Your “Not Waiting for a New Year” resolutions are in! The request was for you to post some improvements to your teaching practice that are just too critical to delay until the new school year. I first posted the topic on The Cornerstone yGroup, which is a listserve community I started over the summer for teachers to exchange ideas related to classroom management and other education-related topics. There are nearly 400 members already, many of whom added very thoughtful ideas about what they plan to change. If you’d like to read the full posts, simply provide your email address and you’re in the group.
Many of the yGroup members had planned to postpone their changes until next year, but reconsidered after reading the thread. (Yes! My work here is done.) Cath is exhausted from all the bumps so far in the school year and says, “I agree with you… My first thought was next year but it really needs to be this year.” Tina explains that she’s reconsidered waiting until the fall and plans to make changes next week instead: “I have decided I am going to restructure how I am pulling guided reading groups and conferencing during reading workshop. I have several different ideas and I need to take the time to sit and think all the way through each option. I will add some more key words to how I call the students to each new task making transitions easier. I am also rotating the seating arrangement to discourage talking. I will introduce some additional mystery motivators. I also decided to move the classroom library to a different location. I have a busy weekend ahead!!!”
Audine (an AMAZING woman who posts incredibly wise responses to just about every question one the group members tosses out) wants to concentrate more on the individual progress of students. Another faithful poster who goes by the name of Flutterbybem plans to have more meetings at the carpet in the morning, tweak her block schedule, and add more tangible ways to understand the comprehension skills in a story.
Harmonee’s resolving to fix a problem I’ve noted in my own classroom. She writes, “I too found that my instruction at times seemed to lack focus. I will be revisiting/revising and re-teaching the procedures that are not working smoothly and I am going to structure lessons so that they are tighter and less susceptible to behavior and other interruptions.”
Many of the yGroup members indicated that they plan to start using Bucket Fillers with their classes after break. I wasn’t aware of this anti-bullying system until the group chatter began a few weeks ago. Raye says: “I teach in the inner city and people always assume that means all of my students are hoodlums and don’t care about learning. That is so not true. MOST of my kids are really sweet and respectful. As with anywhere else, we have a few who make everyone look bad. I have found myself increasingly frustrated with these particular students (who happen to all be boys) and I do not want to encourage the negativity any longer, from them or myself.” Catherine Mlodzik concurs: “I am starting it as well. I can’t wait to give it a try.”
Cindy is also planning to implement some of the changes discussed in the group: “I would like to add more zest to my teaching in 2009. I ran out of steam way before Thanksgiving break, but feel recharged and ready to hit the ground running now. I feel excited about this new year and I’d like to make learning more exciting for my kids.”
Those in the blogosphere also responded with a barrage of improvements they want to make during the second semester. Sarah from The Reading Zone excerpted my request for resolutions on her site and collected a few herself. (If you haven’t visited The Reading Zone yet, this is a great excuse to do so!) She writes:
“My resolution? To give my students more time for independent reading and writing. I have somehow managed to lose focus as the year has moved forward and that independent time has fallen by the wayside. So I will be reworking a few routines and procedures so that I can make that time every day”.
Amber has a two-fold resolution which incorporates both practical changes and a shift in mental perspective:
“Last week, I started rearranging my entire classroom space. I moved all the tables, the rug space, utilized some furniture in different ways, rearranged the library a bit, found a home for the listening center…and on and on. There are MAJOR changes coming after break. Job charts, centers, rubrics, blahblahblah. You’d think I would want to spend some of break taking a BREAK. But I’m convinced that it will all be worth it.
Also, I think one thing that I want to change, personally, is the attitude that I take on when faced with something difficult in my class. I try to cover it up, but I know that they sense frustration from me. Must remember to SMILE more and be like a duck more (let things roll off my back like water off a duck’s feathers).”
They Call Me Teacher also has a two part approach to which I can totally relate:
“I want to find a way to make sure my students are reading more… probably by setting up a more solid buddy reading system and working extra hard to make sure my students are reading books on their correct reading levels.
I also want to find a way to enjoy myself a bit more than I did for the first part of the school year. Hopefully my patience will be recharged and ready to work full force on the 5th of January.”
Marlene wants to experiment with a new behavior management system, specifically one called The Bead System which I explain on both my website and in my book. Marlene is a member of the yGroup, so I’m sure she’ll be posting more about how it’s working in the future:
“It’s so great that you posted this because I was just thinking about it the other day. I tend to wait until the next school year to change things. But I was thinking that I could just change it now because there is still plenty of this school year left. I want to change my behavior management plan. I was thinking of doing the bead system. My students are pretty well behaved with the system I have now, but there a few that need something different. And if I can get them to behave on a more regular basis, my classroom would be much more productive. I already have Fun Fridays for those that complete homework, so I am going to add behavior to it too using the bead system. You’re right about confusing the kids. If you show and model, kids can pretty much pick up any new procedure.”
ChiTown Girl teaches kindergarten, and has a great perspective on returning to school in January which she thoughtfully shares with her kids:
“I’ve always treated the 2nd half of the school year as a ‘new year’. We always make changes, in our routines, our lessons, everything. I always explain to my babies that it’s because they are so much more grown up now than when kdg. started, and they are almost 1st graders, so I know they can handle it! ;-)”
agrees with ChiTownGirl about her perspective on the 2nd half of the school year, and adds a GREAT idea:
“So, what’s mine? Engaging the students in student-centered projects – at least one a trimester. Something they can own and about which to get excited. Which means that I need to devise something soon; the mid-term for the second trimester is fast approaching already!”
Saii has many things in mind, since this is her first year in a new school. She writes in her typical inspirational fashion:
“I want to have a discipline method that really works, I want to motivate my students in all ways possible, increase their vocabulary, convince them to join the wonderful habit of reading, and… I want to build a relationship full of respect and love between my students and me. I want to do all things with excellence and see my students succeed ohh … I almost forget! I want to be more O R G A N I Z E D
Ms-Teacher has a resolution that’s short and to the point, and cuts to the heart of how we need to accommodate the needs of children who learn at a different pace:
“Re-evaluating how to challenge my GATE students and how to more more effectively teach them spelling and vocabulary.”
Last but not least, Allyn reflects on how to give more responsibility to students and find effective assessment methods:
“It is time for my 8th grade babies to step up to the plate and really get ready for high school. I need to baby them less and put more responsibility on them. I also need to find a better way to assess writing assignments. Students should be more active in this process.”
Be sure to check out each of the blogs above to see how those resolutions play out during the second half of the school year (how’s that for accountability?). Many, many thanks to all who contributed! You may want to also check out this article about attainable resolutions for teachers. I’ll post my own resolution in the next post.