Reflection is a very effective form of professional learning, one we aren’t always good about as educators. It always seems as if we need to move on to the next unit, the next activity; and little time if any is taken to reflect upon what we’ve learned.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a principal who was AMAZING about reflection. He had a theater background, and was a big fan of the “post-mortem”. While the term may seem morbid, the process can often breathe new life into what we are doing. Basically, once a large task is complete, the group meets and reflects upon what went well, and what needs to be improved upon.
In wrapping up a large event in my current position, I send a Google Doc to everyone who was involved, and give them editing rights. I ask them to answer four questions:
- What were our successes?
- How do we ensure future success?
- What can be improved?
- How can we improve it?
From there, we then meet to discuss what was recorded, and see what adjustments we can make.
Spring is a time of renewal. Even on cooler days, the sun is warm when its shining, and any rain falling is purposeful. It’s efforts are seen in green grass and sprouting flowers. Time flies! Take some time in this season of renewal to “stop and smell the flowers” – reflect on your actions so far this year to prepare for those last weeks of school and beyond.
There are sooooo many factors out there which impact student achievement. There’s this guy out there named John Hattie who was able to identify 138 of them. Once he identified them, he gave them a numerical value. Anything receiving a numerical value of .4 or greater made a significant impact. I’m sure you can probably guess some of these factors.
Here are a few which come up in conversation more than others:
- A teacher’s education – Dr. Hattie gave this a .41. It definitely has an impact.
- A student’s motivational state – .42 – Higher value than a teacher’s education.
- A student’s beliefs, attitudes, and dispositions toward learning – .47 – pretty good compared to that .41
Looking at the research from this perspective it would appear a student’s belief in their own potential has a greater impact than the amount of education their teacher has…that would be correct.
Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Remember when I said Dr. Hattie indicated anything at a .4 or higher indicated significant impact? Here is another figure for you:
- A teacher’s belief in themselves they can accomplish the job, and can exude that confidence in front of a group of students, has the highest impact on student achievement. 1.57 – way above a .4!
This is why, as an administrator who sat on the opposite side of the table during teacher interviews, I learned not to give priority to the amount of education a teacher has, rather to their passion for teaching and belief in children. A teacher can have all of the content knowledge in the world, but none of that matters if they can’t connect to children.
The coming weeks are going to be hard. It’s a long haul between now and spring break. You will make it though! Just remember: Believe in your students, believe in your team, believe in yourself!!!
The second and third weeks of school are usually pretty good. Routines have been established, school supplies are abundant, and any student who came to class crying those first few days has stopped. However, get to the end of the first month, and things can get interesting.
The honeymoon is over. The newness of the school year has worn off and students have become comfortable in class and with their peers; and are beginning to show their true colors. For some, coming out of one’s shell may be in the form of participating in class discussions without being prompted while others may trying on the “Class Clown” suit for the first time.
Just like a marriage, a class of students requires nurturing, upkeep, and a bit of variety to spice things up a little. Here are some things to do if you notice things are getting rocky.
- Don’t Wait for a Problem to Fix Itself – If you notice a change in the climate of the classroom, and it’s a change you aren’t fond of, don’t wait to see if things fix themselves. It’s pretty likely they won’t. One of the easiest things to do is to take a few moments and review class procedures, routines, and expectations. Once these are reviewed, take a few minutes and contact your parents via email or group call to let them know class procedures were reviewed, and to discuss with their students this evening. If you have access to a class website or group page, post any materials you may use or display pertaining to procedures, routines and expectations. This way you can refer to them throughout the school year.
- Check In With Your Students – By now, you should be on your way to establishing relationships with your students. You should have a general idea of what kind of day they are going to have when they walk in the door. While you should be greeting each by name as they come in each day you don’t always have time to “chat up” each of your students every day. That being said, it’s a good idea to do a bit of an extended check in with a few of your students each day on a rotating basis. You will also learn there will be some students you will need to check in with on a daily basis. These may become students who may benefit from some sort of “check in, check out” routine where you and the child, their parent, and ideally another staff member the student has a good relationship with sit down to draw up a point sheet for certain times of the day. You can then also determine some sort of reward system as incentive for the student completing the checklist on a regular basis. Your school may already have a system like this In place, so be sure to check with colleagues, your school counselor, or your administrator.
- Change Doesn’t Need An Invitation – When you teach something and the students in your class just don’t get it, what do you do? You make a change and teach it another way. However, teachers often don’t attempt to change procedures supportive of a positive classroom climate. Don’t be afraid to move desks around, incorporate brain breaks into the day, or adjust your expectations. What sounded like a great idea at the beginning of the school year may not be working the way you expected. Cutting bait and moving on isn’t always a bad thing, as long as there is a method and rationale to your planned change.
Remember, teaching should never be a practice done completely in isolation. You are in a building full of colleagues with a TON of ideas and experiences to draw from. If something isn’t going the way you think it should, talk to someone. Have them come visit your classroom, give some feedback. See if you can visit their classroom too! Teaching isn’t just the process of helping students learn; its also about being a lifelong learner yourself.
At times, teaching can feel like an endurance race more than a job. Research says there are two teacher traits which can measure the effectiveness of a teacher. They have nothing to do with years of experience, or how many degrees a person holds.
These two traits? Teacher Self-Efficacy, and the intrinsic Belief Students can learn.
Teacher self-efficacy has to do with capacity. Are you qualified to do your job? Well, you wouldn’t have been hired if you didn’t have the skills. You were hired because of the skills you have, and your philosophy on education. You are capable, you just need to make sure you express the confidence which goes along with capability.
You may have been asked the following question in your interview: ‘Do you believe all students can learn?’. You are in your position because you answered yes, and because the person who hired you thought you meant it. To say that all students can learn is one thing, but meaning it is completely different. When you have a strong belief in something, it often helps you in an adverse situation. Consider the Little Engine Who Could… “I think I can, I think I can…” There are going to be students who challenge your beliefs. Unfortunately, there are also going to be other adults in your building who are going to challenge them too some will be outright adamant this just isn’t true. Don’t let them change your thinking. Kids will know when you give up on them.
So the next time you are confronted by a parent questioning your credentials, or a student asking how old you are, remember this: YOU ARE QUALIFIED! You have the skills needed to get the job done, and you have a plan to do it! You believe in yourself, and most importantly, you believe those students you work alongside on a daily basis can too.
Learn More About These Teacher Traits And What John Hattie Has to Say About Them