Nope, in this case I’m not talking about my good friend, the very aptly named Reflective Teacher, but myself. I think teachers that do the same thing year after year without thinking about their practices — and then complaining about kids who don’t cooperate like they did in the good old days — really need to think long and hard about why they are even teaching. I will be the first to agree that students do have a responsibility, too, and it is difficult for even a motivated teacher to kindle student interest out of nothing. They do need to bring something to the table. On the other hand, I think it behooves us as teachers to reflect upon our practices regularly and determine where we are doing well and where we might improve.
It never seems as if I have enough time. I have a modified block schedule, but if you break it down, I have my students for 200 minutes a week, barring any interruptions in the schedule. I think I spend too much time doing some things that would be better left outside the class for homework. We read too much together, for one thing. While I do think reading together less is something I am improving, I still say I have room for more improvement. I would need to plot out class discussions in more detail in order to make the best use of that time. I would also need to feel comfortable raising the bar for my students, which I shouldn’t have a problem with — they’re capable of more, and I know it. We also have an under-utilized learning center where students can get additional assistance with coursework.
I would also like to be more diligent about working with portfolios. Organizationally, I find this one hard to maintain. How better, though, to show a student’s genuine progress or lack thereof in writing? In that same vein, at least every other essay I would like to provide students with typed feedback. I only did that once this year. I can type very fast and give really good feedback, but it is time-consuming. However, that’s part of my job as an English teacher, isn’t it?
I think students in my class know they have to read the material. I give frequent quizzes, and students quickly learn that in order to do well, they need to prove to me that they are meeting their reading obligations. I do see some improvement in the writing of my students, particularly those I’ve had for two years. I think have some creative ideas, and I am proud of the positive ways in which Web 2.0 have impacted my teaching.
What I would like to do this summer, provided I have time, is to plot out lessons using Jay McTighe’s theories of backward design — looking at the whole unit and what I want to accomplish — rather than pick and choose assignments. I would like more cohesion in my class. I would like to be at the beginning of May, next year, and feel better about how much I accomplished in the classroom and out.