Sunday’s Reflection: “Be The Student”
As I reflected, I thought about how you must be the student.
Finishing my third year of teaching, I decided to take a personal inventory. What are my strengths? What are my undeveloped strengths? What are my next steps?
Completing that inventory, I determined that I have several strengths.
I can get kids to perform and read. The numbers back it up. By the end of my Rookie year, 90 percent of my kids had passed a Reading test(although only 57 percent passed the S.T.A.A.R.). At the end of my second year, 91 percent of my kids were Reading at grade-level and 91 percent passed the Reading S.T.A.A.R. My third year wasn’t half-bad, either. 84 percent of my kids Met their end of year growth at the mid-year mark and 88 percent read at grade-level. (All the kids that didn’t read at grade-level Met their growth measure.)
Not only do I foster a high-performance culture but I’m sound pedagogically. I engaged kids, deliver content in a meaningful way and command the material that I present to my scholars.
And throughout my early career, I’ve had tremendous relationships with parents and scholars. Once you’re my parent, you’re always my parent. Once you’re my student, you’re always one of “my babies.”
I do have undeveloped strengths.
I’m skilled at fostering relationships with kids and their parents, but I don’t really seek out relationships with my peers. In my mind, I don’t think it should be necessary as I’m an educator for children, not adults.
Obviously, that all-business approach doesn’t go over well.
From a teaching standpoint, I understand the content that I’m delivering but I don’t have a complete grasp of the terms and methods—particularly the Reading components(I.E.: Read-Alouds, Shared Reading, Conferencing, Closed Reading and Learning Progressions.)
To end my personal inventory, I haven’t defined my structure and style, which is good and bad. Good that I’m an open book willing to try anything new, but bad that I can’t completely describe what I do.
Upon review of that assessment, I had three goals for the summer.
1. Grow In Knowledge Through Professional Development
2. Study The Core Components of Literacy Instruction
3. Define My Structure and Style
To accomplish these goals, I signed up for workshops throughout June and July, created a Summer Literary Study Plan and would research best practices.
My journey began the first week after school ended but with a twist.
What twist? While reading “Striving to Thriving”, an offering from Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward, I decided that I wanted my students go through the five levels of comprehension.
What are the five levels?
Level 1: Answers Literal Questions(Facts/Details)
Level 2: Retells (Summarize)
Level 3: Merges Thinking With Content(Inferencing)
Level 4: Acquires Knowledge(Theme)
Level 5: Actively Uses Knowledge(Synthesizing)
If I’m going take my kids through the five levels of comprehension, I wanted to practice it first. So, after every workshop, training or conference, I wanted to write my lesson learned and how I would use the information.
Week 1: June 3rd-June 7th
To begin the week, I learned about the new TEKS. I was glad to learn about the updated content, but I really was looking forward to the TRTW(Talk, Read, Talk 2, Write) training the next day. It didn’t disappoint, either. The presenter was Nancy Motley, who wrote the book on the routine, started the session with the story about her early career. She shared that after her first five years, her classroom was fun , and she went to every training available, for which she was given an award by her school district.
On state assessments, though, her kids weren’t performing. She considered quitting but didn’t. Those early-career failures birth a new approach of placing more responsibility on her students.
After the opening story, she went into further explanation of the routine and modeled it. I was learning a great technique from the person who created it. That doesn’t happen often. So, I absorbed every minute of it.
That training was awesome, but it wasn’t the end of the week. I learned more about the Reading Workshop structure the next day, in addition to Closed Reading and Book Clubs.
On the final day of that week, I attended the Digital Learning Conference. I acquired so many tools. Merging data. Reading goal-setting folders. And I learned how to use the Seesaw App to enhance instruction from my sister, Christina, who also teaches in my school district.
Great week of development.
Lesson Learned: Many methods to grow scholars.
Change: Incorporate TRTW, Closed Reading, Book Clubs and use Seesaw as my student/parent communication tool.
Week 2: June 10th-14th
This was an ELL(English Language Learner) focused week. My school doesn’t have a high population of students who are classified as ELL. But I’ve grown to understand two things.
1. ELL trainings are the cheat code. They have the best strategies and techniques.
2. Every child is an English Language Learner.
The first workshop of the week–Continuing Cultural Awareness–enlightened me. I realized that many of us are culturally aware , but we aren’t competent. We know what’s up, but we don’t put it into action.
Wednesday, I attended another training led by Nancy Motley: Sheltered Instruction. It was dope, too. I really enjoyed the Q.S.S.S.A.(Question, Signal, Stem, Share, Answer) technique that was modeled throughout the day.
