reading program, I've done a lot more to show my students how these reading skills are important to their real lives rather than focusing on the story for the test. I've seen results on the selection tests so I'll continue this practice next year... of course I'll want to change it up, but I'm sticking with this new method.
6. I've utilized a class wiki to get my kids away from worksheets and involved in more meaningful discussions about their reading skills. We're getting there, but I still need to learn more about teaching kids how to have those meaningful discussions.
7. I've dabbled in Daily 5 and adjusted it in a way that fits what the rest of my team is doing. Next year I'd really like to move completely away from the five day planned guided reading groups to completely flexible groups.
Finally, here's the biggest change I want to make:
I've dabbled with kids having more choice in the classroom and using a variety of technologies to showcase their learning. I've been trying to get them to be more active participants in their learning. But in the end I always come back to my "old ways of doing things" because I'm not sure how to manage the independent active learning in a way that will allow students to timely complete work and be prepared for the required assessments.
I'm trying - I really am. I'm just not always sure what I'm doing or what it should look like. We didn't learn about this kind of teaching back in the early 90s (sadly, I don't think the student teacher I just had at the beginning of this semester is learning it either), and I can tell you that the classes I'm looking at from a variety of sources aren't providing guidance in this area, either. I've found two thanks to my involvement in PLP, but despite what everybody in the general public thinks about teachers' salaries, I'm not sure that I'll be able to participate.
This is where I need your help! Who is teaching this way in a public school classroom with curricular and testing constraints? I have seen really cool examples from charter schools and private schools, and I have thought about proposing an out of the box idea for cyber-charter to my district. But that won't happen next year, and I don't want to wait.
I want to know how you put everything that we talk about on Twitter chats, on our blogs, at TED events into practice in your classroom. We're talking about what needs to happen to education, now I want to know who's actually DOING it. I would love to learn from you so I can become a more effective lead learner for my students.
Bring on your stories - successful and not so much because I'm really ready to take this next step.