Well it is the time of the semester when deadlines are set and people start talking about not having time and how busy they are.
The 'R' word is mentioned with either a groan or a number of how many are done or have to be done.
Over my years of teaching in many different settings I have experienced the same thing.
It makes me think . . . WHY?
As teachers we are reflecting on the learning of our students, celebrating their achievements, big and small. Giving messages to parents about their child. The little people they worry about, they anxiously wonder if their child is doing ok; sometimes holding their breath, waiting for 'news'. No report should hold surprises, parents should be well informed,but still there are nervous moments before the report is read.
Lets stop for a minute. Lets think about the report.
We plan, we teach, we assess, we talk to each student, we give feedback, we feedforward for students to set goals and the improve their learning and understanding.
The natural progression is that we report to parents.
So what is that causes the stress?
Is it the format? What are reporting on?
Are we really giving a message that talks about each student and the achievements they have made?
Reports are not a surprise.
We know now we will be writing reports in June, and again next November/December.
For me, talking about my students is something I love!
Thinking about what they have achieved, the confidence they have when they share their thinking, or the way they respond when they answer questions and share their thinking. Remembering the goals they have achieved and how they have built one achievement on top of another. Thinking about the smile of satisfaction when they realise they finally understand something that has required them to think, practise, research, ask and think!
Thinking of report writing as an opportunity to celebrate each student and their individual achievements as a message to the people who wait eagerly at home - wondering - are they doing ok?
I would love to say to the parents of my students . . .
"Of course they are, 'cause if not you and I would have had many conversations before now.
I care about you child. I spend hours with them everyday. If there is a problem, know I worry about your child, I think about them day and night. I love their little conversations, I keep their little drawings and messages.
There is NO way the first time you will hear about a problem is when you open the big yellow envelope, the one that sums up the last 5 months of school your child.
Parents please know I am in this WITH you for YOUR child, the report celebrates where your child is at, but please remember you child is so much more than letters, numbers and words.
Celebrate learning, celebrate understanding and keep the journey going. Reporting is a great opportunity to CELEBRATE.
Through inquiry we make sense of the world we live in.
Through inquiry we get our students thinking more of the time.
We talk less, students ask more questions, relationships are vital and we use challenging and authentic resources to support inquiries.
Thinking about reading brings me to my thinking.
In a conversation with a colleague, a comment was made 'I don't have time to let them "just read" - if I don't have a reason for it then there just much time.'
Well this got me thinking, in fact I made no comment at the time but I keep going back to the comment in my mind.
If we are value reading, encouraging reading and challenging students to read then how can we not place value on the time we give students to read. Reading for pleasure is not wrong! we want students to enjoy reading, to engage with a text for the sheer pleasure of reading the book. I know it is a time juggling game in every class. 'How do we balance time for reading with everything else?'
If the learning outcome is to improve the ability to read then students need to read, and if not with pleasure I challenge why? To improve at most things you need practise as well as support, advice and more practise.
So while we teach reading using challenging authentic texts that connect to inquiry and give content and context we also need to value the time given for students to read.
One group of Grade 3's told me yesterday just being able to read is the best part of the day 'cause in this class reading is important! Naturally I thought this was great so I wanted to know more.
When I asked what they meant by 'just being able to read' they explained that having time to read the books they liked helped them.
So being me I challenged that further . . .
The first student said 'well I like reading fact books and when we can read on our own I learn so much about the things that interest me, and I can share that with my family and friends and maybe it will connect to other things in the class, and if not I can just read more to find out more.'
The second student said ' I am a slow reader because I imagine pictures in my head and create the setting and I make the voices what I think the character sounds like while I read. I imagine all sorts of things and sometimes I need the dictionary or thesaurus so I can understand the words but that is great cause I use the words later when I am writing. It helps me to make my own stories when I write.'
Finally the last boy said ' well I like the graphic novels and magazines, I like to draw and I love the pictures, for me reading is cool, I see the way they make the characters talk and I try to make books and stories like that myself. I really have to look at the pictures to know what is happening and I know that if they don't have the details in the image then the story doesn't work. I have books like this at home and some from the library, but we have cool ones in class - oh and I love sharing reading with my friends - we get really excited and sometimes we 'play' the stories later - you know outside.'
I need no more justification (not that I was looking for any) to let my students read, read for pleasure the books they want to read. My challenge is now making sure that I take the time to have the conversations about what they read and why, if they want to share with me.
At the same time we will continue to read authentic relevant connected text as we inquire our way through Grade 3, but with more confidence and belief in ourselves as readers who have a voice and are connected to reading.
Reflecting and trying to move forward with approaches to teaching, being aware of student needs and meeting the program requirements in a way that is balanced and dynamic is something that I challenge myself with continually.
Today I watched a video on youtube that was a timely reminder that teacher attitudes, expectations and classroom management are are closely linked. "Dear Teacher ... "
I wonder what my students would say to me . . . ?
Do you ever wonder that?
Not all our students are the same, we know that.
They don't all have the same needs, we get that.
We know need to individualise and support students to see that we will give them what they need and will support them in their learning.
Fair or equal doesn't mean the same for all, I get that.
I know these things and I believe these to be true. I work to build a supportive classroom culture as much as I can. I work to build positive relationships with my students AND their parents. BUT is there more?
How can I make a difference that is going to inspire, encourage and challenge my students.
The challenge is time to listen to each individual.
The challenge is to ensure each voice is heard and each need is met.
There are so many challenges and they are constantly changing but that is the AMAZING part of being a teacher.
The joy you get when a child smiles, or the student who never responds asks a question or answers one. The student who sits at the back starts to move closer to see what is happening because somehow today you have managed to make them curious, interested and not worried about what others think.
All these challenges are what keeps me loving being a teacher.
The funny moments when a student makes you giggle, the huge smile when they 'get it' now, the tears of frustration cause they really want to 'get it' and they are not quite there - YET.
I am reflecting on the student voice in this video . . .
How do we empower our students to have a voice?
How to I respond?
Often there are no words needed.
Being aware of each student, not just their learning - but knowing them, thinking about them as people, working out what works for them - today . . . have empathy, demonstrate understanding. Be THAT teacher. Create a safe environment to empower students to share ideas and thoughts; to follow their passion, to demonstrate understanding and to feel they are valued.
Teaching in an IBPYP school; interests: student agency, technology integration, growth mindset & the continuous cycle of improvement that is the world of education, learning and being!