Thursday was the ELLevate conference. I learned so many cool methods, routines and strategies. Art integration. Explicit vocabulary instruction. And how to unpack Reading Learning Progressions.
I concluded the week by attending an EL Excellence training. The presenter was Tonya Ward Singer, who wrote the instructional book. It’s nothing like understanding the why behind someone writing a piece of work.
Lesson Learned: Make Content Comprehensible.
Change: Utilize Q.S.S.S.A and explicitly teach vocabulary.
Week 3: June 17th-21st
This week was all about GT(Gifted/Talented).
While I had my required GT hours, I wanted to learn about the underserved population face to face. It was a wise decision—as I was taught some key things.
1. GT’s in poverty display their giftedness much different than those that come from a traditional background. A fact to which I can attest—working in Spring I.S.D. and Klein I.S.D.
2. GT Kids need to be pushed to the limit. Otherwise, they’ll get bored.
3. They don’t develop socially as quick as their peers.
Lesson Learned: GT kids need to be challenged.
Change: Become a GT Advocate.
Week 4: June 24th-28th
During the final week of June, I went to a few trainings: Pathway to Greatness for English Learners, Identification and Assessment Gifted Learners and a Math Mindset refresher course.
The trainings were good but what stuck out to me from that week was a conversation I had with a veteran teacher following the GT session.
She shared a few nuggets with me in response to some of my questions. I told her that I’m not big on building relationships with co-workers.
Her response: “You have to build those relationships, so that they’ll listen to your wisdom.”
I told her that I like to try new things and run into opposition.
Her: Do what they tell you but then if things aren’t going well, then ask can you do something different.
She also gave me advice on how make my disagreements more palatable.
Lesson Learned: I’m not on an island.
Change: Be intentional about building relationships with co-workers.
Week 5-7: July 1st-19th
A lumped all these weeks together because they share one narrative.
It started, Wednesday, the day I touched down in Mississippi.
How? I was over my grandma’s house and my cousin came for a visit. She told me that her son was struggling in Reading. After resisting for…like…five minutes, I jumped into Teacher mode and found something for him to read, so that I could assess his needs. I was able to figure out his undeveloped strengths and started to formulate a plan to help him.
Side-Note: I found out that another younger cousin is potentially GT. He displays the traits. He likes to take charge , and I saw him trying to use his train tracks in multiple ways.
Fast forward to the next week, I met a college friend for lunch to catch up. We discussed his seven-year daughter. He told me that she uses words like “frustrated”(extensive vocabulary), reads well and commented that she didn’t want to visit a city because something she saw something dangerous on a movie(synthesize).
In response, I asked what him and his wife do with his daughter. He told me that they read to her every day, have literature around the house and take her on work trips, which exposes her to new environments. (Read to your kids’ people.)
A few days later, I worked with my baby cousin on the elements of plot. (I know, I’m doing the most.)
I was encouraged by his level of recall and ability to inference. I literally had him writing down the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution of Puss N Boots. Following the read-aloud, I had him read a graphic novel: Bad Guys. I conferenced with him to see if he could recount the story to me. He did an excellent job of doing so.
Before I left Mississippi, I visited my grandma one last time. While I was there, my cousin came over. She said that my baby cousin had finished the book already and was working on the second one…woop woop. News I wanted to hear.
When I returned to Houston, I attended a few trainings on behavior and differentiating for SPED babies.
An anecdote from Sharon Azar, one of the presenters, resonated with me. She shared that there was one common trend amongst the prisoners at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center: They couldn’t read.
Lesson Learned: Teachers don’t have off days.
Change: Become an advocate for Reading.
Week 8: July 22nd-26th
To cap off my summer of development, I went to a Writing Boot Camp. The intention was to model the Writing Workshop, which they effectively did. The presenters taught us good peer conferencing routines and solid revising strategies.
I loved it. I’ve always been a little skeptical of the workshop model, but they showed me what it could truly look like.
Lesson Learned: Make students love writing.
Change: Incorporate more Writing Workshop structure in ELA block.
Over the past two months, I feel that I’ve grown as an educator. I learned new information, techniques and methods, which will aid me instructionally and professionally.
Overall Lesson Learned: No matter your arena…You need to honor Thy craft.
Overall Change: Become a whole educator and professional.
Be The Student.
I leave you with one thing.
1.Do you honor Thy craft?
1.What did you like about the Reflection?
2.What do you want to learn more about?
Application: Write down three ways that you can honor your craft.
Jeremiah Short, Educator