A MiddleWeb Blog
Every August, even before I begin planning my activities for the first week, I set my personal goals for the upcoming school year. That way I know I can begin working on them from the very first day.
After much thought I settled on three stretch goals for 2016-17.
1. Get to know my students in more than a superficial way
The last few years I have not spent enough time really getting to know my students. I felt like I could not spare any time during the all-too-short class period to make small talk. But this year I am making it a priority to get to know them better.
The pressure to “cover everything” is always there, but I really want to find out what they are interested in and what is going on in their lives away from school. After all, I will be asking these kids to work hard and be willing to make mistakes. It’s my responsibility to do whatever I can to make them feel comfortable and safe in my classroom.
And from a purely personal level, many times the best part of my day is when I take the time to make small talk with one of my students.
2. Use formative assessment effectively
This is the second year in a row that I have had this as one of my personal teaching goals. I still feel like I need to improve in this area. I am going to concentrate on using technology for a portion of the formative assessment in my classroom (an area in which I was sorely lacking last year). Watch for a future blog post about that!
3. Be joyful and inspire enthusiasm in my students
I am setting a goal to be more enthusiastic. Last year there were many days I wasn’t conveying joy or a positive attitude.
I love teaching and I get excited about math, but I wasn’t always transmitting that to my students. Thinking back to my own days as a student, I always enjoyed classes taught by teachers who were energetic and engaging. I want to be that kind of teacher more often.
First: What do we expect from this class?
With my goals set, I planned out my activities for the first day. School started this past Wednesday and I was able to put my plans in action. I began by reviewing my expectations. I really went back and forth on this. I wanted to start with team building exercises or games, but I have found that it works better for me if I share my expectations the very first thing.
This year I provided my students with a Syllabus Doodle for them to take notes on and color as we discussed classroom expectations.
It’s a free download and designed for grades 6-12.
I was afraid some of my students would think coloring was “kid stuff,” but they seemed to enjoy it, and the interactivity seemed to help them stay focused. (As a bonus I can use the completed syllabi to decorate my room!)
Building classroom culture
After I went over my expectations I explained to my students that any successful math classroom is a partnership and I wanted to know what they expected of me.
This is the first year that I have done this. I did it because I wanted to start working on my goal of getting to know my students better, and that includes knowing what their expectations are for our class.
To help me (and my students) discover their expectations, I used and adapted some prompts I saw on the awesome math blog Middle School Math Rules!
The first prompt was:
Mrs. Russell can be most helpful by____________________.
I also created theses two prompts:
1.) What can Mrs. Russell do to make this class more enjoyable?
2.) ______________ will help me learn in math class.
I used the app Poll Everywhere to collect student responses. There’s a paid version but the free version is really good. Students enter their responses at PollEv.com (they can also text their replies) and the software immediately displays all the individual responses in a word cloud. The resulting word cloud below is from the responses my students in one class gave to my prompts.
I plan to post the word clouds from all my classes in our classroom to remind me of my students’ expectations.
Closing with an engaging activity
To wrap up our first class together with something engaging (Goal #3), I showed a short Numberphile video in which math professor and toy inventor Tadashi Tokieda uses a $20 bill to demonstrate human reaction time. It’s actually pretty interesting, I promise! You can talk about the math in ways best suited for your age group.
The students in all my classes seemed to enjoy the video, and they especially liked testing their own reaction time with the $5 bill I brought to class. (Teachers are always on a budget!) I was happy that the first day ended on a high note, and I’ll be exploring the many other Numberphile videos looking for more attention-getting demonstrations (like this fun one, A Mile of Pi).
I have to say I’m relieved to get past the first few days of school. As always, there are things I did that I am not happy with, but on the whole I think the first (short) week went well. Now to continue working on my goals for the rest of the year!
Have you set some teaching goals for this year? Will you share one in the comments?