Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many teachers. We begin our summer break exhausted from the work we’ve done all year in helping our students to learn and grow. We enjoy lazy days with no alarm clocks, going to the bathroom whenever we want, and wearing leggings and the messiest of buns. Our days begin to blur together, and we get to a point where we’re not really sure exactly what day of the week it is. You may even be asking your significant other, “What’s today? Is it Tuesday or Wednesday?” as they roll their eyes at you and get ready to leave for work.
As the days turn into a month or so out of school, we find our minds drifting back to our students, our classrooms, and our curriculum. As much as we want to keep those thoughts at bay until late July at least, we can’t help but to think about next school year. How can I make my students more engaged during phonics practice? Where can I find funding for flexible seating in my classroom? What are some new ideas for math fact fluency practice? How can I make sure all of my first graders master their sight words? There are a million other questions just like these that float through our teacher minds over summer break.
So that’s exactly where I find myself now… I’m out of school for the summer. I’ve had my time to rest and relax. And, just like you, my mind is churning with the possibilities for the upcoming school year. I want to do all of the things! I don’t know about you, but sticky notes are my go-to for jotting down things I need to do, read up on, or plan for. Man, these things are everywhere!
Here’s the What
I want to incorporate more social-emotional learning through morning meetings. I need to help my fellow teachers avoid power struggles with students who present challenging behaviors. I’m looking for resources to learn more about trauma-informed classroom practices, while researching how to bring our K-2 literacy rates up and even beyond expectations. We’re also planning to unpack our state’s new math standards and revise our instructional materials… The list just keeps going on and on.
Now Here’s the Why
It’s called reflective teaching. It means that we are constantly thinking about the outcome of our instruction before, during, and after lessons are taught. It’s looking for evidence of effective practices and then infusing those practices into our daily work with children. As we reflect on our lessons and instructional practice, we should also think back to our personal philosophies of education. What are the core beliefs that drive the decisions we make in our classrooms? This is especially important for teachers experiencing burnout. Thinking back to why you chose to pursue a career in education may just ignite a spark down deep in your teacher-soul!
Most of us had to write a formal philosophy of education during our undergrad degrees. However, for many teachers in today’s classrooms, that was waaayyy back when. It was back before we had the wealth of knowledge gleaned from our first-hand experience working with our students. Gosh, I learned so much my first year teaching! For me personally, my fundamental beliefs about educating children have not changed. However, my roadmap to get my students where they need to be has undergone some revision over the years.
I believe that the education we provide our children goes far beyond the required state standards we teach. Children must learn critical thinking skills, how to make educated and informed decisions, and how to effectively interact with others. We must teach our children the understanding of and acceptance of other’s opinions. Above all, they must come to know and appreciate that while not everyone will share the same values or beliefs, we must all respect one another as people and fellow human beings. Classrooms should certainly never be a place where a child feels unwelcome or unwanted for any reason. It most certainly shouldn’t be because of others’ implicit bias because they don’t match up to the status-quo.
Yes, we are adults, and our students are children. Consequently, children should show respect to their parents and family members, their teachers and other adults in authority, and they should also show respect to their classmates and peers. With all that said, respect goes both ways. I didn’t quite realize how important, and sometimes overlooked, this is in classrooms.
I’ve seen teachers attempt to demand respect or command their room in such a way that students were fearful of their reactions. That way never works. The misbehaving child will control the situation and the classroom every time. So many times, it falls on the teacher’s reaction. It’s oftentimes how the teacher responds to a student’s behavior, their choice of words, or some other undesired action on the part of the child that escalates the behavior.
That’s a hard pill to swallow for some. But, think about it. If your reaction to a student sucking their teeth at you is to roll your eyes back at the student, what behavior exactly are you modeling? If you have a melt-down because the class didn’t quiet down the first time you asked (or demanded) and you yell at them, what are you teaching your students to do when they get frustrated? Is intentionally embarrassing a child in front of their classmates really the best way to get their compliance?
PBIS brings respectful interactions and expectations for front and center for everyone. There are clear expectations of the classroom environment including a continuum of appropriate responses to student behavior. PBIS provides norms in classroom management for all teachers in a school, thus helping the children learn and follow the school-wide expectations.
Respect is just one important piece to PBIS. Respect is earned from students by treating them with respect. When they make a mistake in their work or their behavior, they should know what your reaction will be. It should not be a surprise where one day it’s ok and another day the teacher flies off the handle. They thrive on structure and routine. They feel safe and cared for when they see that their teachers are prepared for the day. Most importantly, working early on to develop positive relationships with students and their families will make all the difference in the world for that child’s educational success.
Look Beyond Assessment
We should not rely solely on data from high-stakes assessments to quantify the performance of a child, teacher, or school, nor should policy-makers or any stakeholder group. While assessments can provide insight to students’ knowledge, they are not what matters most about that child’s education. High-expectations of student growth is fundamental to how a student will learn.
Utilizing data to inform instructional practices and school reform initiatives is very important, but we must take everything into consideration, even our own beliefs. John Hattie’s research shows that Teacher Collective Efficacy (TCE) is one of the most prominent ways to positively impact students. This highly influential practice is the collective belief of all school staff that they can and will make a positive difference for their students. Teacher Collective Efficacy has an effect size of 1.57.
If you’ve read any of Hattie’s Visible Learning, then you know that an effect size of 0.4 equates to one year of student growth gained in an academic year. TCE rings in at 1.57, people! 1.57!!! We’ve got to believe in ourselves as teaching professionals! The evidence of student learning will inevitably feed into our shared belief and will make Teacher Collective Efficacy that much more powerful in our schools. We rise by lifting others!
Professional dispositions positively affect learners, growth, and the learning environment. All children are different, and as such, they all have different learning needs. There is no one right and perfect way to educate a child. Just as our children are different, so are teachers. What works well for one teacher may not fare as well for the teacher down the hall. We have to be open to new ideas and unafraid to try new methods and practices. It is important to keep a positive and professional attitude with the never-ending change that comes along with a career in education. Negative Nancy’s rub off quickly and not in a good way! That is to say, surrounding yourself with others who are also positive plays a huge role in the developing skill sets of beginning teachers and even the refinement of more veteran teachers’ practice.
What’s Your Why?
Now, my dear refreshed teacher friends, I challenge you to take some time to reflect on your “why.” Why do you get up and go to work during the school year? We all know it’s not for the high-paying salary! Why are you reading this blog post? Why are you thinking about your classroom over the summer months? What’s most important to you as an educator of young minds? Why do you do what you do?
Drop a comment below or connect with me on social media! I’d love to hear your thoughts!