How I Teach Writing

How I Teach Writing

I used to teach writing like everyone else.

I would

  • pick a writing form
  • break it down into steps
  • focus on the process of how to write within a form
  • repeat this for a few weeks
  • have students write within that form
  • evaluate their work to see if they could write in the form

Honestly, it worked. I was able to get my assessment data and cover my curriculum.

But…it was boring and my students were less than engaged. Especially those students that had no interest in writing in their form.

Their creativity was gone, stifled, and hidden underneath a bunch of systems and rules that had to be followed. Robot writers were being created.

However, writing is personal. For anyone who had ever written outside of the confines of school can tell you writing is a creative and personal process.

You pour yourself out onto paper and take risks to share your ideas with others.

So why then as teachers do we take this out of writing to focus on covering the various forms of writing instead of simply letting kids write and experimenting with different writing forms?

Just because it is how it has been done in the past doesn’t mean that it needs to be done like that forever.

We do it because it is easy, linear, and allows us to teach from a checklist of expectations. Its better for us as teachers, but is it better for students?

I changed how I teach writing 4 years ago.

Faced with a group of boys who refused to write for the previous year, and coming from a feeling that my writing program was hitting expectations but I was spending more time pleading with students to write anything instead of helping them to write better, I looked for an alternative.

Writing Needs To Be Student-Centred

For so long teaching writing has been focused on what the teacher wants to do and what the teacher needs students to do.

This is not student-centred.

Since writing is so personal, we need to give our students more autonomy over what they write. The more autonomy we can give the more engaged students are and the less we need to worry about managing their behaviour.

So what can we do?

Instead of focusing on specific forms of writing such as an adventure story or fable look at more general forms of writing including

  • Narrative
  • Expository
  • Persuasive
  • Descriptive.

Allow students to choose to write anything within these general forms of writing.

You can brainstorm different genres of writing the fit under each umbrella of writing forms but the flexibility to write here is important.

Junior students (grades 4-6) are just beginning to find their voice as writers. This is a time of great importance because we can shape how they feel about themselves as writers.

I am quickly approaching 40…I am not the best person to decide what a 9-11-year-old is interested in. They are fascinated with bottle flipping, spinning toys, codable robots, weird arm-swinging dance moves and video games that make absolutely no sense to me.

How could I possibly know them better than they know themselves? Do I really know what topics will excite them tomorrow?

Moreover, with our class sizes ballooning above 30 students with an increasing number of unsupported special education needs, what works and engages one student will not work for another.

So the keys to my writing program here are

  1. Allow students to choose what they write
  2. Use choice boards to help them narrow down on topics across these four general categories.
  3. Using student-teacher writing conferences with students to talk about each student’s individual next steps as a writer.
  4. Focus on developing each student’s individual voice as a writer
  5. Build writing confidence through consistent feedback cycles

Writing Needs To Focus On The Writing Process

In the Ontario Language Curriculum, there are 13 expectations that focus on the writing process, not including spelling and grammar skills.

There is only one that mentions specific writing genres. However, it is not the expectation that states these forms it is the example text that follows the expectation.

Examples are not our curriculum.

I know that many instructional coaches and leaders over the years have provided lists of all the different forms we should cover at each grade level. I would agree that these are great forms to explore cross strand through oral texts, read alouds, modelled and shared writing task by looking at the various elements,

However, they should not serve as our limitations that restrict student creativity and exploration of their skills as writers.

I would argue that these forms should be taught and encouraged but not be mandated writing forms or used to restrict students in their ability to write authentic texts.

The focus on the curriculum is much more on the process of writing and steps writers take to write.

Focusing on this major element of the curriculum will be far easier to differentiate and allow teachers to be responsive to student needs than simply commanding that all students write a fairytale.

Focus on developing skills that follow the writing process instead teach them how to write instead of what to write.

