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Reflections On The School Year — Share Your Own!

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I know it sounds trite, but it’s amazing to me how quickly the school year has gone. We have ten school days left, and half of those are only “half-days.”

I thought I would share a few highlights and lessons I’ve learned over the past ten months — both as a self-reflective activity and as one that perhaps others might find interesting/useful.

Please feel free to share your own year-end reflections in the comments sections — particularly focusing on lessons you’ve learned, new questions that you’re pondering, and/or a short vignette of an experience you’ve had.   Try to keep them relatively short  — shorter than mine :) — and I’ll compile them all in a piece that I’ll post on the last day of our school, which is June 11th.

If you have your own blog, and you’ve already posted some of your own year-end reflections or are planning to do so prior to June 11th,  leave a link to it in the comment section and I’ll share them in the same post.

It’s been a challenging, but very good, year for  “honing” my classroom management skills and strategies.

I’ve written a lot about these challenges — which are certainly not unusual ones facing students and teachers at inner-city schools.  Here are links to the posts where I’ve written more in-depth about this issue recently:

“Why Do You Let Others Control You?”
Have You Ever Taught A Class That “Got Out Of Control”?
What Do Pit Bulls & Cockroaches Have To Do With Learning & Teaching?
What Do You Do When You’re Having A Bad Day At School?
What Do You Do To Keep Students (And You!) Focused Near The End Of The Year?
Writing Letters To Students
“I’ll Work If You Give Me Candy

I’ve had a few more even more recent experiences and experiments I’ve tried.

There’s one student who has had huge problems maintaining self-control in my class and in all his other ones, too.  Nothing anyone tried had any affect.  Finally, I asked him to go outside and read for a few minutes (if the weather was good) or go to the bathroom at the beginning of each class.  While he was out, I asked him to close his eyes for a couple of minutes and visualize himself not reacting to provocations from other students and acting like what, in his eyes, a good student would act.

It really has had a positive impact on his behavior, and he likes doing it — a lot.  He says he feels like it’s a big help.

That’s one more tool in my classroom management “toolbox.”

I’ve also begun thinking more about the concept of “self-regulation.” You might this blog post from Kevin Washburn interesting called Self-Regulation Supports Student Learning and Achievement.

(Speaking of class management, one student who is facing a particularly large number of challenges decided that he wanted to learn about Romeo and Juliet.  Since he hasn’t really wanted to learn anything all year, I jumped at the chance to make a mini-unit for him to study on the computer.  He’s a very high-Intermediate English Language Learner.  If you’re interested in seeing some of the links I have him working with, you can find them on my website under Romeo and Juliet)

Field trips are fun and extraordinary learning opportunities, but they seem to be taking more and more “out of me.”

We went on several field trips this year, including ones to San Francisco and Yosemite. You can see a slideshow of them here.

Students love ‘em.  I just have to figure out a way to make them more sane for me.  Any ideas out there?

I’m more and more worried about how California’s $24 billion deficit is going to affect schools.

Already, all summer school enrichment/accelerated classes — at least in our district — have been canceled.  The only students who can attend are those who have failed a class, or students in our English Language Development (our name for ESL) program.  This leaves out several hundred of our students who ordinarily attend our huge summer school program.  One student even told me he is trying to deliberately fail a class so he can go to summer school because he “doesn’t have anything else to do.”

What I’m doing with that student and a small number of others like him is arranging for them to be peer tutors in my Beginning English Language Learners summer school class so they can get elective credit.  But that’s just a drop-in-the-bucket when you think of schools all across California.

You can read more about our state’s fiscal crisis at this Sacramento Bee article — Will schools cut workers’ pay, or their jobs?

It will be interesting to see the results of my year-long “experiment” with technology — I’ll have them in a week or two.

As some readers might remember, I’ve (along with my student teacher) taught two United States History classes with English Language Learners this year — one entirely in the computer lab, and the other — for all practical purposes — entirely out of the computer lab (but using what  –in my mind at least — is a very engaging curriculum).

We did assessments and evaluations at the beginning of the year, at mid-year and, next week, at the end of the year.  You can read more about this — and see the actual assessments — at my post Mid-Year Results Of My “Experiment”.

At that point the results showed that student achievement gains were about equal, though students in the technology-oriented class seemed more engaged and interested in U.S. History. I obviously don’t know, but wouldn’t be surprised if the same holds true in the final evaluations.

In retrospect, however, I believe I made one mistake. We should have also done a simple assessment to measure English literacy, too. Since I believe that technology holds a particular benefit for language-development (and our home computer family literacy project bears that out), my hypothesis is that though U.S. History competency might be equal, the students in the computer lab class would have made greater gains in English literacy.  I could still get a general gauge of that by comparing English results in the state standardized tests, but I just don’t think I have it in me to do that work.

I’ll post about the final assessment results in a week or two.

That’s all I have — for now, at least.  I’ll be interested in hearing yours…

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you for your reflections! I have to say, I have become a regular at reading your blog, and I appreciate all that you put out on the web for me to read and use.

