To wrap up the year, I thought I would reflect on the things that have impacted my teaching the most. From the strategies learned and tested to the sociopolitical atmosphere currently stressing the foundations of what education is. These are the things that for good or bad I have taken away from the 2017 year.
Every time I model something, I learn something new. I am finding that this is the most powerful tool for teaching students skills that we expect them use. Even modeling how we expect their names to be placed on the paper is so easily overlooked. We sometimes think that because they’re (insert age here), they should know things that we want them to know. The examples I realized this year are as follows; how to make a bulleted list for note taking, how to use the proper margins on loose leaf and journal page paper and how apply a rule for writing conventions. Each of these things need to be modeled step by step to ensure that the children understand the expectation. This also helps the students who are very unorganized. I see it all the time where a folder that is meant to keep kid’s stuff neat and organized is nothing but a junk drawer with papers hanging out after one week. This all falls in the category of having multiple scaffolds in each lesson. Modeling is one of them. Modeling in steps and having an exit direction written on the board for when you release them would be best.
Model Some More
I have taken a lot away from behavioral trainings I have been to, but nothing is bigger than placing the instructions on the board for students to follow. So when they come up and ask what they are supposed to be doing after one part, you can simply point to the instructions. This allows the students to be independent in their work. If you add pictures, it gets even better. However, as with anything else, how to use this needs to be modeled.
First Graders Can Learn that Too
If you had told me that first graders can learn affixes at the beginning of the year, I would have rolled my eyes at you. The reality is far more complicated than that. But in short, yes, they can also learn to chunk words by their roots. In fact, the fact that we don’t know what is and isn’t developmentally appropriate regarding this very topic is disturbing considering that we spend millions of dollars each year studying children and their learning behaviors.
Politics Has Seeped into Everything. . .
No it hasn’t. It has always been this way. The difference between our utopian perception of the past and our dystopian present is that we are made aware of our nation’s and world’s sores with the speed of the internet. Politics has always been a part of our world as teachers. It’s an old fight with a long storied history of teachers and advocates having to aggressively work for better pay, conditions, supplies, and dignity for both ourselves and our students. For example, the current tax bill will impact how our districts are funded in the future. The latest net neutrality vote by the FCC could impact how schools utilize technology. How our president talks about select groups of people does affect our students both internally and externally. It changes how our students interact with us and each other.
A Final Note on Politics
Lastly, I’d like to mention that here in MN we will soon be changing the way that we recruit teachers to our buildings. There is now a four tiered system of licensure to try to fill the ever growing shortage of teachers. Not only is this not a good idea, it’s not even a good fix. If you were short on doctors, which we are, does that mean you should hire anyone with a degree in biology and just pay them less? In every state that has laxed teacher licensure requirements there are lower average test scores, lower graduation rates, AND there is still a shortage of teachers.