My last day of school for the 2013-2014 school year was Friday, May 23rd. I always say this at the end of the school year, but it really has gone by so fast. I completed my eighth year of teaching this week and I don't know where the time went. I feel like it was just yesterday when I was in the middle of my very busy first year of teaching and I had the terrifying thought, "Oh my gosh. I cannot believe I'm really here and responsible for the success of all these students." I remember that moment and how I went right back into auto-pilot and back to my busy routine of planning, laminating, cutting, and grading. I'm actually surprised I had even that small moment of reflection.
Thankfully, as the years have gone by, I've had more time to reflect on my teaching. At times, I've had to force myself to do so, but it really is so important. It's how we learn and grow and even change, if necessary. I've spent the most time this last year or so reflecting more than I have in the past. I've been so fortunate to teach under two amazing principals and have had the most awesome students and parents over the years. Every year gets better and better for me, as I think it should. I believe self-reflection has played a major role in how my teaching practice has shifted dramatically this last year and how this has been my best year of teaching yet.
I have an amazing PLN on Twitter who have stretched me and challenged me more than I can say. Their thoughts and ideas have made me think about how I teach and reevaluate my philosophy of education. I've learned different ways to incorporate technology into the classroom and have learned about amazing innovative strategies such as Genius Hour and the importance of student blogging and student-created work. After implementing these ideas into my classroom, I've had to reflect on their success and make changes, if necessary, in order for them to work in my classroom.
Speaking of a Genius Hour, I have been so impressed with the level of student engagement and how students have persevered through their struggles. During the first round, I had a few students who were interested in learning about a new topic at first, but quickly lost interest due to it being too "hard". I worked closely with them to achieve the knowledge they were seeking and made sure they were able to create a final product which demonstrated their learning. The second round of Genius Hour went more smoothly for these students. They learned from their struggles, and after conferences with each of them they picked a topic more appropriate for them. They utilized tools they knew how to use and were much more successful. I'm looking forward to next year because for the first time I have the opportunity to loop with a class. I'm excited to take my students to second grade and continue the great work we are doing together. Especially Genius Hour. We can pick up where we left off for the summer and continue our adventure. I'll be busy this summer learning the curriculum, posting Donor's Choose projects, and cooking up some new innovative strategies.
During the past few years, I've incorporated more innovative teaching strategies into my classroom. I've been a teacher leader by presenting these ideas to audiences inside and outside of my school. I've also served as grade level chair, served on a variety of committees, filmed an online course for Knowledge Delivery Systems, and hosted student teachers. All of this led me to be named my school's 2014 Teacher of the Year and my principal recently nominated me for an Innovation in Teaching award from my state's Governor's office. I feel I've been successful, but as a teacher my goal is to never stop learning and improving. I will continue to learn how to best reach my ever-changing student population and be the best teacher I can be for them. Seeking professional development on my own and making time to reflect on my practices will continue to be the key to their success and mine.