Focus on:

  1. Brainstorming and generating ideas – for students who are not used to having this type of control over their own learning this is initially very hard for them. Teach them how to dump out their ideas onto a page in no particular order.
  2. Organizing Ideas – this is a hard one for students because sometimes they just want to write down the story. However, the key to a good piece of writing is a plan. This organizational planning step is universal for every form of writing. How you plan and organize your writing will change depending on your purpose for writing. But instead of walking students down this path, and telling them what to use and how. I feel that giving them a purpose for discovering this is far more meaningful. It also helps them to apply this skill to all areas of writing. We want students to have a method and organization tool to use when writing. Allowing them to know and select the best tool from their toolbox to write more successfully is a far better skill.
  3. Drafting – Too many kids are worried about their ability to spell words correctly the first time and this fear will often prevent them from trying. The last thing I want as a teacher is for a student with great ideas and a strong voice to believe that they are not a good writer just because they can’t spell. Being a good writer and being a good speller are two different skills. The purpose of drafting is to get your ideas down on paper.
  4. Editing and Revising – This step is key to getting students to fix their spelling and grammar errors. They need to know what to look for and fix these. Combined with explicit lessons on spelling and grammar rules students will learn to be better editors themselves. Spelling and grammar are best learned in context. What better context than their own spelling and grammar errors.
  5. Finally, there is publishing. In this final stage, I believe that it is important to recognize that not every piece of writing is worthy of being published. Some are simply not worthy. Allowing students to look at their body of work and select only their best work to be published allows students to think critically about what they have learned as writers and to choose samples of this growth.

Students Need More Time For Mastery

I used to think that teaching a form of writing would take me 6 weeks.

I now realize that writing takes more time.

Students need to write every day….every day! They need to write for a significant amount of time each day too. According to the guides to effective instruction, this means that students should be writing up to 30min a day.

Teaching writing is a slow burn from the beginning of the year to the end.

I let my students make small baby steps with gradual improvement from one draft to the next. We look at where they start and then what they will do next to improve.

Slowly students will gain the confidence as writers as they believe in themselves to do more of what they are capable of.

Everyone can write and everyone has something to say. It is my job as the teacher to focus on each students strengths as a writer to help them improve areas of weakness.

Each student will be different in what they need and what they are stong with. They can learn from me, learn from peers, and learn from experience.

Validating their voice is key to engagement in writing. Students will do more of what they feel they are successful in. They will work hard to achieve their goals. Many times they just need a cheerleader in their corner cheering them on.

  1. Meet with students regularly to discuss their strengths and needs as writers. Provide timely feedback that supports and guides them towards their next steps as writers.
  2. Have high expectations and a belief that your students can do hard things and you will be there along the way but you believe deep in their soul they have the potential to be amazing writers. Some will need permission to fail (even though they won’t), others will need a push to do more, some will need a soft place to land full of encouragement, some will need failure before growth and some will need a clear target to hit. You as the teacher will determine what each student needs from you to move ahead.
  3. Focus on the process, not the product – worry less about which forms they write in and focus more on the path they take to get there. Allow students to experiment with different forms and push and guide them along the way.
  4. Expose students to different writing forms through modelled and shared reading, oral language, and media texts. Identify the features of these texts, analyze them, replicate these in shared writing activities. Remember students simply have to write in a variety of forms, but the exact forms that they should write are not prescribed in the curriculum. Stick to a wide variety of specific forms within the four categories I mentioned above. Allow students the freedom and flexibility to choose a form within these categories that best suit their style as a writer. Let them hop back and forth between forms and build on one skill over time.
  5. Use a spiralled approach to your literacy program. Revisit topics over time. Link ideas together cross strand so that students can see the connection between reading, writing, oral language and media.

So in summary…

Stop being the only one who decides what students should do during writing time. Instead, allow students to choose what they write about so that they can develop their own personal voice as a writer and embed their interests and personality into what they write.

Stop focusing on specific writing forms and start focusing more on the process of writing.

Stop expecting students to master writing skills in short windows of time. Instead, look at building small areas of skill growth over time.

Wondering where to even get started with how to plan out your language arts program that embeds students voice and choice, focuses on the process of writing and allows students to master skills through a spiralled approach? Sign up for my free training or check out the program.

Student Goal Boards

Student Goal Boards

What is a goal board?

A colourful picture of a classroom bulletin board that has student writing goals on it.  Writing goals are organized into categories that align with the writing process.  This would be used in Ignited Literacy or with Writer's Workshop.

It is a visual guide used for students that helps them keep track of what their individual goals are for a particular subject area.

On and off I have used goal board in my classroom. I first started using goal boards with Daily 5 and Cafe but quickly realized that what they presented just didn’t really fit with how I was teaching. It was like fitting a square peg into a round hole. It was good but just not right.

I have had student groups that have used it and student groups that have not.

As I move through the year with my students I realize that setting clear goals and making path to achieve these goals will be paramount to helping the achieve success.

