Rethinking is Refreshing!
We all have the need to re-organize and sort out “what stays and what goes” in setting priorities for all kinds of information-gathering materials, especially when it consumes our limited, valuable spaces at home.
I inadvertently discovered (when rummaging through piles of papers, forms, and notes) that my professional journaling, the nature of which is self-reflective, has its unexpected benefits and pleasures.
Having enjoyed classroom intervisitations for many years, I decided to re-read one week’s reflections (dated from 2004) to see if I viewed similar learning environments differently or exactly the same as I do now.
Comments on any common threads that may also touch your teaching practice are most welcome. Here it is in primitive, diary form. . . a typical week’s brief thoughts, spiral bound in my “buttercups and butterflies” novelty notebook:
Monday - It never ceases to amaze me how conscientious beginning teachers are in planning their daily lessons. Today, I am again presented with a week’s worth of elaborate and detailed plans from an English/ELA instructor. She continually assesses herself as not planning well enough. In addition to being quality standard in content – with imaginative, motivational strategies, the plans are also neatly typed.
Not so much a surprise is the genuine enjoyment students display when being photographed (even from my $4.99 disposable camera). A Share Fair is forthcoming and I’d like to contribute to each teacher’s exhibit.
As my classroom visitations become more frequent, students are becoming comfortable accepting my academic and behavioral interventions, when requested.
Tuesday - Due to some scheduling changes, I am busy getting things back on track.
Entering at first glance, I noticed how bright and somewhat cheerful the freshly-painted hallways appear. Bulletin boards reflect serious research from the Circulatory System to Tropical Rain Forests.
I participated in a “Collaborative Log” planning session and thereafter attended two consecutive periods--a living math lesson engaged in calculations based on minimum wage annually for a family of four; a writing session emphasizing the importance of topical sentences and supporting details leading to a persuasive essay.
Before the school day ended, I spent a very relaxing hour listening to a read-aloud, fictional, high interest, teenage novel. The story entertainingly related to the ignorance of prejudice and bigotry and the unexpected surprise of where help comes from when we least expect it. The students not only predicted outcomes but left the advisory session with a feeling of pride and satisfaction, identifying with the main characters.
Wednesday - As a treat, the video (which I recorded) ran Oprah’s “Favorite Things” Special for Teachers show in the Teacher Center Room, during all regularly-scheduled lunch periods. It was a delightful retreat and display of overwhelming appreciation for all we do.
I then embarked on class visitations to Living Environment (functions of the Nervous System/Anatomy of a Nerve cell); Global Studies (South African Reparations/Amnesty after Apartheid vs. Nuremberg Trials); English (analyzing and responding to book selected for class reading in groups – specified chapters from The Skin I’m In). I chose the formative assessment tool, “Content, Strategies and Alignment” for recording my insights and as a basis for post-visitation dialogue. I find it to be very precise in identifying all the right elements leading to student development (within the guidelines of the Standards).
Thursday – The day began with a mishap which I was determined to overcome. I accidentally brushed against a subway pillar of wet, red paint , wearing my relatively new raincoat.
Despite my frustration, I was also able to capture the right teaching moment (using a disposable camera) in several literacy classes. I especially enjoyed a lesson emphasizing mood and tone in a literary work. Students analyzed passages of “The Raven” making connections to the theme and aim of the lesson.
By now, I have accumulated a goodly amount of photos for the upcoming, school-wide Share Fair and am pleased to show them off. Everyone is finalizing plans for organizing exhibits for the exposition. A large collection of outstanding student projects, revealing all stages of student work are being submitted.
Friday - Today, I had the privilege of meeting with a 35-year, retired veteran of the NYC Dept. of Education, now a University Mentor. We discussed similar classroom visitations, etc. and immediate anticipation of our gallery walk at the school community Share Fair.
In the gymnasium, I was able to complete my visualization of learning experiences by taking snapshots of colleagues and students alongside their elaborate poster boards, technological exhibits, experiments, handouts and materials. They were also presenting their findings and clearly explaining learning goals.
Excitement was in the air the entire day, celebrating student achievement and success!
As an advocate of the Professional Teaching Standards, I believe reviewing my experiences over time has reinforced my thinking (as paraphrased) relating to:
- engaging in thoughtful dialogue and reflection with colleagues;
- using classroom visitations to improve my teaching/mentoring practice;
- contributing to school-wide events and learning activities;
- assessing my professional growth over time. . . reducing stress and maintaining a positive attitude with students and/or colleagues; and
- most importantly, reaffirming my belief that we are constantly reinventing ourselves; not deviating too much from what we know has always worked.
Assessing Learning. Developing as a Professional.
The Professional Teaching Standards. New Teacher Center at The University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004.
Google: The Value of Personal and/or Professional Journaling
Do you have a comment, question, or suggestion about this article? E-mail Sharon.