I’ve been meaning to do a mid-year reflection for a few weeks, but it has been kind of a daunting task. I reflect on my teaching and my classroom constantly, but not quite to this level. So here goes nothing!
All of the pictures in this post are of my students working on a social studies reading and answering questions. I let them choose their own ISS (International Space Station) work space (ISS is designated for small group work.) I also let them choose if they wanted to work by themselves, with a partner, or with a group. And I also let them choose with whom they wanted to work. The results were quite varied for this particular lesson.
Why did I go desk-less in the first place? (When I say deskless, I mean not having 25 desks. I still have a few.) Whenever I rearranged my desks in the past the thought at the forefront of my mind was to get the most floor space possible. So why not get rid of the desks all together?
Why did I want more floor space? I wanted to create an open and flexible learning environment granting the students choices in how they learn and making them self-aware and accountable for their own learning. I also recognized that I would need to explicitly teach them to be accountable and self-aware.
Did I succeed? Well I definitely have more floor space in my classroom. That’s measurable. And my students and I have discussions daily about the choices we make and the accountability we have for our own learning. It is really hard to pinpoint one thing, like the lack of desks, and say “that is the reason my class is they way they are this year.” There are so many factors: my classroom, how I teach about my classroom, my consistency upholding my expectations, my teaching style in general, this particular mix of students, the support from this particular group of parents. I’m sure all of these things have played into how smoothly my classroom runs this year.
And the bigger questions is, What does success mean to me? How do I measure my success? If it means my students are well behaved, more so than in the past, then it has been a success. That’s only measurable by anecdotal assessment from me and other teachers in the school. If it means I have relinquished some control of the classroom and am therefore less stressed and less running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to micromanage all my kids, then success. I am noticeably less busy and worried about school this year. (Again there are always other factors involved, like the fact that I’m now done with my masters degree.) If it means my students are learning the content better, that one is difficult to measure. Even if I compare my test scores with that of the other third grade teachers, there are more variables like teaching styles and different groups of students to take into account. I personally think they are learning well, I don’t necessarily know if it’s better though. If it means my students are more prepared for life and able to better interact with their peers, then I would say success, or at least success in progress. This is the most important one in my opinion. Because of the way my classroom is set up, we constantly discuss things like making good choices and how we are free to choose but we are not free from the consequences of our choices, self-awareness and figuring out how we learn best, thinking about how our words and actions impact other people, and learning how to set goals.
What could be better? Even though things are going well, they can always be better. That just comes with the job of teacher. We are never totally done. So upon reflection, the days where I get the most frustrated with my students for their behavior are the days on which I am the most lax on my expectations and I start letting things slide and giving too many warnings. This is something I have always struggled with as a teacher, so while it’s better this year, I’m still working on it. I also think my integration of technology could be better. I use a lot of technology in my instruction compared to most people. I work closely with our tech director, I have my masters in instructional technology, and I teach tech PD to the teachers at my school. But I think tech has taken a back burner this year. My focus has been on the classroom. Which is fine. We can’t do everything all at once: that’s how teachers burn out so quickly. Moving forward I want to go back to stretching my abilities and trying new technologies with my students.
Thanks for reading and being curious and keeping up with the goings on in third grade 🙂