Sometimes the best, and biggest, things are also the smallest. In my room, progress can be slow, but it is Amazing! Sometimes there is just a twinkle that you know means they understood that. Sometimes its in a single word. We celebrate those victories.
Some of those little celebrations will resonate for a long time. The best one lately, seeing a student get frustrated and choosing to take a moment alone in our tent. That my seem small, but it is HUGE! It is the reminder that what we do makes a difference, no matter how slight it seems.
I am a teacher, special education, I use data. That is how it is. I make data informed decisions to find ways to better my instruction, to see where instruction is needed, and to see what is sticking. I also use it to find interventions, but sometimes data is overrated or possibly even the wrong data. Although we need it for many things, it would be nice to see it as meaningful and that can only be done by individualizing it.
Another thing I found interesting from, “Innovator’s Mindset,” by George Couros, is the myth of teachers solving their problems in isolation. I spend a lot of time in isolation. My position in a small district is a single one. I have paras and they are dear to me, but sometimes I need another teacher or two to bounce ideas off of. Being a reflective person, I started to seek this out and then ultimately joined our leader group because I really felt that was the next logical step. Professional collaboration helps you to tackle your problems, celebrate your victories, and keep you grounded in the reality outside your isolated situation. Knowing I never want to work in an AEA or be an administrator, but also coming from a management background, I thrive on needing to make sure I am continuing to improve, changing with the needs, keeping data informed, impacting those in my classroom and I can do this better when I join in professional conversations. (Yes, they can be in person or over tech but they need to happen.) Crossing the typical boundaries can make you the best version of you if you invest time into it. Instead of isolation, try collaboration and reflection.
Over break I finished, “Innovator’s Mindset,” by George Couros. There were a few notes that really stuck with me. One was the myth that if you are good enough, you will earn student compliance. Well, I’m never good enough then. I don’t know how others do it, but I know that, so I work on building a relationship of trust so that they don’t want to let themselves down or let myself down. Does this work 100% of the time? No, but it sure has a better chance that believing they will just comply. Think about that, I am a rule follower, but I’d rather do something because I know it impacts me and those I have relationships with. Is that any different for our students? I don’t think so. In my opinion, those relationships need to be built before any other learning happens and then they need to be continually developed all year long. Be intentionally and sincere and students will know you care and are vested in their learning. Maybe it is just the crew I work with, but it is worth the time. Lower my expectations, no, but spend time developing this while I set up classroom management at the beginning of the year pays off. Clearly it needs to be revisited as often as needed, but it well worth the time.
Knowing two things, I pondered the start in my classroom from the holiday break. Resolutions don’t last and for some getting back to school is a great moment but that creates anxiety. I decided we would do a new year, new you project. What is the one thing you want to tackle in your life right now, for the year? Knowing the room or situation I teach in, I thought this might be an undertaking but very worth it. As it turns out a week later, this has been very eye opening. Each one chose something they really do need to work on in my eyes too, so that was much better than I had hoped for. With help, the youngest chose, but all the others chose their own. It was great to see their pride while they worked on putting their thoughts onto the screen. We talked about what the goals might look like and how we might meet them. It was a good opportunity to let them feel empowered and in charge of their learning.
As an added bonus, my paras also did this and the culture has been more positive as we had some frank communication about they impact and what I can.
New Year, new you was a success. I am ready to see them accomplish them and proud to know they can.