Friday, April 28, 2017

Listen, Reflect, Be Brave

Greissy Lara 

Terrace Elementary School

Why are understanding and building connections critical to learning?
It’s important to know what the children are feeling. We have to make that connection with the kids so that we may better serve their needs and make sure we are doing the best for them. Kids also have the best ideas and can be that push we need to jump!

How are you embedding this thinking in your instructional planning or implementation?
When I’m planning assignments for the week, I try to incorporate student interest into the lessons. It doesn’t always work out that way but even just using student names (or their favorite famous person’s name) in a math problem grabs their attention. It can be as simple as that!

How does this translate into results? What results do you want?
When we take what students are telling us (by words or in silence) and take action. We should begin with reflection: How can I use what I learned today about my student(s) and incorporate it into my classroom? What can I do/say to change that negative comment I heard today? How can I use this that the kids expressed interest in and used it in a lesson? Just reflecting on what the kids are telling us makes a big difference because then we can begin to take action.

Why is this something we don’t naturally do? It seems like it’s fundamental or something that educators would naturally do.
I think it’s because we are so focused on what we need to teach and how many days we have to do it. We fall behind, and we do what we can to catch up. “STAAR is in one month; I don’t have TIME to do that!” 

We also have the set mindset of what “teaching looks like” that we don’t often think beyond the TEK we need to teach. “This is what I need to teach, and these are the resources they suggested, let’s do it!” 

We are also afraid of taking chances. “What if it doesn’t work? What if we go over time? What if I make it worse?!” I think, in a way, we’re also afraid of the kids liking it “too much.” Too much in the sense that it becomes a game and is no longer taken seriously. It’s “too much fun.”

Just deciding to make the few changes I’ve made in my classroom took me A LONG TIME. I kept going back and forth, back and forth, wrestling with the ideas because I was afraid that it wouldn’t work.

What advice would you give to adults (parent/educators/staff) to help them in developing this skill or to have the courage to do something scary or different?
Listen to your children, really listen. They say a lot during the day that will help you better understand them. Listen to their likes, dislikes, the shows they watch, what they did that weekend, what their parents/friends said/did. Listening to the child is the first step in understanding them. 

It’s hard, I know. How many times in the day do they want to tell me something in the middle of a lesson (that has nothing to do with the lesson)? But I try to listen and watch them at lunchtime and recess (and even independent work time). That’s when I can get a better glimpse into their lives.

What short term ‘wins’ are you seeing? What long term wins are coming?
When I started Teacher’s Guild, I had the kids write about and illustrate their ideal classroom. What would it look like? What would you be doing? What would you like to change/keep? I reflected on their ideas (and still reflect!) to slowly make some changes in my teaching. 

The big change I started with was transitioning into flexible seating. The kids expressed their desire to pick their seats, so I’ve been slowly replacing a few desks with tables and a few chairs with stools. We are slowing perfecting it.

Because a lot my students like technology, I’ve been trying to incorporate the use of Google in their learning. (Google Drive is amazing!) I’m trying to set up my Google Classroom to also take advantage of that great resource.

I’ve also tried to give them more independence. For the last four weeks, they’ve had a Weekly Menu; a document that includes all of their assignments for the entire week. There are some assignments that require a mini-lesson from me first but for the most part, they can complete them in any order as long as everything is done by the end of class Friday.

All of these changes have taken time and are far from perfect. But I’m happy with the changes and am constantly modifying them all! My ultimate vision is to have a self-run classroom, where students are in control of their learning.

1 comment:

  1. Ms. Lara is an amazing teacher. When I walk in her room everyone is engaged. They are working on numerous activities. The students do not get distracted by an adult walking into the room. They keep working or they may stop to share what they are working on because they are excited about the learning. True learners at work, all taking the same journey but in different ways!