Monday, September 5, 2016

Going Fourth Into a New Adventure

"Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty."
-Jacob Bronowski

Just as I like to close each year with a reflection, I like to begin each year with goal setting. These posts are more for me to get my goals out on paper and to hold me accountable to a larger audience. So, if you’re reading this, check in with me on Twitter or email and ask me how I’m doing.

In addition to starting my fourth new school year, I am also starting at a new school in a new district (still in fourth grade!) Over the summer, I left my old district for a variety of reasons and joined my new one. After two weeks of teacher days, I am even more confident that I made the right choice. Stafford County Public Schools embraces the 4C skills (while also adding Citizenship and Wellness for a C5W framework,) promotes innovation, and supports a holistic and realistic view of teaching beyond testing. I got a chance to meet my new class during Open House this past week and I’m thrilled to spend the next year prepping my Agents of SHIELD for their future.

Without further ado, here are my goals for 2016-17:

  1. Student-led learning - Last year, my primary goal was to develop a student-led classroom, based on Learn Like a PIRATE by Paul Solarz. On the whole, it was a success, but I might have started too strong too fast. It did force the students to step up and take ownership of their learning at an accelerated rate, but more scaffolding may have been necessary. At the end of the year, I worked more purposely with groups and students worked independently with each other. I want to refine this so we hit the group running and keep up with it. I have a very different population of students this year and I already know they will do a fantastic job with it.
  2. 20Time - As I shared in a prior post, I have been constantly tweaking and adjusting Genius Hour in my classroom. This year, I want to do a major pivot. I want to have the students focus on one problem and develop a solution. I have completed reading The 20Time Project by Kevin Brookhouser and want to scale his ideas to elementary. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure exactly what this will look like. My schedule has larger chunks of time in it that will allow for uninterrupted time, but I do not know when it will be. Will it be a set day or will it be fluid? I want to start with the Bad Idea Factory and then move into brainstorming from there. I want to empower my students to be change agents from an early age.
  3. Instruction/Assessment Practices - I want to explore more purposeful usage of flipped classroom. Last year, I flipped my classroom for math and saw dramatic gains in students’ academic growth. (Side note - I really need to write a reflection post on my flipped classroom experiences.) I want to continue this, but it may look different. Some students may do the in class flip depending on their access and home, but I want to use the information I gather from observing flipping in a more intentional way. In general, I want to use small groups in both reading and math more purposefully. After three years of doing small group, I am finally coming to terms that I don’t need to meet with every differentiated group the same amount of time. I can meet with some groups more than others; as long as I am meeting each student’s individual needs. To further this, I want to refine my assessment practices. I am currently reading The Truth About Testing by James Popham and it has an interesting idea on pre/post testing. I am still trying to wrap my head around it, but I think it will allow me to be more purposeful in my instruction and quantifying growth.
  4. Growth Mindset - Although this has a tendency to be a buzzword when not used correctly, I am still including it as a goal. Our staff read Mindset by Carol Dweck this summer. My principal says that “it’s not a theme; it’s a practice.” I dabbled into growth mindset last year after taking an online course through Stanford and witnessed incredible things from my students. That was only for half the year and I was amazed. This year, I am starting with growth mindset on Day 1 and will continue all year. We’ll make an anchor chart and reinforce it, but I know it will make a difference.
  5. Vlogging - This goal is more for me than within the classroom walls. I did some vlogging during my Google Innovator experience and enjoyed it. This year, I want to vlog weekly as a powerful reflection tool. I’m not entirely sure what it will look like, but my general idea is a one video per week. This would include video snippets from the day, daily reflections, and other thoughts. These would all be strung together and posted on YouTube. I started a site ( to post all of these, but as I said, I’m not sure what it’ll look like or anything else. It’ll be brand new and I am looking forward to it.

As you may have noticed, I am not looking to redefine or implement a lot of new things this year. I think you can be good at many things or great at a few things. If I had to choose one word to define this next year, it would be REFINE. I want to refine my teaching and provide the best for my students. As the year goes on, I’m sure I’ll discover new ideas and I’ll add those in, but these five goals will be my guiding light for the year. I’m looking forward to a brand new fresh start and cannot wait to see what my students achieve this year.

1 comment:

  1. I am right there with you on the vlogging. In fact I just finished my first one today. It felt good. I'm sure there are a lot of teachers who vlog. I tried to add a few twists, we'll see how it goes, but I structured it so it only takes 5 minutes to make so I should be able to go the distance :-)