Thursday, June 18, 2015

Year 2 Reflection: Looking Back to Move Forward

“We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.” 
- John Dewey

My start of school picture
I'm breaking custom with this post today. The focal point of this blog will not be about my students or about different classroom activities; it will be about the journey I have undergone this year. I have experience a number of changes this year: in instruction, in atmosphere, and in my connectedness. 

First and foremost, I would like to dispel the rumor that teachers have to plan once and reteach the same lesson year after year. After this year, I can concretely tell you that this is false. Yes, I reused some materials and lesson from last year, but by and large, I redeveloped my entire instructional delivery. Last year, I taught predominantly in whole group. I tried some small group, but got overwhelmed and stopped. I knew whole group wasn't the most effective way to teach, and I wasn't happy with that I had made an excuse. 

I decided over the summer to make some changes. I developed schedules, rotations, and activities to make it work more efficiently than my attempt last year. With procedures in place, it worked wonderfully! The students loved it and so did I. I taught reading and math entirely in small group format. It allowed me to target each groups' needs rather than "teaching to the middle." I plan to continue this next year, and to add some class flipping into the small group rotations, especially for science and history.

Math in small groups
Technology has always been my passion and I brought some technology into the classroom in my first year. However, I made it another goal to bring more purposeful tech integration to my classroom. This was another success. We used GAFE, green screens, Plickers, and many other technology components in useful ways. I would venture to say my students are among the most equipped in the school for working with technology in the entire building.

The school environment also underwent a huge change. Some were positive, such as gaining a new fourth grade team member who meshed incredibly well with my closest colleague and me. On the other hand, everyone, myself included, just seemed "off" and agitated all year. We did not do so hot on our state assessments last year and were in danger of losing accreditation. The stress about the risk of losing accreditation was palpable. I will be honest that I stressed about it for a few months, until I realized it was one test on one day. I was not going to let it rule my life. I wanted to provide a world of wonder and learning for my students. From that point, I always led with "is this best for the students?" This had a large amount of positive effect on the students, because all students made considerable growth from third grade.

Technology integration
I also took on more responsibilities this year than last; probably more than was wise to do. The HSCN experience was a large time commitment, but one that I feel was crucial. In addition to all of the responsibilities related to my full-time teaching job, I am enrolled in graduate school full time, was a cross country coach part time, and served on an autism services improvement team and a Google Educator consortium. This effectively meant I had little to no time to recharge during the week and had to leave my classroom every few weeks for meetings. It certainly wasn't easy keeping up with everything, but it was definitely worth it. It did come at a personal cost of being more highly stressed, but in the end it benefitted the students.

Probably the change that restored my sanity was becoming a connected educator. I had blogged on this at length earlier this year, but I continue to learn new things from my Twitter/Voxer PLN every day. These include wonderful members such as Rosy Burke, Mari Venturino, Greg Bagby, Stacey Lindes, Connie Hamilton, Mark French, Mark Bartmas, Richard Hattal, Kayla Delzer, and many other outstanding educators who I connect with on a daily basis. Becoming a connected educator has led me to many different viewpoints. Rather than having a handful of colleagues at my school, I literally have over 1,000 people I can reach out to at the touch of a button. I hope that my Tweets, Voxes, and blog posts help to inspire others as much as I have been inspired by them.

This has also led to different opportunities that wouldn't have otherwise been possible. Connie Hamilton nominated me for a Bammy Award for Elementary Teacher of the Year and I was featured on a few different websites, shows, and podcasts: Dr. Geniene Delahunty's Human Beacon, TeachCow Teacher Talk LiveSung Lee's Inspiring Educator Podcast, among others. This is not meant as a bragging moment for me; it just shows how reaching out can get your message out to the masses. Hopefully, by what has been said and written about me, I can help other teachers reach the maximum level of effectiveness. 

So what's next for Mr. B? This upcoming year, I decided to step down from cross-country coaching so I
My 2014-2015 class
can focus on my classroom more. My graduate degree should be completed by September. I will continue to grow as a teacher and a learner. One goal I have is to help others more effectively integrate technology into their classroom. I applied for a job as a technology coach, but was denied an interview. This will not deter me. I plan to set up "Technology Tuesdays," (an idea I got from Chris Nesi's podcast) where teachers would be invited to join me in my classroom for 15 minutes in order to learn a "tech tip they can learn today and use tomorrow." I think this will be a great way to slowly introduce tech to teachers. I'll continue offering more traditionally technology professional development as well, which will serve as the focus for another blog later this summer.

I will also be starting the EduRoadTrip podcast this summer with two members of my PLN. This podcast will be a great way to celebrate education in a fun and engaging way. Social media will continue to play a key role in my growth, and I aim to use Twitter and Voxer in the classroom more.

Next year will bring many changes personally and professionally. I hope to continue to instill a love of learning in my students and begin flipping the classroom. As an end-of-year activity, I polled my students about how they felt about this year. You can view the full responses here, and I'd to close with one of their thoughts: 

"[Mr. B] was fun about our learning and didn't just put worksheets in our face he took his time out of his free time to make fun things for use. He mixes math with VA Studies. He makes us laugh."

How was your 2014-15? What were some of your successes? What are some goals for next year?

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