It’s been a busy week and I am so glad that it’s over and a long weekend is finally here. It’s been two weeks since I came back from the Concept Based learning workshop in Hannover and I feel like I have NOT applied what I’ve learned to my teaching and learning practices in the class YET.
I had been struggling to get up in the morning during these past 2 weeks. As spring is not the most beautiful season for people who have the pollen allergy plus the adjustment of the natural body to the unpredictable daily weather, it makes even harder to do the daily activities. Yet, there is a job to do no matter what season you have. As a teacher, there is a point where I may have felt ‘I am done’. I think it’s a common feeling which I believe I am not the only person who feels this way, especially when it’s towards the end of the year. BUT, the end of the academic year is still 3 months away (Gosshh…I can’t stop counting down to summer break!)
So, I should try to go back to the ‘WHY’ I am doing what I am doing. I am telling (Read: forcing) my self to find the positive and comforting spark to recharge the teaching battery which is drowning. HOW?
Just like how we as teachers celebrate the learning every day and encourage our learners to identify and acknowledge every (little) step and the progress they make throughout the learning process, I think teachers should celebrate teaching. Just like our students, it’s not easy to reflect, identify and acknowledge what I have done well. How do I know that I have done well? Students do get feedback from teachers. Where and how do teachers get feedback?
Feedback from students
My students are the reason why I am doing what I am doing. I have to remind myself that each of them is special in their own way. No one has more or less value than the others. As I reflect on my teaching, identify the (little) progress of students and acknowledge them, I learn a few things how teaching has helped them learn.
- During our weekly iTime, one student (let’s say N) has been showing more and more interest in writing a story. He is such a lovely and kind person and always tries to be caring towards his peers. Yet, he is struggling with spelling and writing. In the past, he had occupied himself with creating things out of boxes and cardboard. However, for the last 2 weeks, he has been always spending his iTime to write stories about the things that he likes. This is the book that he wrote on WriteReader. He did ask me to check before printing the book. I had him reading the book and sounded the words which he spelt wrong. He has gotten better at recognizing the sounds and correcting his spelling.
- Verb-nouns-adjectives. We’ve been talking and using these terms for months. One morning, as a part of warming up activity, I gave them random words which I would like them to sort them based on whatever they think the words should be sorted. I gave them 5-7 minutes to sort them. After sorting, the students were asked to walk around and see how other groups sorted the words. They shared why they sorted and identified if there are similarities and differences in sorting the words. This was a quick review and check if they are able to identify the parts of speech. It turned out, some students focused on the ‘sounds’ of the words.
- My former student has been eager to show the games which he created on Scratch. I had him for three years (grade 1,2 and 3). Yesterday, the fourth grader eventually showed me his projects. He explained how he created the game and how to play it. He explained how he chose the blocks and I could see how he has developed his coding skills. The game is quite basic. However, the effort that he put showed how big his interests in this work. His explanation about the projects he made showed how knowledgeable he is for his level. I asked him if he got some help in doing his projects. ‘I actually learn this by myself. I like to explore,’ he explained as I asked him how he found out about creating the blocks for the game. I introduce Scratch Jr. when he was in a second grade. Then, continued with Scratch in the third grade. He has shown lots of interest. I remembered his mum mentioned how he enjoys coding. ‘My mum also shows me some tricks to add sound to my games.’ I am more delighted to see how he continues exploring, learning and developing his coding skills. His sharing has made my day AFTER the tiring and frustrating week. I plan to invite him to my iTime session to help a few students who are interested in coding and he could be a great tutor for them.
- Still, during iTime, one of the students was thinking about how she could help herself developing her drawing skills. There are a few books in the class which may be helpful for her but she seems not too enthusiastic about that. ‘How can I help you? What kind of drawing would you like to learn?’ I approached her. She said that she would like to learn to draw cartoons. I showed some options from the internet. She said that’s not what she wanted. I checked on Udemy and tried to find the right course for her. I found a drawing for kids course which she was very happy with. She continued occupied herself during this session watching the video and once in a while, I saw her drawing and following the instructions from the videos. ‘Look, I can draw a shark. It’s a grumpy shark.’ I was happy to hear how happy and proud she is with her drawing. Seeing her showing confidently sharing what she does is a big deal for her as she’s one of the students who is quiet and shy.
- One of the ‘AHA’ moments which I had during the concept based learning was getting students to create their own generalization. As I mentioned before, I have not put so much effort to apply what I have learned in my class. I tried to do my baby steps but I feel it’s not significant enough. As they’re working on developing their knowledge of equivalent fractions, one student was sharing what he found out as he explored fractions using fraction pies. I kept on asking him as he tried to make his generalization of the connection between the numerator and denominator. ‘What does it show you? What does this mean? What is a whole based on what you’ve shown me?’ I could see how he challenged himself and made connections between the visual and his prior knowledge about fraction. And…when he eventually got it. It put not only a big smile on his face but also on mine. Yes, it’s worth to go through that questioning process instead of….giving him the instant answer.
Getting feedback from parents is not always easy. Some feedback may be constructive and positive. Some may sound like criticism. However, I am fortunate that the parents in my class are quite active giving feedback on Seesaw. The feedback is not necessary for me but could also be shown as a comment on their child’s work.
Feedback from Colleagues
My colleagues are my best friends. This academic year, the primary head had been developing a new approach to teacher appraisal. Instead of being observed by the head and coordinator, we were asked to observe each other and give feedback. Before being observed, we went through a process which allowed us to reflect and identify what we would like to work on and feedback will be given on these items. I value any feedback given. So far, the primary head has been my mentor and gave me the honest and constructive feedback on what I should work on.
Feedback is a part of our learning. It is not about what feedback we get. It is about how we accept and use the feedback to improve ourselves.
This process, reflect-identify-acknowledge my teaching practice has slowly calmed me down after the hard two weeks. Using the feedback from students, parents, and colleagues as the evidence of teaching result, I decided to ‘see‘ what I have done and it’s OK to acknowledge those little steps and celebrate the teaching. This will definitely help me to continue developing my positive and sensible attitude to the rest of the academic year…… I hope. 🙂
Cheers…to the long weekend! (There are a few more long weekends coming. That helps!!!)
Dear teachers, how do you celebrate teaching?