End of Year Reflection

So. My end of year finals were a little different than at the end of first semester. Last semester, I screwed up the Geometry finals and did okay on Algebra. This time I screwed the Algebra and Geometry was better. The scores for Geometry were much lower but unfortunately, I felt that it was a pretty accurate assessment of what they knew. I just hated finals to death. But I know next year will be better because I am going to make my assessments first and plan accordingly. Go me.

Assessment in General
I started out really well doing weekly quizzes and then kind of fell away from that after Christmas. I hated that and I think the kids did too. They liked the structure. By the end of the year I was assigning homework but not grading anything which I fell in love with but by not modeling and explaining that from the beginning, a lot of my students just ended on a bad note instead. I wasn't satisfied with my teaching most of the time so it was even harder to feel like I could judge what they learned.  And I never really stopped to think, hey, what do I want them to learn? What is the best way to teach that? Did I assess that in a way that they could show what they've learned? Ahh, but now I know and next year: SBG. Ta-da!

Classroom Management
The pits. Sucked. Horrible. Nonexistent. Wimpy. My principal dinged me again and again for lack of procedures. Basically, because I had none. I was a Warm Up Nazi but I never trained them to come in, sit down, and get right to work. I let everyone do what they want and I had favorites. I knew I had favorites so I didn't punish anyone because that would be unfair. I let my students disrespect me and call the shots. I let them set the atmosphere of the room  and decide when class ended and began. I did all the things that Harry Wong said not to do and I didn't do enough of what he said to do. Poor Harry. I let my students' behavior drive me to tears on more than one occasion. I made rules I could not enforce. I made the mistakes that people said I would make and I pridefully thought I wouldn't. I was their friend and that was the only reason I could get any cooperation out of them at all. Oh yeah and because I'm cute and funny. Thank God for laughter or else I definitely could not have made it. The sad thing is, none of this has driven me to the point where I am ready to be Ms. Meany and really put my food down. That scares me. If this wasn't bad enough, what will it take? I know they like me. I know when I punish them, they will stop. For a while. I know I only have to make examples out of a few. I know it will suck at the beginning and get better. I know that it is more important that they respect me. What I don't know, is if I can do it.

My AP gave me the great advice of nailing the kid who thinks he's a bad*** and the kid everyone thinks is my favorite. That sends the message the I'm going to enforce rules and hand out consequences to anyone and everyone. I'm so afraid of being inconsistent and unfair that I choose to do nothing instead. This fear is paralyzing me and holding me back.

  2. Assessment
  3. Creating opportunities for students to think deeply, process, reflect, share learning
  4. Using Technology
  5. Giving students the ability to create
  6. Professionalism
  1. Developing relationship with students
  2. Making the classroom an inviting, home-y place where students wanted to be
  3. Enforcing two nice things for every mean thing
  4. Daily Warm Ups and Powerpoints
  5. Taking an active role in leadership in the school
  6. This one's got me thinking....I wore some super cute outfits. =)

My Abilities
I feel like I am better able to see my own failures. (It helps when other people point them out. Often. Just sayin...) I have direction, which is more than I can say for myself at this time last year. Or anytime previous to May 28, 2010. I have definite procedures I want to put into place: timed warm ups, learning logs/exit slips, standards-based grading, sustained silent reading, reflective writing, game day, stop assigning homework, focus on vocabulary, incorporate ACT prep from the beginning of the year, etc. I think my gift is in being supportive and encouraging. I think I do a good job at treating people based on my relationship with them and not based on how others treat them or what I have heard about them. I think the students know I will go to bat for them and try to make their ideas happen. I am good at explaining things in a simple way without making people feel inferior. I have pretty good question techniques for a first year teacher. I learned to ask them questions about their thinking and process when the answer is right and wrong. (Of course they know they are wrong if you only ask why when they give a wrong answer.)

Abilities that are lacking (but which I can improve): being the authority in the classroom, relinquishing control of where the lesson will go in order to give students more freedom, being consistent, transitions, keeping students on-task, creating activities that engage students at higher levels of thinking, being more organized, backwards planning, unit planning, managing time to keep from getting stressed out, accepting criticism, being professional, and __________________.

Year as a Whole
There were definitely challenging moments: death of a student, death of a staff member, death of a student from neighboring school,  loss of 6 students due to expulsion/drop-out, some things I won't mention but won't forget, days where I cried, first semester finals oh my my, incidents with colleagues, and just normal first year mishaps. But overall, I think it was not as hard as everyone tried to scare me into believing. IT WAS NOT AS BAD AS 'THEY' SAID. I did it. And guess what? I even enjoyed it. Actually, I loved it.

I never wanted to quit. Not once. I never thought I was in over my head. I know without a doubt that teaching is my purpose, that this position is my divine appointment, that I was created for this. I've been discouraged, yes. Disappointed, yes. Angry, yes. Frustrated, yes.

But defeated, no.

Year One: You were a beast.

Year Two: I've always preferred even numbers. =)

Let's get it on.


  1. Wow! Great analysis. Much of it sounds like me early on, except that (1) I never wrote it down and got so clear about it, and (2) I wasn't as well-dressed.

    I like this:
    being the authority in the classroom, relinquishing control of where the lesson will go in order to give students more freedom, being consistent, ...

    These 3 are in such tension. I know 'control' isn't the right word for the first one, but it's close enough so that this sounds almost like: more control, less control, more consistency. What a balancing act that is!

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Your ability to reflect is amazing! You are a great teacher already, it's just that you are going to continue to get better and better.

    I had a student teacher several years back who eventually became a colleague. She had no ability to reflect whatsoever. I would ask, "What do you think your strengths are, or what do you think your weaknesses are?" She could never give me an answer. At the end of the day, I would ask her, how she would change the activity or lesson for next year and again she couldn't respond.

