Institute is over and with so much driving time I have had time to think of some key take aways. The thing about the majority of TFAers (myself included) is that we are very critical--especially of ourselves.We see a problem and we want to fix it. My Institute experience is no exception. The reality is that I failed my students. We did not meet our goal as a class and the majority of my students did not meet their individual growth goals.
So my question is..What went wrong? The answer...a lot of things! Most of these things have been written about in previous posts as I was going through them, but the major things that I believe I need to change for next year so that my new class does not have mediocre growth are:
- Spend more time on investment...There is a huge jump in our data after the three week mark. I felt the difference in relationships with my students and the numbers proved it. Once I started learning about my students and having some fun with them, they started achieving. The other side of investment is helping the students to understand that what they are doing in the classroom, that the goals we have for them, are important to their current and future success.
- Build strong routines and procedures...I really want a classroom that functions independently. My students are more than capable of doing many of the things I did for them this summer and, as a result, I lost a lot of time for individualized and small group instruction.
- Give students more opportunity to experience and engage with material. I felt like I was talking all of the time and the reality is that while I was talking very few students were learning.
- Differentiate more...I saw so much growth during AIT and I need to make sure that small group and individualized instruction has a strong place in my classroom.
- Find what works for me as a teacher...All of these things above, and so much more, are things that I knew going into this experience, but knowing and doing are two very different things. I lost sight of who I was as an educator and what I could give to my students. As we moved further into weeks 3 and 4 I became more comfortable with my teaching style and how my style impacted my students.
These are all things I am working on building into my classroom vision and plan that we are working on during Round Zero. I am confident that my new students will benefit from my mistakes over the summer because I refuse to let my classroom and my students go in a direction that I am not comfortable with again. I am in the process of making changes and I will never let my classroom be a place where the teacher's mistakes hinder student progress.
So there is the bad and what will come of it. Here are some of the good things that have helped rekindle my teaching "fire"....
- all of my students eligible for promotion (including special project #1) who met the attendance requirement met their goals for promoted! Together the first grade team using a collaborative AIT model promoted 8 students to first grade. There are so many statistics to support the urgency for students to achieve promotion in the early grades and we helped make it happen for 8 students!
- All of my students showed growth in both math and reading. Even though it was not the growth we wanted our students still learned SOMETHING over the summer.
- As a teacher I learned about how to use data to drive my classroom and my students. Assessments are so much more purposeful and meaningful to me now than they ever were before.
- I am leaving Institute with a strong network of support and many resources to explore.
I am leaving Institute on "The Brain Train." I have been motivated to learn more, to do more, and achieve more. Not only have I put faces to the Achievement Gap, but I have a better understanding of my role in helping my students get to "Destination Success." I made an impact on my students and they have made an incredible impact on me.