With about a week to go until meetings start and a little over two weeks before classes begin, many thoughts swirl in my head. I have not hit my annual late August stretch of insomnia, but it is just a matter of time. This post is meant to record my thoughts before I shift into overdrive. Notes to self:
I should approach students who are stuck in their work with a conversation, not an answer. It is so easy to just solve the dilemma for the child and move on. That is generally what they want. But unless I plan to be there every time, it is not helpful in the long run. A student who graduated last year told me he had learned to write in my class. I remember long, sometimes agonizing conversations about a thesis for his research paper. And I remember the look in his eyes when he came up with the thesis. I do not have any memory of times I have given an answer to a kid just to move things forward. Patience and investment work wonders.
Related to this- feedback is the most significant way I can impact learning. I know this. Feedback needs to be prompt, not perfect. If a comment that I make is not perfectly clear, I can talk to the student. I do not need to point out every single error in a draft. Most work really should be considered a draft, until the marking period ends. If I hand back papers the students have forgotten about – I have failed. The English teacher who taught me to write well handed back papers the next day, sometimes even later the same day. That is the gold standard for prompt feedback.
It is important that I check in with my students every day. I shy away from asking them whether or not they are enjoying the lessons because I am afraid that what they say might make me rethink my carefully thought out plan. I tell myself that I can judge by their engagement. That is true to some extent, but I need to check in to get their perspective. Sometimes I may feel something is important, even if they are not loving it. Then, I have the chance to explain to the students why we are doing what we are doing, even if it seems like a drag. Rethinking is part of my job that I generally embrace – I just need to let the students in on it more. Added bonus – I get to know my students better – what they enjoy and how they learn best.
In summing this up, I was going to look for three words to represent my three points. Looking back at what I have written, I realize it comes down to one word – conversation – although I need to broaden my definition of conversation to include written comments. Even with written feedback, in an ideal setting that is the beginning of a conversation. What better skill to model for kids than effective communication?
Now I need to put a reminder in my calendar to read this post at the end of September, and probably every month.