Thursday, June 11, 2015

Year Three Comes to a Close

Two days ago I pulled into our driveway and felt the true feeling of satisfaction come to land in my soul. The 70-mile trip from school was relaxing. but it took the friendly sight of home to hasten reality. I felt like a marathon runner who just completed his 26+ miles in record time, a bit exhausted, a little overwhelmed, and a lot relieved. Throughout the race there were special memories based on interactions with students, faculty, parents, and members of the community, but home is where the heart is, a place to relax, rejuvenate, and yes, reflect.

Reflection is something everyone should allocate time to do. I require my students to do it several times each school year, mostly by writing in response to prompts based on specific lessons. It requires some 'quiet time' to reach back and let the inner voice come forward, challenging one's self to explore beliefs, ideas, and potential consequences. During my time in the business world I once set time aside just to think of the many benefits associated with reflection, Sometimes it can overwhelm you, much like opening Pandora's box and releasing all the evils into the world. Reflection is often best kept to oneself, if only to mark the point on the life trail you're currently experiencing.

Since I returned to the classroom five years ago, I've made every attempt to block time on my calendar for personal reflections on teaching and experiences taken from my classroom. Little did I ever think that this blog would live beyond the four-month life-cycle as was assigned by Jeff Boyer, my Education Technology professor at UW-SP. Yesterday I discovered our original class Wiki from that class, anticipating that I'd find updated blogs being maintained by 70+ former classmates. To my surprise, it was like walking through a ghost town.....every blog (which the exception of my own) had ended with a December 2010 final entry. All their contemplations lost in the past and no one reflecting on their present experiences with teaching young people. It was not only disappointing, but represented how educators can sometimes error in their ways by choosing to pass on reflection.

Last fall the State of Wisconsin instituted "Educator Effectiveness" in an attempt to evaluate teachers on performance inside the classroom. For fellow teachers the concept is new and sometimes overwhelming, but in many ways it represents a means to hold individuals accountable for student performance. Some educators feel threatened by the process, thinking that they will be outed for poor student outcomes, but for myself I see it as long overdue. In business we called this "Employee Evaluation"...a chance for honest and open dialog between management and employee.

On the lighter side, sometimes the best (and most honest) evaluations are offered up by students. Once again I provided time on our final day of school, asking freshmen to write a letter to next year's incoming class, with words of advice and reflections on their teacher, Mr. D. As always, they were a hoot to read....
When I came into this room I found what I thought was the school's oldest teacher and told myself this was going to be a long, boring semester. It was just the opposite. Mr. D is the best teacher in this school and he makes this class not only interesting, but very enjoyable too. I learned a lot so be nice to him!
Mr. D is by far the BEST teacher here, and he goes out of his way to help students. Take it from me....I almost waited too long, and I wish I could start fresh all over again. I'll miss this class.
Put your phone away as this teacher means what he says. No texting means just that or else he'll take it away. He's not like all the other teachers and wants you to succeed.

It's always good to receive a compliment from an administrator or parent, but it's really the kids who can tell you when you've made a true difference in their lives. Yes, it was a very good year!