To set the scene, imagine that you are in your classroom. You are getting the kids started on one of your standing assignments that everyone in the room knows will come each week:
You: All right, let’s all get started on (insert that assignment that your students hate to do).
Class: Collective groaning. From the back you can hear one student say “Why do we always have to do this?”
You find yourself wondering why the reaction is like this – you might think to yourself “they loved doing this earlier in the year!” Fast forward to the due date. As you are collecting the assignment, you see that the students who play school well completed the assignment, but it’s clear that they put forth the minimum amount of effort possible. You also notice that some of your students did not complete the assignment, and no amount of effort from you is going to get them to finish the task – you could have them work in the hall, take away recess, call parents, etc. – nothing is going to make a difference for those students.
As a teacher we have all experienced this. So here’s the question – why do we keep asking our students to complete assignments that they hate? Why do we keep giving assignments that students don’t put forth much effort, or simply don’t do the assignment at all? Why do we keep giving assignments that put the effort on us to run down the missing assignments when the students are putting no effort into the assignment?
When I was writing last week’s post, I inserted the HSE21 Best Practice Model. As I put it into the post, something jumped out to me in a different way than ever before. Look at the Best Practice Model above – in this blog I have spent a lot of time talking about the boxes on the outside: Student-Centered Approaches; Cognitive Curriculum; Fundamental Classroom Conditions; and Transfer of Learning. Last week for some reason, the purple circle that connects them all jumped out at me – in particular the word at the top “Reflection.” Given that New Year’s Day is approaching, I would guess that a lot of us are taking time to reflect on the last year, and many of us think first of our personal life, however reflection is an important aspect of teaching as well. What better time to take a few moments for reflection than to do so over the 2 week winter break?
Think about how your year has gone so far. What’s working well? What isn’t? Do you often have situations like the one that I referenced at the top? How could you adjust your assignments so that they don’t get stale? Even the most engaging activity today may get old and stale to our students if we do the same thing every day or every week over a long period of time. Find some ways to mix up what you are doing in your classroom to increase student engagement. For me, an important part of reflection is also getting feedback and ideas from my colleagues. If you have an activity that has gotten stale, talk with your colleagues – see if anyone has an idea of how you could spice up that activity and make it more engaging to your students. Or maybe you will just decide to let that activity go for a while – replace it with something else that might serve the same purpose.
If you never take the time to reflect, you may miss out on opportunities for growth as a teacher, as well as opportunities to help your students grow. As I reflect on this school year, one of the things I am most disappointed in is the amount of time I have had to spend in my office rather than out and about during the school day. One of my resolutions for the new school year is to spend more time out in our classrooms seeing the awesome things that you all do on a daily basis with our students. Please help hold me accountable to this goal!
What resolutions have you set for yourself? Personal or professional, share them in the comments below. We can all help hold each other accountable to our goals and resolutions.