This is my final week of the 2015-2016 school, and while I have concluded 14 school years now, this one is not any less special. I think every teacher’s final days ends with at least one deep, long sigh. The sigh represents a sense of accomplishment, relief, and of course excitement (for both the summer reprieve and the thought about starting fresh next school year). A huge part of closing the school year for me is both showing my gratitude to my parents and students and self-reflecting about how I can improve as a teacher for my next 150 plus students coming in August.
Gratitude to Parents
This year was the first year I created parent newsletters about once a quarter. I wanted to both inform parents of the English curriculum, and also share all the great things happening in room 102. I created my newsletters on Google Docs and then through my school grade-book system, AERIES sent out mass emails with the link to the document. In my final parent newsletter, I added images of student work and provided links to student final projects.
Gratitude to Students
I began documenting and showcasing what was happening in my classroom a few years back via Twitter. Because I had a multitude of awesome pictures of my students’ hard work, last year I decided to end the final semester with a slideshow highlighting their year in room 102. I pondered skipping this step this year, but when I began to peruse all the images on my home computer, I felt compelled to continue this and make it a tradition. I think students, especially freshmen, tend to forget the long academic journey they take in my class. The final slideshow honors this journey and I hope makes them realize what a long way they have come. I hope they leave knowing that each day mattered.
Self-reflection is crucial to becoming a stronger teacher, and while it may be intimidating and humbling, I believe this is one of the major ways a teacher can grow and refine his/her craft. Sadly, there is little time embedded into the school year for educators to stop and self-reflect; therefore, it takes deliberate planning for a teacher to ensure this happens. Since blogging and working with a Digital Learning Coach, I have found that my self-reflection has become almost routine. I find myself pondering the strengths and weaknesses of a lesson, and paying closer attention to the final products/results. What better way to self-reflect then to ask my students what worked and what didn’t? After finals, I had my students complete a survey via Google Forms assessing the learning experiences, units and lessons from the school year. I will be completely honest and say I know that the results may not be all positive and it might, or rather WILL hurt my ego; yet, the reality is that I can learn from the data and make adjustments for the overall benefit of next year’s students.
“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” ~Vernon Howard
I LOVE learning; I always have and I always will (maybe that’s why I chose teaching as a career). One of my summer traditions is to try and read a few professional books. This year I purchased Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Visible Learning for Literacy by Fisher, Frey and Hattie. Along with learning, I am passionate about collaboration, so together with a Digitial Learning Coach, Gina Dearborn, I hope to have thought provoking discussions about Teach Like a Pirate to enhance my understanding and ensure that I identify takeaways that will affect my teaching next school year.
As I conclude, let me just say to my English 1 Honors and English 2 Transitional students from this school year, Mrs. Lam has enjoyed every day with you and wishes you nothing, but the best during your journey here at Beckman. She believes in you and cares deeply about your future. Never forget that everyday is your birthday and all people should feel just as special because as Atticus Finch says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (3.85-87)
I think it’s only fitting to end with my goals for next school year and thank you for reading!
- Revise my English 2 Transitional curriculum to ensure that it is skill based, offers students choice, and connects to their lives ( I guess this is keeping in mind the three R’s: rigor, relevance and relationships)
- Focus on timely, effective feedback
- Offer more positive reinforcement and recognition to ALL students