    Reflections on this school year…well, I had my first child this December, so my school year was broken into two parts. Over my maternity leave, I had an unbelieveable opportunity to learn about life through our son. I also was able to really get my feet wet with technology. I had used it in the classroom before, but I learned how to integrate it much more. I found unbelieveable resources thorugh twitter that have really enhanced my classroom. I had children who were very interested in learning with these new “tools” and “toys” I brought back to school with me in April!

    I have so many lessons that I have learned. One being that there are many teachers out there willing to share what they have and hoping that you will share what you have. I love this collaboration, but am saddened by a few who do not share but take take take.

    As I leave my classroom behind for a temporary break to take care of my son for awhile, I am both proud to be a teacher and I look with great anticipation to the future when I will return to a classroom once again. However, I believe this classroom will be a completely different place, full of endless possibilities with technology!

  2. I took a semester of professional leave in the fall in order to do some writing, and to try to get some perspective on teaching; I was burnt out, exhausted, and ready to quit. By the time I came back to work, I was refreshed and excited about teaching again. This past semester has been perhaps the best of my college teaching career. So the main thing I learned is that I really need to take some time off from time to time, to remember who I am outside the classroom, so I can bring my best back into it.

    I will be guest posting about the effect of taking time off on my school year on School Gate in the next couple of weeks – I’ll send you the link when it’s up. In the meantime, here are links to the two previous posts on dealing with burnout:

    http://timesonline.typepad.com/schoolgate/2009/05/introducing-guest-blogger-and-teacher-siobhan-curious-and-her-first-post-how-she-saved-her-teaching-.html

    http://timesonline.typepad.com/schoolgate/2009/05/siobhan-curious-on-how-she-saved-her-teaching-career-part-2-is-teaching-worth-it.html

  3. Lessons I’ve learned…
    1. Kids love to publish-Need limitless space for storage -2 gig isn’t cutting it!
    2. I will never ever ever do the yearbook again-
    3. The more I know the more I find out I need to learn.
    4. Grading 409 reports is not easy
    5. Serving Lemonade while playing Lemonade Stand actually got the kids to focus on creating a spreadsheet based on the game.
    6.Carpet is probably not a good idea for my room -after we create digital models we built for real-RL can be messy
    7.There are so many wonderful website tools I need to explore and use more.
    8.It’s not about the technology it’s about the learning!

  4. Reflections on the school year…hmmm…so many things to reflect on, I don’t know where to start.

    First of all, thanks to you, Larry, I’ve learned so much about using technology in the classroom. Even though I’ve taught for 20 years, I’m very much a newbie to integrating technology. I chose to do my graduate studies in this area, and have found all your posts extremely helpful. I’ve learned so many things this year; blogging, twitter, photo-story, jing are just a few. I am thankful for my pln for helping me along the way.

    On reflecting on the year, I think that I’ve realized that teaching is a job that has to be evolving on a continuous basis. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that there are far too many teachers who are ‘stuck’ in a rut and have developed a real negative attitude towards school and especially to technology. Many teachers resent any money that goes into this area. I’m thankful that I have been able to grow as a teacher this past year and a person. I can’t wait to continue to evolve. I still have 10 years to do it!

  5. Pingback: Building the Lesson Wall | Teacher Boot Camp

  6. I was working as a student teacher this year when our school tech specialist listed your website as one of our must-reads on the school online bulletin. Since then, I’ve been an avid reader of your website and Twitter feeds, and I look forward to having my own classroom so I can experiment and use many of the new things I have learned from you!

    Anyways, as a student teacher, I learned many things about myself and my students this year but I learned something more important – my own personal measure of success in the classroom. I wrote it in a personal blog, but I’m willing to share it here with you and your friends. :)

    URL:http://iamcheska.blogspot.com/2009/05/hello-and-goodbye.html

  7. I’ll begin my reflections of a school year with an analogy I came up with – I’m on an educational journey as a lifelong learner. Technology is the vehicle I use.

    The 2008-2009 school year will forever be known as “The Year of Tech” for me. Thanks to all I learned from my district’s INTECH training, NECC sessions in San Antonio, and LaCUE in Baton Rouge, I started a classroom blog (http://pnaugle.blogspot.com) and website (http://www.freewebs.com/plnaugle/ ). I set up RSS feeds to my Google Reader (yours was one of my first subscriptions) and Google Alerts. I learned from Sue Waters and others how to build my PLN. I joined several Nings and then started one for fourth grade teachers in my district (http://jppss-4thgradeteachers.ning.com). I began attending Classroom 2.0 Live webinars on Saturday mornings in January and joined Twitter in February. I presented two technology workshops to my faculty members, and won a district-wide integrating technology into lessons contest.

    In my classroom I had full-time use of a 15 wireless laptop cart. My students participated in several of Jennifer Wagner’s collaborative projects. They used tons of websites to improve their skills. I used my digital camera and Flip camera to record all that we did and then we made PhotoStory, animoto, and StupeFlix videos. We made a VoiceThread as a culminating activity for our poetry unit. My students used Word to publish their writing, learned how to post comments to our blog, and add content to our wiki. We Skyped with a class in North Carolina. We compared and contrasted our two state capitol buildings.

    It was a busy and rewarding year. I did not want it to end because I still had so many things I wanted to do with them. I will use my summer vacation to continue on my journey by reading, attending NECC, and planning lessons with embedded technology. I can’t wait until next year!

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