As many of you know, I took the leap this year from elementary school (10 years!) to the wonderful world of middle school. You might also know that I L-O-V-E it so far...absolutely LOVE IT!!!
However, I am going to be very honest in this post...I had a little bit of a rough patch with my teaching in the beginning. Middle school is a whole new world, with a TIME CONSTRAINT on how long you can teach before you have to set them free to another classroom. If you're an elementary teacher you know that the one luxury of having your class ALL DAY is that you can spend as much time as you want on a subject. However, I was really struggling with now HAVING a set time to teach. I was always like "it's time to go already?!?"
Our first 9 weeks have come to a close, and I was getting really frustrated with my students scores on tests. It seemed like they ALL understood the concept when I taught it, but when it came to the test, I had MANY students FAILING. :( Which as a teacher, is heartbreaking and frustrating at the same time. I mean, we have interactive notebooks, I create CUSTOM homework, activities, etc. and I had a majority FAILING.
Soooo, I knew I had to do something. I needed to do some reflecting on the way I was teaching. I am by NO MEANS an expert, after all this is my first year teaching 6th grade. I'm kind of a newbie to Middle-School-Land. I think that the most important thing a teacher can do is REFLECT on what they are doing...so that is just what I did. :)
I had a little heart to heart with my students.
I tell them all of the time that I plan to work hard for THEM, but in return THEY need to work hard for ME. That's part of my first day of school speech about respect and hard work. However, if so many of them were not performing well on tests, then it was about my performance, too.
I gave each student a piece of paper and had them fold it in half. The top part was for them to reflect on what THEY could do better as a student. The bottom half was for what I could do better as a teacher.
I made sure that I wasn't going to take it personally, but they needed to be honest. It was the only way we could come together as a classroom and start knocking it out of the park.
I got a lot of really awesome responses! Everyone really put thought into what they wrote. I learned that I need to SLOW DOWN and allow them more time to practice the concepts that I was teaching. I always had in my head "oh, they learned this in 4th grade, so it's just a review", so now I saw that I really WAS rushing them.
I had a lot of students suggest small groups working with me for the students that really aren't understanding (Stay tuned next week for my You Oughta Know post about how I fixed that). The students also said that they need to be using their notebooks more to study AND that they needed to ask more questions in class.
The reason that I am writing this is because it's so easy to sometimes just do what you always do in the classroom, However, now that I am teaching something new, I needed to really look at how my students were responding to what I was doing.
Since we had our little reflection pow-wow their scores have looked a LOT better, and I am making sure that I am providing them what they need.
I'm really glad that I took the time to do this with my class! It was a good reminder that even after teaching for 10 years, I'm still learning. :)