Child of God

I think we can all identify.

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Journaling: A How-to Guide for Teachers

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To kick off 2016, we talked about the importance of reflection as a teacher.  So often we can get bogged down in the day to day rigor of just being a teacher.  Think about what goes into your day after you finish teaching.  Grading papers, preparing for the next lessons, organizing and cleaning the classroom, congregational duties, and other teaching duties just to name a few.  We can quickly become overwhelmed.  Unfortunately, taking the time to reflect can often get pushed to the side.

Now what if I told you that you could do your job of reflection in just five, short minutes every day?  Would you be more likely to make that a habit and set it into your daily routine?

Thankfully, this is possible.  A small, simple journal is all you need.  Now those of us who were graduates of Martin Luther College perhaps remember, with horror, those special, little things known as reflection journals during student teaching.  Let me be clear, that is not what I’m talking about when I refer to journaling.

We need something doable.  Something that we can look forward to each day and make a routine in our daily schedule as a teacher.  Our goal shouldn’t be a two-page written essay in a notebook.  If that excites you, more power to you.  However, for the rest of us, a short bulleted list does the trick with the same effect.

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10 Questions to Increase Engagement with Your Students

Student Engagement

Having a tough time grabbing your students attention for a particular class?  Try reflecting on these questions as your prep for your lesson.

  1. What is the big idea for my lesson?
  2. How can I incorporate movement into this lesson?
  3. Can I incorporate a dramatic, cinematic score into the climax of my lesson?
  4. How can I get my students outside my classroom walls for this lesson?
  5. Could my students demonstrate the main idea of this lesson with play-dough?
  6. How can I incorporate technology into this lesson?
  7. Could my students video a summary of the lesson with their tablet for this lesson?
  8. How does this lesson relate to the lives of my students?
  9. How can I arrange the desks to maximize the experience for this lesson?  Could I eliminate desks for this lesson?
  10. Why am I teaching this lesson?

This is the first part of an ongoing series on student engagement in the classroom.

The Most Valuable Feedback in the World is Your Students

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“We all need people who give us feedback.   That is how we improve.”

                                                                                        -Bill Gates

Our harshest critics, are often times the students whom we serve. I have the privilege of teaching an amazing group of junior high students. They may be some of the harshest critics of them all.

One thing I love about teaching children is they are brutally honest. If they don’t enjoy something, they will let you know. The opposite is also true, if they enjoy something, they will most certainly let you know.

Every day that I enter my classroom, I receive feedback throughout the day.   I can tell when my students are engaged. I can tell when my students are anticipating a lesson. I can also tell when my students are bored out of their minds.   This feedback is invaluable.

As teachers, we must ask ourselves, am I listening to my students’ feedback? There is some feedback from students that we can ignore. Decisions we make based on classroom climate, culture, discipline, etc. may be unpopular but needed.

There is a whole stream of feedback that we must listen to, however. We must answer tough questions as educators. Are we engaging our students? Are we meeting all of our students needs? Are we serving our students to the best of our abilities?

This is when we must listen to the feedback our students are giving us. It is invaluable. Furthermore, if we listen to it, it will make us all the stronger as an educator.

My students have called me to task before. My junior high students used to have an inward grown when it was time for science class. I knew I had to make more of an effort to engage them in class. I had to add more hands-on activities, more experiments, and more labs. I had become too dependent on the lecture as the basis for my science class. It was easy. It had become a crutch. I knew I had to change, based upon the feedback of my students.

Now I have students who look forward to science class and the topics we will be learning. While never perfect, my students helped me become a better teacher for them. We must be open to not only identifying our students feedback, we must be open to implementing change based on that feedback.

“We must be open to not only identifying our students feedback, we must be open to implementing change based on that feedback.”

As Bill Gates stated in the opening quote, it is how we improve. As educators, we should be compelled to be reflective. We ought not be afraid of constant evaluation; we shall embrace it.

What kind of teacher do you want to be? More importantly, what kind of teacher do you want your students to see you as? By listening to their feedback and being open and honest with them, it shows them that you care. It fosters a relationship with your students that cannot be measured.

Finally, how can we insist on our students to improve and grow as learners, if we are not continually growing and learning ourselves?

Listen. Listen with an open heart and a reflective mind.

Confessions of a Classroom Teacher

What could have been, if I had only reacted differently? What could have been if I had shown more patience? How can I respond better to that student? How can I communicate better with that family?

Questions.

Questions can keep you up at night. Problems and situations can keep you up at night. My own sinful imperfection keeps me up at night wondering how I could handle classroom and school situations differently.

The problem is that I know, as a teacher, I can do better. Those are the things that keep me up at night.

Situations like…

Why did I react with anger instead of love?

            How could I have handled that upset parent in a better manner?

            Why hasn’t my classroom management been effective for that student?

            Why did I fail as a teacher, today?

            These are all tough questions, but they are important questions. It is vital that we, as teachers, see ourselves as imperfect teachers. I fully realize, as a profession, we are already very hard on ourselves.

Therefore, I am not calling on us, to beat ourselves up further. I am calling on us to reflect.

Reflection is one of the most critical aspects of effective teaching. Realizing our imperfections, we must push ourselves to think outside our box. To leave our comfort zone, and learn about areas that we are not familiar.

I wish I was a better teacher for my students. I wish that every discipline problem would be handled well. I wish that I could have the perfect answer for every struggling student.

But I don’t. I’m imperfect. I need help, and I always need to grow. We all do.

 

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