    As a result, I've not seen a single bit of growth over the last couple of years. It makes me sad.

    After twelve years, I still spend time every day mentally trying to figure out how I can do better. I wish I would write it all down like you do!

  3. Sue,
    I think the balance of control is between using it and giving it and knowing the right time for both.

    Mrs. H,
    Write it down then! It doesn't have to be a blog...but it sure helps to get feedback. But you could just get a cute notebook...lol

  4. Congrats on making through the first year. This was my 22nd year and I still don't always have the classroom management thing figured out. This last year at the beginning of the year a SPED teacher that was in my room offered me a copy of this book to look at:


    Really, consider getting a copy, it will help. I wish someone had handed me a copy 22 years ago.

    Needless to say I have a copy for this summer and am planning to do a better job than last year.

    That is the best thing about this profession, every year is a new year! BTW Year 2 is better.

    Enjoy your summer. (Maybe that is the best thing about this job ! :-)

  5. Dan,
    I own and have read the book more than once, hence the reference to Harry Wong.

    The book only helps if you can actually do what it says. =)

  6. What an honest and reflective post. Your critique of your behaviour management is very harsh. You obviously know exactly where you need to go, and in many ways that shows someone more capable than someone who claims not to have made any mistakes.

    I'm just finishing my first year of teaching and have found it a massive learning curve, especially with things like that. You'll hit the ground running next year and so much of that can be fixed in the first few weeks if you act on what you've said.

    You've really made me think about my own reflections of my year, thanks!

  7. Oliver,

    You are exactly right: "if you act on what you've said."

    That's what I'm having trouble doing.

    Write your reflections down somewhere. You only get this experience once, you'll want to remember it!

  8. Great reflection. I didn't realize my true weaknesses until a couple of years later after I started to naturally improve. Awesome that you're recording the good and the bad - and for all to see! Shows that you really care.

    I just finished year 8. Classroom management is still my biggest struggle, but here are some things I've learned...
    1. Don't use a suggestion unless it "sounds like you". It won't work if it doesn't fit your personality and will just cause confusion and rebellion amongst students.
    2. It's going to be tougher for us young females - if you do seek advice, seek it from someone you identify with.
    3. Your heart is in the right place and you have an amazing online support team.

    And when you have it mastered, write a book and send me a copy!

  9. I'm going to be starting SBG next year too. Do you have anyone else at your site who will be doing it with you? I've been thinking about ways to keep myself honest, motivated, and on track. I came up with the idea to form an online "workshop" for people who are using SBG for the first time. So far it's just an idea, but if there's any interest, perhaps it will turn into something more.

  10. Jill,

    You are correct on all 3 counts. =)
    I will have to send many copies out to many people considering we all collaborate on everything!


    No teachers I know personally are doing sbg but tons of teachers on Twitter are. I will see if there's any interest in creating a wiki or blog of some sort. Great idea!

  11. First, give yourself some credit here. It is rare to find a teacher who even critically assesses where they are and what they have done. But, your honesty is amazing. Way to go.

    Second, why be "fair" in the way everyone thinks of it? My fairness is simple, students get what they deserve. If students are doing their work and prepared for class, I give them leeway. If they are not prepared and not learning I can be downright difficult. It is all about the learning. A person wants to use the restroom and has a 100 in my class - I nod. A person wants to be excused who is not prepared for class and not on task, I say, "Let me see where you are in your learning." If they can prove to me they are focused, I then let them go. To me it's 100% about what are the students learning.

    You'll get it. It took me 3 or 4 years to feel "comfortable." Half of management/procedures and Harry Wong garbage is just knowing the right thing to say. You don't know the right thing to say until you say it wrong. :) Hang in there.

    Have a great summer.

  12. Mr. Duez,

    "You don't know the right thing to say until you say it wrong."

    I love that.

    I see what you mean and it makes sense. But I think I gain more respect and cooperation from the students when all students receive the same treatment. I don't know, this is something I need to think about.

    I struggle with 'students get what they deserve' because I'm too busy being Ms. Rogers to give anyone what they deserve. If I could, then I wouldn't have these classroom management issues.


  13. :) Of course, all is relative to your culture and surroundings and what is important to you. My personal reflections have led me to this...

    Just don't forget this powerful mantra: "It's all about the learning."

    That creates a spirit of respect immediately. If the kids understand that learning is all that matters to you, well it goes a long way.

    I'm nice, smile and I'm kind and try to be fair. But, nothing trumps the learning. :)

    I'll be looking forward to seeing how next year goes for you. I'm sure you will improve by leaps and bounds!

  14. Any improvements won't be from lack of self-analyzing.

  15. Sounds like you had a rough year... I would recommend this book: Teach Like a Champion (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0470550473/)

    I received this book mid-April, roughly a month and a half till the end of my school year, and read/tried out a few of the opening techniques. The result: amazing! Students could not "opt out" of a difficult question anymore - forcing students to engage in the lesson, I did not have to repeat my instructions anymore (just simply stopped moving), and my time for passing out/collecting papers was cut down by half!

    The book really goes over HOW to do things in a classroom, not just describing what it 'should' look like...

    ...as a final selling point, I recommended this book to my department chair (26yr veteran, has the pages/questions of the text memorized kind of guy) and even HE took something out of the book! Pretty impressive, yes?

  16. I love Teach Like a Champion. Indeed a great book. I'm presenting one of the chapters to our faculty when they return from the summer.

  17. Clarionine and Mr. Duez,

    I pre-ordered the book and got mine in April too. I've read a few chapters...

  18. I got about halfway through "Teach Like A Champion" before I had to return it to the library. It is not as applicable to college teaching as to lower grades, but I do like the emphasis on techniques for focusing students on the learning.

    More detailed comments in