So a goal board will be going up in my classroom very soon to help my students set and acheive goals.

Where are goal boards used?

Goal boards can be used in any subject matter but I do think that it is important to start small and stick with one subject area. This then can be moved into other curriculum areas as students are ready and get the hang of the whole process.

For my classroom I will be beginning with a goal board for writing. This is a huge focus of student voice and choice in my classroom and an area where students can begin to take on more ownership of their own learning. Together we have conferenced many times about their previous writing samples so they are familiar with where they need to go and what they need to do.

Why the goal board then?

Well the specific purpose of this is to make learning visible and to have a visible board that serves to hold students accountable and keep students organized.

If you have students that are

  • visual learners
  • struggle with organization
  • have executive functioning difficulties
  • struggle to respond to feedback to make improvements
  • want more autonomy and control over their learning

If you as a teacher want

  • your students to keep track of their own learning
  • students to be responsible for their own learning and progress
  • a simple visual way to track students (status of the class)
  • to show student voice and choice in your classroom
  • to not be the only one tracking all the data in your classroom

Yep that is exactly what I want and need. You?

What do you need to get started?

To make a goal board you need some of the following materials.

  1. bulletin board space or a tri-fold board
  2. coloured paper
  3. printer
  4. sticky notes

1st Choose your subject area.

I have picked writing as a good place to start.

Now look at different categories that students can work on within this subject area.

Math: Solving Problems, Choosing Strategies, Computational. If you follow the Ontario curriculum using the process expectations here would be great categories to follow. They could be combined and reduced to 4-5 categories as goal areas. Alternatively you could select the 4 most needed areas for students to focus on.

Science and Social Studies: Look at the overall expectations of your curriculum or the big ideas. These will be great goal areas or areas to focus on for a goal board. Alternatively you could use the categories of the achievement chart that include Knowledge and Understanding, Thinking, Communication, and Application.

Language: You can look at writing goals such breaking apart the writing process into sections and have students focus on one area specifically of the writing process. For reading you can look at areas such as fluency, decoding, and comprehension.

Use I Can Statements

For each of your goal categories, you will want to put them in student-friendly language.

Using I can statements to frame your specific goals will help to make these relevant to your students.

Think like a students and try to avoid teacher-speak. Unless you have made teachery phrases part of the language of your classroom then you should avoid putting these on the goal cards.

Track Student Progress

So you post the goal board and students look at it once and never again…

This is what I try to avoid. If I am putting it up then I want it to be used because I feel that it will be valuable.

So how do I do that?

It starts with routine. For a while now I will conference bi-weekly with students on what they are writing. Before they conference with me they fill out a feedback form. This form asks them for their goal. So in part they have been making goals all along. But this hasn’t been a focus.

With the goal board, we will physically identify which goal they are working on. We use a marker, like a sticky note, magnet, etc. that has the students name on it. This name card will go next to the goal that that student is working on. If you are lacking horizontal space this can also be done by putting an area below your goal cards for students to put their name. This will signal which of the goal areas they are focusing on instead of the individual goal card.

Ready to make your own?

Are you ready to try a goal board in your classroom?

If you would like to try the pre-made one that I have for my Ignited Literacy Language Program you can find that here

https://www.madlylearning.com/goalboard

Helping Students Solve Math Problems

Helping Students Solve Math Problems

Are your students struggling to understand, work through and correctly solve word problems? Does the method you are currently using fall short of actually finishing the problem or only get your students to understand parts of the problem but not actually how to solve it.

This was the problem that I was facing with my students.

There are many problem-solving strategies out there but I found that they simply dealt with comprehending the problem.   Sort of like a finding Waldo within a word problem.  But one of the biggest problems was not finding the information but in communicating ideas and making a plan on how to solve the problem.  I needed more than simply circle….underline…and box some words inside a word problem.

Circle the Question

This is a key step was defining what the actual problem was and what it was asking a student to do.  This step was still important to me as I wanted students to understand what the question was asking them to do.

Hunt for the Clues

Unlike previous strategies I had used, I didn’t want students just to look for specific things within the story I wanted them to pull them out and list these out.  Moving beyond keyword hunts and other shortcut strategies.  I didn’t want students to just memorize the patterns that most problems follow but I wanted them to think critically about the facts that were presented inside the question.

This is also important as you begin to add irrelevant details to the questions being asked.

When real life problems are presented they are ways so nicely organized in a way that can be easily solved by looking for key words on a nice neat package.

