As I teach, I try to begin each lesson discussing the essential questions of the particular unit of study. I review what we worked on the previous lesson and talk about the enduring understandings from the unit. This is a habit that is relatively new for me. This practice has evolved as I have gained more experience with the backwards by design approach to education.
I am constantly looking to improve my one-to-one listening skills. I am a strong advocate in actively listening and responding to student inquiries and not unthinkingly following a teachers‘ guide. I am regularly in search of a “just-right” approach to each teaching moment. This takes mental discipline and a class that views itself and our work together as meaningful. I often experiment with new materials and ideas and I on occasion, make mistakes. However, the students seem to appreciate my risk taking and accept my rare lesson ideas that flop.
I assess students daily. I teach with regard and respect to how the human brain acquires information. I differentiate individual math lessons from unit pre assessments. I have learned to gather a plethora of information from thoroughly inspecting student-reading logs. I customarily investigate, then compliment, and then teach, during student-to-teacher conversation.
I habitually start each writing conference by asking, “So, what are you working on today?” I then begin the process of listening, reading and searching for meaningful strategies to improve student writing. With experience, I am becoming adept in improving my time-sensitive conversational skills. I have learned quite a bit from Lucy Calkins, Katie Wood Ray and the late Donald Graves. I am quite grateful for their work. They each have had a profound influence on my life.
I base each teacher-to-student meeting on pre-assessment results. I am quite proud of my work and applications in this approach. Differentiation is a fixation as I progress through this year.
My classroom management style is one where fun is instrumental to each lesson. At the start of each year, I model and teach good habits to my students and consistently look to help them create a learning community that respects and helps each other learn. I view my daily routine as not merely a “guide on the side” but rather a connector of students to habits of mind. I listen, respond, synthesize, and inquire. I rarely lecture.
My narrative report card writing focuses on positive habits and traits that my students use. I work exceedingly hard at individualizing my comments in a way that respects my students’ hard work. I craft each sentence in a style that leaves a positive impression. These narratives take relatively one hour per student to complete resulting in a 60-70 hour workweek.
I have had many opportunities to learn from Bambi Betts, Robert Marzano, and Grant Wiggins in creating effective assessment tools. I am constantly looking to offer a variety of assessment tools and strategies that work. Bambi Betts has particularly taught me to develop assessment tools that students view as meaningful. I am quite proud of my work in this regard. I strongly believe that all assessment results be shared with the students and parents. I have found that this habit is greatly appreciated and helps me develop trust in my work.
I work hard to intentionally, consistently, and meaningfully reflect on my work and that of my students. I regularly have my students show their goals. I applaud their writings and use them to build meaning in future conversations.