Man, I’m ready for this end-of-year dance to be over. The last couple of weeks of school are so hard. That sounded like stating the obvious. I’m under some pressure; partly, I can’t tell if it’s all in my head and of my own making, or something I should be really freaking out about.
I just spent most of the day writing final exams. That was frustrating, because I can already tell that even though the exams were fair and comprehensive — they covered nothing I hadn’t covered — I had little stabs of remorse. Oh, I know they’re going to have trouble with that one. Oh, that one might throw a few of them off. It isn’t my goal to trip kids up on the exam, but I also have to hold them responsible for their learning. The sad fact is, some of them didn’t meet me halfway and learn some of this stuff.
This time of year is inevitably frustrating, too, as I reflect on all the things I did wrong and the ways I failed instead of succeeded. There is a black pall that settles over the end of the school year. I just finished a re-read of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and I feel for all the world like there’s a dementor sitting right next to me.
I wonder sometimes how many years I will need to teach before I feel completely satisfied with the job I’ve done. Does that ever come? And does completely satisfied mean “competent” or “accomplished”? I can’t even decide.
Some things I want to do better/differently next year:
- Stay on top of portfolios and really use them effectively. The sporadic use they got this year was probably only minimally helpful to students.
- Really work on lesson plans. I think a weakness I have is figuring out how to integrate all different areas of language arts together. For instance, how can I link teaching pronoun/antecedent agreement to a writing assignment that addresses and assesses their understanding of it?
- The test experiment didn’t work. I decided to assess students’ understanding of literature through writing assignments (although there were reading quizzes). I did still test my 9th graders over grammar. But the fact that there were no “tests” with that big, scary label (despite the fact that I saw myself as assessing in alternative ways) led some students to take my class less seriously, I think. I don’t know. Maybe they didn’t. But I think they did.
- I didn’t grade essays quickly enough this year and got bogged down by my workload as a result. It wasn’t until Jay McTighe’s March visit to our school that I discovered the marvelous, comprehensive rubrics used by Greece, NY Public Schools. They made me a much more efficient grader, but by the time March rolled around, I had already developed the reputation for being a snail. Slow assessment doesn’t really help kids improve much.
I’m sure I’ll think of other things to kick myself about. People I work with call that self-reflection, but at some point I have to figure out where the line between reflection and flagellation is.