Now this is where most solutions finish.

Assemble An Action Plan

One of the biggest difficulties is not identifying the first two steps but that students don’t know how to choose a strategy or make an action plan.

In this stage student combine two things.

First they need to ask themselves a few questions.

– How will the facts help me answer the question

– What do I not know

– What do I need to do first…second…etc

– What strategy do I need to use

I often find students get easily overwhelmed thinking they need to do everything at once. I often ask them “If you had a pool party would you grab a sandwich and jump in the pool at the same time?” This idea grosses them out. This works for this example. Students need to realize that there be multiple steps to solving a problem and that they should do these things one at a time.

It is important for them to make a plan of action to solve the problem one step at a time.

Solve the Problem

Another decision they need to make is how they will solve it.

Clearly and explicitly showing students different ways to solve problems is important to help them better understand strategies to use when solving problems.

  • Students will choose what operation to use
  • Students will also have to decide which strategy or algorithm they will use.
  • Finally students will need to show

This is also the time where the dreaded debate with students on showing work. This year I am not using the phrase “show your work” instead I am using “make your thinking visible”. I am finding that this is helping students to realize that I want all of the great math being done in their heads somehow represented or explained on paper.

Justify Your Answer

Finally students will summarize what they have done and answer the word problem by explaining what their answer is in the context of the problem.

This is a statement of their answer using the keywords from the question.

I use this strategy regularly in my classroom with students to remind them of the steps they can follow when solving a problem.

Want to try it for yourself?

Try it here

How to Track Student Assessment

How to Track Student Assessment

There are so many ways to track student learning.

But the goal here is that you have to do it.

That is true my the hardest part. To get it out of my head and on to paper (even digital paper) where I can manipulate the data and make it make sense to me.

If we are using an inquiry approach, we may have moved beyond the pencil and paper assessment as the final culminating task. But we still need a definitive way to track learning.

So here are a few tips that help me to keep on top of assessment.

Old School Paper

Yep it’s true I know that many of you know that I have a love-hate relationship with paper but it is often still my go to …. quick grab that to jot down some info at the moment… type assessment paper.

I have many different ways that I layout my assessment pages depending on what I need.

  • Checklist
  • Checklist with note space
  • Anecdotal Note box
  • Seating plan notes
  • Conferenceforms

Except for this year (since I returned mid-year)  I am always behind the eight ball. I usually have these copied and ready to go easily accessible whenever I need them.

I also have one of those compartment clipboards that has storage, and this is great for tossing assessment pages into so that I can eventually import them into digital when I’m ready.

Want to take a look at my tracking pages?   Here —> Inquiry Assessment Notes

Or see my class list examples here —>  BLANK Classroom assessment pages

Keeping It Digital

I lose everything…because I am forgetful and in 10 years cannot for the life of me find a system that keeps all my paper organized in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me. So I keep it all digital.

  • I take photos
  • I do quick exit checks
  • I have students self-assess. I snap a class picture with their fingers up.
  • I jot notes
  • Writing reflections
  • I take photos of conference forms (because sometimes my students lose them)

Feedback

Feedback is an integral form of assessment.

With all assessment, it must go together with feedback. Assessment without it is pointless.

It also has to be feedback that allows students to respond to it so that they can make improvements.

For this, I go back to paper.

Conference Forms – students fill out conference forms with me after they are done writing a draft. I have done this both digitally and in written form. Students self-reflect on what they need to work on before they begin to talk with me. Feedback is the one crucial thing that has the most significant impact on student growth. It is the feedback loop at the end of an assessment.

Digital Student Self Evaluation Writing Survey

Get a copy of my digital student writing self-evaluation form here ->

Labels: if you find and order the large Avery labels of 6-10 labels on a page you can use Microsoft word to make labels with rubrics on them. Just a single point checkbric that allows you to give a quick assessment.

I mark all the work right there on the label page fill them out, photocopy the label page with the marks recorded then peel them out and attach them in each book. (I also take a photo of this page for when I lose it)

Home School Communication

So this is a big one

Parents seem to like knowing how their child is doing.

Feedback conference forms and the labels are helpful to keep parents in the loop

So I use a classroom blog. Now I don’t blog every day,but I do try to keep it updated most of the time.

One of the key ways I do this is to use an email service provider like mail chimp or MailerLite to automatically send all of my blog posts directly to the email of my parents. It is set up to use it like remind. All of my posts are pushed out to parents at 4 pm on school days.

