Another example paragraph for my seniors to take a look at. This prompt is “What did you get better at this year?” Most of these prompts are really about self-reflection, so my students can see how much they actually have learned in high school between bouts of trying to stay awake in boring classes, being overwhelmed because of course all the big projects from every class are assigned the same day, and other frustrations.
I have always been very aware that I have lots of room for improvement as a teacher. The nicest comment I heard from administrators during my first “trial by fire” five years was “at least you really know your content area.” As time has passed, two areas of weakness have stayed with me thanks to my desire to always give a second (third, fourteenth, twenty-seventh) chance: grading and classroom management. I try to get better in both of those areas every year and, sometimes, I even succeed. My tough classes now would have been my rockstar classes ten years ago, so I count that as improvement. My seventh period class was functional first semester this year and became significantly less functional when two “catalyst” students transferred in at the semester; now seventh period is the class where I regularly lose my temper (although it’s in a much kinder way than when I first started teaching), where I regularly want to throttle even the students I like, and where I am sometimes a little too honest about what I think–this is a bit of a problem.
So, what have I improved on this year?
I’ve gotten a little better about getting things graded (but not much faster and putting things into the computer). I’ve gotten better at streamlining my comments for improvement. In most of my classes, I’ve found my inner peace when dealing with the chaos and drama and self-sabatoge and grade-chasing. I’m definitely doing better at giving them examples (even though I don’t expect them to actually write quite as much as I do for the prompts).
More importantly to me, I have managed to keep close the knowledge that what I know about my students is limited to what they show me and this allows me to be more flexible in dealing with them. It also allows me to keep in mind that they are in the process of becoming the people they choose to be and I am just planting seeds.
Mostly, I am looking for quality of response. It would be great to see kids get creative, but it isn’t really going to hurt them if they stay basic and stick with paragraphs responses to the prompts and nothing else. The creativity will probably help some students who don’t necessarily have the quality of response I’d like.
This one was for MK.