In less than eight hours, it will be 2015. On New Year’s Eve, I always love to reflect of the past year. I think about my accomlishments, as well as the stuff I’d like to forget. Most importantly, I remind myself what I have learned and I make my new “classroom resolutions.” Here are my top five for 2015:
1. Promote independent reading even more, especially with my reluctant readers. If you ask one of my students, they will already tell you that I do this all the time. I don’t think it’s enough though. Why? Well, I still have some reluctant readers, so in my book, I haven’t done enough for them yet. I have one student who has been reading the same book since September (The Enemy by Charlie Higson), but to give him a little credit it’s over 400 pages. This shouldn’t be the case though. He likes zombies and horror stories, so I need to find more books like that, but maybe some that aren’t as long and overwhelming. Maybe he needs to try a different genre. Either way, I cannot give up on him. He can become a reader, no matter how much he denies it. I have others that aren’t just reluctant, but also struggling readers. (I know. The two go hand in hand quite often.) One of my girls has not finished a book yet this school year. She is one of my “serial abandoners.” I caught her “fake reading” a few times, and she has constantly told me, “Mrs. K, it’s nothing against you. I’m just not a reader.” I do take a little offense though, for I believe it’s my job to help her fall in love with reading. Recently we finished reading Speak as a class, and that book she finished because I found the audiobook for her. When I asked her how she liked it, she grinned and said she loved it. I grinned too. She is on her way. I just need to find more audiobooks. I cannot forget my avid readers though. They deserve to know I am thinking about them, too. So, when I return to school next week, how will each of my classes begin? With independent reading time and then a book talk. I know book talks help ALL my students find new books to read they never heard of, so I know I need to do more of them. EVERY DAY!
2. Two-minute conversations with my “reluctant students.” We all know them. The students that are reluctant to do anything at all. They don’t want to pay attention, learn anything, or give their teachers the time of day. They believe they’ve made it to high school, so why change things? Well, they didn’t have me for a teacher until this year. I’m not letting that happen all year without a fight. I’m not giving up on my two boys in one class that always tell me they don’t feel well and cannot participate. I’ve checked with the nurse and their parents. They do not have any physical condition that would keep them from participating. I have always asked them if they needed assistance and reworded directions for them. I’ve asked them questions to try to get them to participate in class discussions. They wanted no part of any of it. What to do? Well, I know developing relationships is important, and I don’t think I have a great one with either one of these boys yet. To them, I’m just a nag right now. So, starting Monday, I plan to have a two-minute conversation which each one of them. I can ask them about their day. I know one boy loves music, so that will be a topic of conversation. I will continue this each day, no matter how painful it may be for either one of us. I will show these boys that I care, no matter how much they want to believe the opposite. Then, maybe, they will start believing in themselves as much as I do.
3. Increase the positives! I contact parents all the time. I email all parents every Monday to share my weekly agenda and upcoming due dates, and I call or email parents when I notice a concern. What I don’t do enough of is call or email a parent/guardian when I see a student do something amazing. As a parent myself, I love hearing when my children do something wonderful in their classrooms, so I need to do this more often for my students. My goal is to contact ALL parents about something positive their children did by the end of the school year. I will admit, this has been a goal of mine for a few years now, and I never seem to get ALL parents. This year will be different!
4. Get assignments back to students in a timely manner. In the past, I have had stacks of papers on my desk that don’t make it back to students for a few weeks. I know this needs to change. In order for students to learn from their mistakes, they need to see their grades and assignments in a timely manner. I also need to go over certain assignments once they are returned. I always make sure to reteach certain skills that I see many students struggle with, but I also need to go over smaller assignments so students see the minor errors they make, too. Students will not make these changes if they don’t know they are making errors in the first place.
5. I need to stay positive! It’s been a tough year so far. All I hear is “connect to the Common Core” and “do this assessment and that assessment.” Yes, I’m sick of it. I know the Common Core and all the assessments that go with it are hurting our students’ education, but I need to remember all the positives, too. I need to remember that I have a supportive principal who believes in independent reading as much as I do. She also believes in the teaching methods I use in my classroom. With support like that, I can still accomplish a lot with my students. There are still those out there that don’t understand or like my methods, but that’s okay. As long as I see results, I know I am doing right by my students.
My five classroom resolutions are not difficult to accomplish. I just need to continuously remind myself about them, and devote time to them happen. I know that the extra effort will pay off. What are your classroom resolutions? I’d love to hear what you are aiming to accomplish in 2015! Happy New Year!