How do we really build better teachers? Are current school system practices helping? Reading a long-neglected article from the NYT Magazine prompts a fresh reflection on the best ways to improve teaching practice from veteran tween teacher Mary Tarashuk.
Category: Kids on the Cusp
Personal narratives, reading folders, interest inventories – and new nicknames bestowed as the year begins. Mary Tarashuk uses many clues to get to know her 4th graders. PARCC scores haven’t arrived yet. No sweat. All that really matters is arrayed before her.
For years Mary Tarashuk engaged her students in a rule-making exercise that felt democratic but produced her desired outcomes. Now her strategy is to help kids think more deeply about respect and have them use their insights to guide the classroom community.
Mary Tarashuk is packing for her trip back to Room 106 and her new class of fourth graders. She shares her pre-flight checklist and her new student-centered theme for the year: “In Class 4-T We DO Learning.” Along the way she includes middle grades resources.
Like many teachers, when school ends, new work begins for Mary Tarashuk. “I earn a good salary, but it isn’t enough to pay for ‘summers off.'” There’s professional learning to do, too. But still some time to relax and reflect on the sheer joy of teaching children.
Mary Tarashuk looks beyond her formal annual review to consider her personal assessment portfolio. Her students have learned “a bit about compassion, sympathy, empathy, the importance of friendship and community. This is the true measure of my Affectiveness.”
It remains unclear to Mary Tarashuk how rampant standardized testing is actually helping her fourth graders become successful and enthusiastic learners. As she prepares for her own evaluation, Mary shares pushback from parents, students, and HBO’s John Oliver.
Students’ success in making connections – whether listening, writing, or linking ideas with bits of yarn – is essential to learning. Mary Tarashuk sees those connections in her 4th graders’ notebooks and in their eyes. But can PARCC prompts capture them?
As Mary Tarashuk anticipates the second round of PARCC testing this spring, she tackles stacks of paperwork and teacher evaluation forms. She’ll also make sure her 4th graders celebrate Earth Day, revisit engaging writing prompts, and enjoy some fresh air.
We can teach students the value of speaking out on critical issues while meeting curriculum standards, says Mary Tarashuk, who shares her 6-day unit inspired by the 1992 speech of 12-year old environmentalist Severn Suzuki before global leaders.