I know that this is t technically assessment but keeping parents informed of the assessment you are doing help to keep them better prepared and informed if they choose to be.

30+ Projects Your Students Will Love.

30+ Projects Your Students Will Love.

 

A good project is engaging, relevant, and fun for students to share their learning.

Projects are an excellent way for students to share their learning with others.

If you are using an inquiry approach embedding choice is essential into this final project is vital.

  • Let them choose individually
  • Let them decide as a group
  • Give them a choice of the content and scope of their project.

The more you involve them and make it their own idea the more engagement you will receive.

But sometimes we want an idea of different types of projects that our students can do to share their learning.

Here are the tips five different types of projects that students can try to share their learning at the end of their inquiry.

Make Something

So many things we teach lends itself to getting students to make something. Adding in opportunities for hands-on learning is a great way to add some much-needed differentiation to your classroom.

  • Dioramas: These are oldies but goodies. Each year I always have some students choose this one. Dioramas are especially useful for creating habitats or creating a historical scene like in our First Nations and explorers unit, or ancient civilizations.
  • Prototypes/models: Any engineering unit leads well into creating models or prototypes to show how something works. In my classroom we make bridges, and buildings out of popsicle sticks and LEGO machines to show pulleys and gears.
  • Board Games: These are great to review concepts. Student generates questions can give you a great insight into their thinking.
  • Flag or Coat of Arms: History is full of historical figures. So looking at who they are and generating symbols and works that represent their personality or contribution to the history being studied can be a valuable way for students to apply what they have learned.
  • Map/ Treasure Hunt: for anything that relies on a geographic understanding such as land regions or location of different civilizations a map or treasure hunt is an excellent tool for students to show what they know.
  • Vocabulary Quilt: this is a great activity when what students are learning about is full of new vocabulary words that are key to their understanding of the topic. For topics such as rocks and minerals, students have plenty of critical vocabulary they can draw from to make a quilt that shows their learning.
  • Invention: sometimes in science students need to solve problems. With activities such as in the light and sound unit, students can get their creative juices flowing to invent a solution to an everyday problem

Demonstrate It

Sometimes students need just to explain it.

  • Experiments: This is a great way to show you that they learned something.  Think of this as a science fair project.  Students can demonstrate what they learned by showing you how something works. 
  • Drama: Telling a story or explaining a concept using drama is a great way to teach a difficult concept creatively.
  • Role Play: Historical events can be represented by students taking on their persona and speaking using their voice.  Although this doesn’t work for some historical events and cultural sensitivity needs to be considered.  Using this with ancient civilizations or in science with concepts like animals, habitats, and rocks and minerals work well to speak about something from the perspective of the object.
  • Debate: teaching government this is a crucial strategy that can be used to look at two different sides of an issue.  I can use this to discuss decision making, the charter of rights and freedoms and various pros and cons of political parties.
  • Conference: Sometimes the most valuable way to gather data with students is to conference with them.  It is as simple as them telling you what they know.  You can structure it like an interview or even a conversation.

Teach Others

Presentations / Posters: there may be another go to the final project. One that others will quickly volunteer to complete. It also might be the big one that students get their parents to do with them.

I still love this but try to use more digital tools instead of paper and pencil.

  • Show and Share: allow students to share what they have learned in a show and tell format. Each student uses an artefact that tells them a story and allows them to talk about how the object represents their learning. Objects can be collected, citrates and displayed as a classroom museum. 
  • Advertisements: Need to add some media literacy to your projects then this one is a good one to use.
  • Assembly: I have only done this with one group, but it was pretty convincing. Students used other ideas from this list and combined them to create an assembly for our school to share with them how to conserve energy. This assembly was a tremendous student-generated experience that allowed them to share their ideas with a broad audience.
  • Tour Guide: Imagine that students had to walk someone through a concept or environment.  Students can tour others through a historical event or environment.  A tour guide would work well for topics such as ancient civilizations, a story or novel study, or science topics like light, sound, human body or habitats.
  • News Report: With a lot of topics asking for students to report on and provide their opinion with a news report is a great way to share their ideas.  For any issues that ask them to report on specific events, students can present this information in a news report format.
  • Podcast/ Radio: Similarly to a news report students can use an interview format to record a podcast or radio show to explain different concepts like issues in government, historical leaders, or science concepts.

