Top 10 Thoughts (1st “real” semester teaching)

As you all know, I’m big on my “top 10” lists and think these lists are an important part of my reflection process. So I figured it would be a good idea to continue my trend with my top ten thoughts from my very first semester of teaching!

Here we go…

10. Kids are kids. No matter where you are, where you teach, what you teach, the bottom line is kids are kids. All have some sort of “obstacle” (don’t we all?), all have something they need/want to learn (secretly, perhaps), all have something that makes them unique, individual learners.

I know this may sound stupid, but when I was going over my pro/con list of potential schools I was considering working at, I thought about where I would have the most “effect” on students and their lives. I wanted to be a “Mrs. Gruwell” type teacher…and before anyone jumps on me for my grandiose views of teaching, I would like to say I still want to be that type of teacher! I want to motivate, challenge, open-eyes, etc., and I think this is where my passion for teaching really comes from.

Anyway, after talking with my mentor, I realized that I can be that type of teacher anywhere. Kids are kids. Inner city vs. suburbia. Suburbia vs. rural. High socioeconomic status vs. low socioeconomic status. Public vs. private. KIDS ARE KIDS! It’s up to me to have the “effect” on students I want no matter where I’m teaching. (And, if I do say so myself :-), I’m making a difference. How do I know? Because my kids have told me which is the best feeling ever!)

9. Listening is one of the most powerful skills a teacher can have. Heck, a powerful skill that anyone can have. I’ve talked about it many times before, but I’ve realized you can learn so much from your students just by listening. When they realize you are hearing them, they realize you are committed to them and their learning. Asking their opinions, walking around the room, you all know what I’m talking about. Getting students to listen to each other whether it is through collaboration or various other learning environments that require listening. And with this in mind, I had a discussion one time talking about how we can “teach” listening? Do we teach respect and with respect listening comes? How can we improve our listening skills (and help our students improve theirs)?

8. Technology is important — rather how technology is used is important. I believe in technology integration in the classroom. You all know that I’m a huge advocate for using 21st century skills to promote the more “traditional” skills that have shaped the English classroom. And besides the fact I feel that technology adds an element in the classroom that hooks kids, I think technology in itself strengthens our problem solving and critical thinking skills. We no longer have a choice to use it, in my opinion. It’s our job to use it and teach our students how to use it effectively and safely.

7. Writing is my strength. I’ve known this. After all my professional writing/publication/rhetoric and composition background helped pave a pretty good foundation for me. I love to teach writing and help students see that they are great writers, too (which by the way is where this might come in the picture next semester). And though I’m a great writer, I know that I am also a great reader. (Love to read, need to make more time for it.) I can analyze and critically read a text with the best of them, ha! However, I find that I have a harder time teaching students reading strategies that work for them. In other words when it comes to writing, I can spout off ideas/strategies immediately that students may find helpful. With reading, it takes me a second to think about…it’s not an automatic for me. I know what works for me, but I know that my students aren’t me. Thus, developing an automatic  repertoire of reading strategies is one of my teaching goals.

6. Student creativity is amazing. I am always floored by some of the ideas my students come up with. I really try to incorporate every opportunity I can to bring their creativity out and thoroughly engage them. (I think this is where multiliteracies plays a huge part.) With this in mind, I need to do a better job of keeping my teaching ideas together (enter: yellow notebook, twitter, gmail task list) that I think would really help bring out my students’ creativity. I also want to work on helping my students see that they are capable of and have already created a lot of awesome things (be it their formal essays, glogs, podcasts, flip videos…the list continues). I want them to be as proud of their work as I am. (Again, where this ties in….and other publishing/contents/etc. that I can come up with for them.) I also need to start making copies of sample student work to reflect back on (any ideas/suggestions on how others are collecting student work?).

5. Keeping an open mind is essential to success today. One thing I really push in class is always keeping an open mind. Respect is key. We aren’t all going to get along; we aren’t all going to agree. But we can have an open mind while respecting our own beliefs, morals, values. (I need to expand this idea more…but it’s another blog post all by itself stemming around Paradise Lost.)

4. Personal Learning Networks! Yep, that’s right PLNs can be a teacher’s best friend(s). I feel very fortunate to have people I can turn to via blogs, twitter, ECN, email, text, phone, next door…you name it, and I have someone! Our classrooms are not an isolation room. And I think it’s important for teachers all over to embrace and welcome the thoughts/inputs/ideas of others…be it right down the hall or across the country!

3. It’s ok to not have all of the answers. I’m still learning. I love learning (a part of why I teach). And I think it is a great attribute of a teacher to always acknowledge that he/she is learning, too. I want my kids to be life long learners…I can’t think of a better way for me to show them what  life long learner is than to be one myself! And I know I’ve said it before, but I think that a classroom that encourages cooperative learning (with me as a “learner” as well) is one that will see a lot of success.

2. Reflection/”me” time is a necessity. Absolutely. An important balance between school and personal life is a necessity. And it’s something I’m working on. I don’t want to feel “blah.” I need to make time to do the things that have shaped me into the teacher I am today. And, as the saying goes, you have to take care of yourself first before you can attempt to take care of others.

And last but not least…if you couldn’t already tell….

1. I love teaching. It really is all about the little things. And I have made a difference even through the tiniest things I would’ve never thought to leave a “footprint” in my students’ minds/lives.

(I love teaching :-).)

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