I think we all have had moments when we take on too much. We try to be super-teacher or super-educator. We watch inspirational videos or read inspirational blogs or articles, and we have resurgences; we are super-educators who will reach every student, comply with state mandates, attend after-school meetings, email parents, individualize, personalize, and differentiate for nearly every student in every lesson… oh and do it all with a smile no matter what life is like outside of school. It sounds mythical, yet you all do this every day, every week, every year.
I can vividly recall a day when I was teaching first grade. Students had just left for the day. My desk was filled with papers and my computer was overflowing with emails and reminders. I had plenty to do, yet I sat in my chair and stared out the window. At the time, I didn’t feel badly about it. It was the norm. Teaching first grade is hard! In fact, Lucy Calkins described nearly the exact scenario in one of her books. I am sure we have all had similar experiences at various points in our careers. At some point I remember reflecting on this and thinking, “Something should change here. I work hard, and I’m tired- that is normal; however, my students are leaving with as much energy as they had coming in, and I could fall asleep standing up at 4:00 in the afternoon.” I had not yet figured out a way to work smarter not harder. I needed to stop trying to be super-teacher, and shift my focus and attention on making super-students. That was the answer. I needed to put into practice what I preach every day- Students must be at the center of all fundamental decision-making.
Working smarter-not harder and creating super-students is easier said than done, but if we shift our focus and responsibility on the students, we have a much better chance at our students saving Gotham City. How do we shift the responsibility of learning to the students?
· Create learning goals for the students. Long-term goals are great and necessary, but we are working with children. Our students need to have short-term, attainable goals. What goals can they set for the week? What goals can they set for themselves for the day? More sight words recognized? The 4x tables? A perfect behavior chart? Have the students write down their goals for the day or the week, and keep the goals on their desks. Communicate the learning goals/targets for each activity with the students.
· Use more rubrics- it will increase the quality of the work the students are producing. Rubrics set high performance standards, and help students evaluate their own performances. Rubrics help students understand what the expectations are. Rubrics are not limited to writing tasks, math problem solving responses, or reading responses. Try using rubrics for walking in the hallway, sitting on the carpet, working in groups…
· Personalize the learning- Find out how to help each student. You can do this by asking students, and helping them understand metacognition. Create the environment that allows students to feel safe asking for help, or expressing when they are having difficulty understanding something.
· Feedback and Conferences- We all know that “I taught it- students should learn it” is not an effective approach to teaching. When our students have difficulty or do not understand something, we provide them with feedback through conferences and remediation.
As educators, we need to make the focus about learning, not teaching. We are the guide on the side- not the sage on the stage. We can provide the right motivation, the necessary skills, and the best tools so that our students can be super-students.
PSSA Training Module
Please remember to complete the PSSA Test Administration Training Module if you have not already done so. This has to be completed every year. An update will be sent to Gary when you have completed it. You will want to save a copy of the certificate for your records as well. Here is the link to the training module: http://www2.pssatraining.com/ Please let me know if you have any questions about this. Thanks.
Tackle the Test
Our Tackle the Test lessons for grades 3-5 will begin on January 8th. Students will be preparing for our upcoming PSSA tests. Students will learn about the format and schedule of the test. They will learn test-taking strategies and helpful hints to assist them in feeling comfortable with the upcoming tests. Students will answer practice assessment questions, and have the opportunity to review these with the teachers. Lori, Dana, and Alyssa will be running the Tackle the Test lessons during the LMC specials.
There has been a tremendous response for our before and after-school clubs. Students can still return their club forms this week. Our clubs will start the week of January 13th. Thank you to everyone who will be running these. Our students are very much looking forward to their respective clubs.
WHAT MAKES US FEEL GOOD ABOUT OUR WORK?
I wanted to let you all know that Ted is recovering well after surgery, and we wish him continued success with his recovery. We are delighted to have Adam Naroff filling in for Ted. Please be sure to welcome Adam to our Sabold family.
Alyssa Lusty has been with us subbing since our first week of school. We are fortunate to now have her on a daily basis as a building substitute. We are happy to say that she now has a Springfield email address as well. Welcome (officially) Alyssa!