Digital

Here’s were taking a risk as a teacher has a big one.  Some teachers are not digital natives.  Our students may be much handier and knowledgeable about how to use the digital tools at their fingerprint tips to share what they have learned.

For teachers who may not have the technical skill or familiarity of digital platforms, allowing students to explore this avenue for the final project is a good idea.  Although it is often extraordinarily intimidating and may or may lead to teachers avoiding this as an option for students to explore, I would highly recommend you throw caution to the wind and allow students to teach you something.

Digital tools can be a powerful way for students to share their learning.

  • Website: Many free platforms will enable students to create a website or blog. And there are also just as many tutorials that are designed to help students with how this can be done. Students can write and create a site on blogger or Weebly pretty easily that can act as a platform for them to show their knowledge
  • Video: This is always my go too digital project. It allows students to show what they know to explain their thinking quickly and easily. It is an easy way to grab a presentation but in a way that doesn’t eat a tremendous amount of class time.
  • Kahoot / Quiz: why not take your quiz digital. Use google forms or kahoot and get students to share what they know by making a digital quiz.
  • Social Media Profile: like a biography but modernized. Students can create a Facebook profile, an Instagram feed or twitter feed that represents a person or concept. If we think of a social media feed as capturing a moment in our lives in a curated way, then a social media feed will fit into many history, science, or language projects.
  • Walking Tour Plan: what to know what a place looks like but cannot go. This is a great time to use the tech at our fingers to explore more areas through the use of google classroom. When I worked as an ESL teacher google street view was my best friend as we explored our community and the vocabulary around them through our virtual walking tours around our neighbourhood.
  • Explainer Video: Ever have a concept that can be explained using a how-to video. These explainer videos are an excellent way for students to teach and explain different ideas to others. Math and science are great subjects to explore these concepts as students can film themselves completing their work and telling how it was done and why.
  • Interview: using tech to record an interview with each other of others about their crucial knowledge. They can share what they have learned by interviewing and videoing a partner to show what they know about any and every subject and topic area.

Application / Integration

For these types of projects why not try integrating multiple subjects into one project.

In this way, we can work smarter not harder.

I get multiple forms of assessment with one project.

  • Write a story: sometimes the things we learned in science and history follow the pattern of a story with events happening with a beginning middle and end. Students can take events from history and retell them in the form of a story with vital historical people as main characters of the event.  They can embed as many facts and details as they can into their work.  Additionally in science students can tell a story to explain how things work telling the story of how the blood travels through the human body is one exciting way that I’ve had students use this form of a project to demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Art: for many of our students their strengths lie in the artistic expression.  Open-ended products that allow students to demonstrate their learning through their creativity creates new avenues that are not traditionally explored. Final projects  in the art also mean that you can add more substance to your art time that moves up beyond free time for students
  • Biography: there many times in history or sure people play pickle rolls, and her understanding of historical events having students apply what they have learned about these individuals by writing a biography integrates many writing expectations and social studies lessons in an authentic way.
  • Play: sometimes we have very imagined of students in our class who are continually using their free Playtime engaged and imaginative play capture the strength and students by allowing them to explore scientific principles and historical events through dramatization.
  • Dance: although I put this as an option for many of my students I always wonder if anyone will try it but almost every time at least once a year a student will write a song a wrap and put it to dance to present the information they’ve learned in math science or social studies. The thing with surprises me the most each time it happens is it it’s not for the students I would expect to choose dance as a platform for the final project.

These are just some of the many projects your students can choose.

Instead of choosing what your students complete why not open it up to them to decide how they would like to show their learning.

Or if that is just a bit too much freedom choose one idea from each section above and present it as an option.

5 Reasons Why I Am Not A Perfect Teacher and Why That Is Okay

5 Reasons Why I Am Not A Perfect Teacher and Why That Is Okay

Why are you here?

Why are you reading this blog?

I’m not a perfect teacher…I try… but I am far from perfect.

You probably came here because you were looking for ideas perhaps on teaching a split grade or using Inquiry or for many other reasons.

Sometimes I hear it in my comments section, or through private messages. Your thanks and appreciation you have for throwing my ideas out there. Giving you a place to turn when you are struggling. I am forever grateful for this blog and the ability to reach so many teachers.

But here’s the thing

I’m not a perfect teacher.

I have faults and things don’t always work out on paper. I started this blog as an outlet because there were not enough voices that represented me. I started on Tpt because people would ask for what would talk about on here. It helped to justify the hours I spent making my own things when the resources I was given lacked what I needed.

