Getting better all the time (I hope)

Mostly on here I tell stories about successes or moments with kids. They’re more fun to write about and, I assume, more fun to read. (Though maybe not? No idea.) And some moments with students are either so ridiculous or so heartbreaking that I can’t not write about them.

But I don’t do a lot of reflection about ways in which I could improve – actually, scratch that. I reflect on that all.the.freaking.time, I just don’t write about it here much. I think it would probably be good for me, though. Put it out there, own it publicly, admit my mistakes, try to figure out how to get better. So I’m going to try to do that. I’m scared about this, because it’s outside of my comfort zone, but I ask kids to push past their comfort zones all the time so probably I better do it too.

Instructionally, I am not good enough at teaching grammar and conventions. I know they should be done in context, I know they’re super important, but it’s not what I’m as comfortable with or as interested in so it hasn’t happened thoroughly. I don’t do portfolios well – I kinda tried to start them this year but I didn’t have a clear vision and hadn’t thought it through. I haven’t figured out how to grade work (like essays) in a timely but also thoroughly completed fashion (god, this one kills me). Writing workshop I’m willing to believe is a rockin’ way to go but I’m not sure how to incorporate it.

So what am I doing about those? Well, my PLC-mate this year (the other 8th grade Language Arts teacher) is a grammar rock star so I’m hopeful I’ll learn a lot from her. I’m also considering a couple of books I’ve heard good things about: Mechanically Inclined and Everyday Editing, both by Jeff Anderson – AND they tie to writing workshop, which would also be good! Portfolios, I’m reading about them online and may also purchase Power and Portfolios (recommended by a few people I respect). The grading one….yeah, that one messes with me. I’m kind of hoping it’ll become less of an issue (maybe?) after I figure out how to really do writing workshop – I’ve got Nancie Atwell’s In the Middle which I’ve skimmed, but I’m more excited about Katie Wood Ray’s Study Driven. I’ve started it and I love it so far, so I look forward to getting further into it.

Are there other areas in which I could get better instructionally? Heck yeah. But I feel like four goals is enough for the moment.

Anyone have any other suggestions for how I can improve in those particular areas? Thoughts, suggestions, anything would be helpful!

(Photo credit to idomusic2)


Rachel said...

Oh hooray for Mechanically Inclined! Love that one; it is especially geared towards younger grades, so I think you will get a lot from it. I try to use his ideas but sometimes have to change the content/exercises to be a bit more advanced for 10th. Another one I used for structuring my writing workshop is Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide by Ralph Fletcher (a friend also recommends his Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook but I can't speak to that one).

You asked about my teaching grammar in context on my blog, so I will be posting on that today/tomorrow. :) Something I would recommend as far as worrying about grading - don't grade every single thing. Just don't. Let them peer edit one another. If you DO need to grade it, check for ONE thing. For instance: you taught a mini-lesson (in context) on subject-verb agreement this week and done some extra practice on it. Friday they write a little something, edit/revise it, and turn it in. Great. You check for subject-verb agreement ONLY. (sorry if you've heard this before) Saves you from A. Overwhelming them with too many corrections and B. Spending hours correcting each class.

...yikes, sorry for writing you a novel here!

teachin' said...

Never apologize for long comments - I love it, ESPECIALLY when they're helpful, like this one! :)

Thanks for the input. I've heard people say the whole "only grade one thing" but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. I keep wanting to point out when they do other stuff well (and when they don't) and then the time just gets sucked away. I'm practicing and I'm getting better but it still kicks my ass. Here's to improvements next year!

"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
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