As we wind down another school year, I have had time to reflect on the year I have experienced with my students, colleagues, parents, family, and friends. I have had a very successful year learning along side of my students, and wanted to share my top 10 things I have learned this year.
#10 - I do NOT need a worksheet for my students to learn
I did not have to run one single worksheet this year, to have a successful year. We have heard of paperless Fridays, paperless Earth Day, etc... But I went the whole year without making a single worksheet copy for my students. I know some will argue that my classroom environment is set up different since I am teaching gifted and talented students in a pull out program. However, I was still successful in student's learning, teaching, and keeping kids engaged, without a single worksheet. Students do not learn better by completing worksheets. My favorite quote in my classroom is, "You never want to get on a plane where the pilot learned to fly from worksheets."
#9 - I do NOT need assigned seats to keep students focused and engaged.
I have an open seating arrangement in my classroom. Our "one rule" (see #4 below) allows for students to make choices of where they sit in the classroom. Students are allowed to sit and move to a desired, preferred location to work. Ownership is key.
#8 - I do NOT need to tell my students everything I want them to learn
Actually, quite the opposite. I mean how many times as a teacher do we say, "how many times did I say" or "didn't you hear me?" If I want students to learn something, I pose a question, and let the students research it, discuss it, debate it, and then tell me what they have learned. I also participate in this discussion to give my opinion, thoughts, and research. But I am always open to allowing students to disagree with me, because of course I am not always right. (PS please don't tell my husband)
#7 - Memorization of facts for the sake of memorizing is NOT helpful to our future leaders
If I can not tell my students why it is important and relative to their lives, then I do not teach it. I strive to explain the importance of skills, once I put it into real life scenarios then I watch my students understand and learn with complexity. My nephew recently had to memorize all the Presidents in order. Looking at this task, I can not remember a time, that I had to tell someone all the Presidents in order to be a successful adult. We have to stop and ask, if the purpose is not to grow, learn, and be able to take the information into the real world, then why do we do it. If students can find the answers to the questions we ask on the internet, maybe we are asking the wrong questions. I want to ask students: why, what do you think, explain your opinion, how did you get to your answer, and more!
#6 - Twitter has created some create connections, PLN, PD, and learning opportunities
Twitter has changed my focus in the classroom. I am surrounded by passionate, risk-taking, innovative life changers everyday by the people I follow on Twitter. I follow those that inspire me and motivate me to be the best teacher I can be. I have experienced a #mindshift about social media, and how it is impacting the field of education. My #PLN (Personal Learning Network) is amazing and I would not be the teacher I am today without them.
#5 - I will NOT curb my enthusiasm to what I think is best for students
Those that know me would describe me as a passionate, strong, technology proficient teacher that loves to have fun. In my journey I have realized that if I have strong convictions of doing what is right for students, I should no longer sit back and be afraid to share these amazing discoveries. I will continue to speak up, share, encourage, motivate, and inspire other teachers to continue on their learning journey as a teacher.
#4 - ONE Rule - You can do anything you want, as long as it doesn't cause a problem for someone else,
When my colleague began using only one rule in the classroom, I wanted to give it a try. So I dove in, head first. I told the students at the beginning of the year, we only have one rule. I tell the students they can do anything they want, as long as it doesn't cause a problem for someone else. The students who have never heard this rule, look amazed and confused. We discuss what this means, and then talk about how to let someone know when they are causing a problem for them. It's a great moment during the year, when you hear students telling others, "that's a problem for me." There are still times when adult intervention is needed, but it sure allows students to learn to handle problems in effective ways.
#3 - Student's Voice / Student's Choice
I begin every school year discussing with the students and how this is their classroom, and I want them to take ownership. I explain, that what we do this school year will depend on their passions, wonders, and questions. The most amazing thing happens when you give students a voice and choice. They become engaged and begin working hard, not because they have to, but because they want to and they are interested. At the end of every year, we do TIGER Talks (mini TED talks). The students prepare a talk, with slides, and memorize a 2-4 minute talk to give to other students and parents. They are amazing, and every year they bring me to tears. The moment you give them an opportunity to speak their mind and give them a voice, they share amazing facts and ideas. I would encourage anyone to do (Insert your title) Talks, your students will amaze you.
#2 - I do NOT believe in homework
I have been on a mission this year to share my passion against homework. I have personally been in a place where I was a big believer, but now after reflecting on homework's purpose, watching "Race to Nowhere," and reading statistics, I am NOT for it. In todays world, our kids do not have time to just "be kids." I want my students to have the opportunity to just "be kids." When research tells us that we are doing more harm then good by putting the additional stress and expectation on our students, then we need to STOP! We can no longer just say, that's what we have always done. Giving students homework does not make them better at doing homework. It does not make them become responsible students. Homework many times is just extra, busy work. I would encourage all teachers and parents to watch the movie "Race to Nowhere," and the new video soon coming out "Beyond Measure." The discussions in the movie are real, and impactful. I ask if you do one thing different next year, it's give NO homework.
#1 - Students do NOT just work hard on assignments/projects for grades
One of my favorite discoveries in my classroom is how hard my students work on projects, assignments, research, creating, etc...with nothing in return. I do not give grades, I do not give rubric scores, I do not give out trophies and medals. I do give praise and affirmation of the student's work and ideas. I do give students an opportunity to have voice and choice. I allow students to explore their passions. Students do NOT just work hard for grades and extrinsic items, but in fact will go over and beyond if given the opportunity to be part of the learn experience.
It's been another successful year, not only for my students, but for me as an educator. I hope to continue to grow as a teacher, and be the best risk-taking, innovative, inspiring teacher I can be.