The return to school in January for many marks the halfway point of the year, so reflection and refocusing are in order to finish the year well. When thinking about the things I want to be true of me and my classroom for the rest of the year, these five things come to mind:
Less is More
Teachers love to overdo, but many times the overzealous teacher takes the joy of learning from a student by excessive information. As the year gets closer to the end I am tempted to give just one more article, another pre-reading activity, or one extra exercise to reinforce a concept. This often becomes information overload. I have to continually remind myself that I am not the last stop in learning for my students, so I don’t have to answer every question or expose them to every theory or idea. I will do my best to cover my content within the time I have and not worry about what I don't have time to cover.
Data, test scores, and measurable objectives are often called upon to drive instruction, and while these are necessary and valuable, all is not measured objectively. I teach because I want to impact students, and this is done through relationships. I will take time to hear about their dreams, their problems, and their weekends and slow down long enough to get to know my students.
Writing comments on an essay or test is quick and easy but usually not as effective as conferring with students about their work. Taking time to discuss exams and essays with students offer teachers insight into how students learn and why they may be having problems with content. I will build in time for mini-conferences during the school day in order to individualize learning and help them work through difficulties.
Pace yourself and your students
The school year is more like a marathon than a series of sprints. Slow, steady progress throughout the year allows students to move forward without burning out. If a lesson or week is particularly taxing, ease up a little the next week. Like weight training students must be pushed to the threshold of slight frustration for growth to occur in skill development but cannot be pushed so much that they give up. I will continually read and monitor my students and and make adjustments.
Focus on learning not grades
In the day when high school GPA determines college acceptance, the ability to keep a student focused on learning and not just grades is difficult. Whether the focus be content or a skill, teachers must take time to explain the objectives and benefits of a lesson as well as how the learned knowledge ties to real world application. This not only shifts the focus from grades to learning but gives the students opportunity to have ownership over their learning. I will not give busywork and will make sure students know the reason behind what we do in class.