I have bad days. You know the days where another job looks really appealing.

I have days where I am so thankful there is a bottle of wine and a supportive hubby to hear me complain.

I want you to know I’m not perfect. And I struggle to get through the day.

So if you are too …know you are not alone.

Here are the five reasons why I’m less than perfect and why that’s okay.

I can’t spell

I am a horrible speller. Just ask anyone who edits my TPT products. I rush through it and second guess myself so many times.

I am so self conscious about making mistakes in my classroom with spelling because I am afraid of judgement.

“Oh my gawd she is a teacher and she cannot spell that word”

Yep I can’t but you know what.

I have gotten really good at compensating.

I use technology to help me. I depend on typed communication over hand written. I remake all of my anchor charts.

And with my students if I make a mistake I am honest with this imperfection and model for them how to look it up.

Another true confession I love capital letters too and put them everywhere don’t judge me.

I am forgetful

Sometimes I wish I was an elephant but sometimes I’m more like a goldfish.

I don’t always remember what day it is or that something is coming up. I will often forget to do my attendance.

It drives my hubby crazy.

I need to be better planned. It’s something I’m working on.

But until then I can just embrace the quotes “fake it until you make it” and “keep calm and pretend it’s on the lesson plan”

I set timers to remind me of things and write down things on a calendar when I remember to.

This may also be why I dislike papers. I can never remember where anything is. The most used feature on my computer is the search bar. I must live in the right era. Google is my friend, thank you to all the software engineers out there who have dedicated their life to making search find all the things effectively.

That reminds me I have a kids dentist appointment on Wednesday.

I don’t do details

If it were up to me my students probably would never leave the classroom to go on trips. The logistics of planning these types of details are just not my strength.

I am much better at ideas and planning activities than I am at filling out the forms and arranging the details.

In the classroom this sometimes means that I make many mistakes in terms of how something might work out. There is often a lot of trial and error here and I figure out what is going to work or not. This leads to some great outcomes and some not so great ones.

I fail on a regular basis.

But it’s okay. I am very fortunate that I work with an amazing group of teachers who just happen to be great at this. I found my people and we work together and focus on our strengths.

This way my students can go on trips and do some things I have the ideas for but perhaps not the follow through.

But I need all the details

For this reason I struggled with science and math as a high school student.

When learning new concepts I need to know everything about what I am learning. I don’t assume very well. Without the full and complete picture of how and why something works I struggle to accept the new concept.

Sometimes that means that with new strategies or concepts. I need to learn all about it before I try it.

This can hinder me from just doing something new. I will often cast a lot of doubt.

This impacted me in math as a student. I never knew why the algorithms work or how to skip steps. It just wasn’t clear. I was lucky to have two amazing math teachers who recognized this and worked with me to get me through math.

As a teacher this memory never left me and I use this to help me make sure that I recognize that some students need more.

So, I have had to learn to ask lots of questions and seek my own answers.

In the long run once I learn a concept I KNOW it and will share it with others. But getting there is a struggle.

I am easily distracted

I am distracted and often get lost doing something that is not always the most efficient.

I could fill out that PD organizer that I was given but instead I will remake it with some fancy fonts and borders.

I get distracted if all of the things I use don’t match. I will redo things over and over when I don’t have to.

In my classroom we can easily get sidetracked.

I may have a plan to get all the things done and follow my schedule but that doesn’t always happen.

But I have to give myself a break and realize that I don’t always have to get to everything all the time.

Having a timer on my watch and seeing emails as they come in helps me to not get too distracted but it. I see the notification and the subject but not the email. This means I can ignore non urgent emails and I don’t get stuck in the trap of my inbox.

Let’s be fair

We have so much to do in a day. We cannot get it all done all of the time.

I am distracted but is this always a bad thing?

Maybe being more flexible is okay

So I’m not perfect

But it’s okay the only one who perhaps expects that is me.

When I mess up chances are I am the only one who knows it

Or maybe not…but if I own it and ask for help then dealing with these imperfections gets easier. I can rely on the strengths of others and help them out.

Part of being a community means to help each other out.

I guess acceptance of my perfect imperfections is a great feelings. I own my faults they make me who I am and I can still be a good teacher despot of them.

What things do you do to compensate for areas where you are not perfect?

Tell me in the comments or add your ideas over on Facebook.