This blog has recently gained many new readers. Because of that, I thought it might be worth sharing a “A Look Back” where I periodically share my choices for the most important posts from the past twelve years. You can also see all of my choices for “Best” posts here.
This post appeared earlier this year.
We’re on the last two day of our school year, and I thought it would be a good time to reflect (as I do every year) about how it went and what I want to do differently next year.
I invite you to do the same in the comments section.
Overall, it’s been a pretty good year. Our pilot Long Term English Language Learner support class was an experiment that seems to have been successful (watch for short evaluation post here in the coming weeks and a much longer article in December’s issue of ASCD Educational Leadership). Unfortunately, however, because of our district’s financial woes (see A BEGINNING LIST OF THE BEST RESOURCES FOR LEARNING ABOUT OUR SACRAMENTO DISTRICT’S FINANCIAL FIASCO), we are not going to be able to repeat it next year. My two ELL U.S. History classes worked out well, though one of them got very big very quickly, and it took me awhile to figure out the best ways to teach that many ELLs in one class. My IB Theory of Knowledge classes always go well. However, it appears that IB is changing the curriculum substantially beginning one year from now, so we’ll see how that goes.
I did find myself losing a bit of steam earlier this year than I have in the past. That could be attributable to a number of factors, including: Spending a lot of energy on the Long-Term ELL Support class, with creating new lessons each day, coordinating with all their academic teachers, and doing a lot of “walk-and-talks” with students during my prep period; still recovering during the first part of the school year from a serious basketball injury (see How Recovering From A Herniated Disc Increased My Empathy For Students); and from just getting one-year older (I’m now fifty-nine).
Next year, I’ll be teaching English to Newcomers, World History to ELLs, and IB Theory of Knowledge again.
Here are three specific actions I want to take next year to help me be a better teacher to my students:
1. Create more classroom routines, practice them much more often, and be much “crisper” about them.
This is particularly important with my ELL classes. I’ve obviously always had some routines. However, it’s easier to “coast” with fewer of them, and not have them need to be particularly sharp, when you have smaller class sizes. I learned this year with my large U.S. History class that I definitely have to make this a very high priority, especially for routines related to “Walk-in” or “Do Now,” various small group configurations and expectations, and what exactly students should be doing when I am or other students are speaking.
2. Go deep, and go early, in developing relationships with our Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFEs), and being very strategic about the support I give them:
My past track record with getting unaccompanied minors on a successful academic track is nothing to brag about. Many of our student refugees have had extraordinarily little – if any – prior formal education. I didn’t teach Newcomers this past year, but next year I believe I need to treat them to as much support as I did with our Long-Term ELLs this year, including frequent “walk-and-talks,” communicating very regularly with their other academic teachers and integrating specific lessons to support their work in those classes, and getting them peer mentors (which the LTELLs highlighted as extremely important to them).
3. Prepare a number of lessons about cellphone use, develop class policies about them with students, and enforce them:
Again, with the increased size of my classes, it’s harder to monitor inappropriate use of cellphones, which happens no matter how engaging any teacher’s lessons might be. There are plenty of resources out there to help students understand how cellphone use can be unhelpful (see The Best Posts On Student Cellphone Use In Class — Please Contribute More) and those, combined with Marshmallow Test lessons (see Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control), along with class buy-in to enforcement procedures, might help.
I’m sure I’ll think of more as the summer progresses. I’m also looking forward to exploring the National Geographic curriculum for Newcomers to see how to integrate it into our classes.
Please, in the comments, offer your own reflections – and feel free to share suggestions you have for me about how I can improve my three planned actions!