Adaptations in Education

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I found this Darwin quote while fumbling through Pinterest this past week and it got me thinking about my students. They come in to the sixth grade so young, so innocent, so dependent…that I wonder how they will ever be able to adapt to the immense changes they will face in their future. Every September, I tell my students “I don’t care where you are coming from or what you can or cannot do. I care about where you go from here and how far you push yourself to improve this year.” Throughout the year, I try to teach my students how to tackle not one specific book or poem or play, but how to be more independent learners. I want my students to be able to tackle any difficult text that they face in middle school, high school, and beyond. I want to teach my students how to teach themselves. I want to teach my students how to adapt to the world around them.

I’ve always been told that the best way to teach is to model the behavior you want your students to embody. And I wonder…am I able to adapt? During the 2013-2014 school year I will have to adapt to a new curriculum aligned to the Common Core Content Standards and the PARCC assessment, a new Student Information System that my school has adopted, the new STRONGE teacher evaluation system, and a myriad of technological advances and updates. Some of these things I am excited about, while some of them I am terrified of – but regardless, I will need to adapt. And not just next year, but every year. I will need to constantly change the way I teach because my students, education, and the world are constantly changing.

I think everyone is at least a little scared of change. In order to change, we must become vulnerable and we are open to failure. But every now and then, I meet uninspired teachers who are not just scared, but who are adamantly against change. They huff and puff and sigh and insist that it cannot be done! I started to think about myself as a teacher and the ways in which any teacher can adapt, if they are to survive and continue to be effective. This is what I’ve come up with:

1. Reflect
I’ve always been a firm believer in reflecting as a teacher. I not only reflect daily, monthly, and annually, but I reflect throughout the day. The way I teach my morning class could be the total opposite of how I teach the last class of the day, simply because the students are in a different mindset. If through reflection, you realize that something that worked last year, week, or period isn’t working anymore, then why use it?

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Summer Reflections

The poet, Carl Sandburg once wrote, “It is necessary … for a man to go away by himself … to sit on a rock … and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?”.  The end of the school year is always a vital time to reflect.  I usually spend the two summer months that I am not in school thinking about how my year has gone and what can be improved for the coming year. For example, I know that this summer, I will be fiddling with new ideas (and technology) that will help me to stay in contact with parents more frequently and more efficiently next year.  As teachers, we are lucky to have the time to reflect in between each academic year. Summer months rejuvenate,  inspire, and allow us to be better than our past selves. There are many ways that people choose to reflect on their year; here are a few of my favorites:

1. Enjoy some time off first.

This is something I struggled with during my first few summers off. I needed to fill my days with something, whether it be reading a new methodology book, reorganizing my binders and handouts, or even just going pin-crazy on Pinterest. I’ve since learned how very important it is to clear your head, relax, and separate yourself a bit from the year that has just ended. I feel you go into your reflections with a more open mind.

2. Define your current strengths and weakness.

When you have finally relaxed, think about where you stand as a teacher. Be proud of your accomplishments and your strengths, and be aware of your weaknesses. I find that from summer to summer these strengths and weaknesses are always changing and it is interesting to see what I still need to improve upon.

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