With the end of the year and the beginning of another, it’s a time that naturally leads to reflection on the past and hopes for the future. This year has been a doozy- some amazing highs, devastating lows, and lots of learning and new experiences along the way. Here are some of our biggest lessons of the year:
The biggest personal life lesson I learned was… how unpredictable life can be.
Theresa- This summer I watched Inside Out. I was amazed by how beautiful and creative the movie was in its storytelling. In our house we’ve watched it countless times since with our toddler who had it in high rotation for a while. In reflecting on the year, this movie contains maybe the biggest personal lesson for me this year. The truth is that in life we experience the full range of emotions. I love what Amy Poehler said about some of her take-aways from her role as Joy, “It’s always a nice reminder that sadness can be your friend, that it can help you. It makes you think about what you’re thinking and it also reminds you that you never know what anybody’s thinking or going through or feeling. The way someone is acting often isn’t the way they’re feeling. And that’s a good reminder [to have] as a human person in the world. ” (source)
This year started with the excitement of getting married. Then, my professional world felt out of control as district changes turned my world upside down, and I had to go through a long period of uncertainty and disappointment before settling in to a very different role. The professional turmoil led to deep introspection and a range of emotions.
But the emotional roller coaster was just getting started. Within the space of a few months, my brother-in-law unexpectedly passed away, far too young. And then, one day shy of a month later, I held my wife’s hand as she delivered a beautiful baby boy. While I long for a “boring” year in 2016, this year has taught me the importance of being present in the moment, and understanding that whether things are amazing or awful, they are all part of life and you need to let yourself experience and honor them.
“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” – Aldous Huxley
The best (new) teaching strategy I tried was… Task Cards (and I’ve converted my entire teaching team too!)
Rachel- I learned that I needed task cards in my life and in my classroom. They are an amazing and versatile tool- with a minimal amount of prep I can have students do a variety of activities. I’d never used them in my math classroom before, but after a summer spent revamping teaching materials and reading about how other teachers were using them, I was excited to try them out. I instantly fell in love with them (is love too strong a word? I don’t care- I’m going with it!) I used them to play Scoot, to practice select problems with the whole class, as a sponge activity for cyclical review, and more. I wrote more about my experiences with task cards here and designing them with scaffolding built in for easy differentiating. I shared it with my math teaching colleagues at my school and now they all tell me that task cards are their gotta have it teaching strategy.
Task Cards can be used in any classroom, elementary or secondary. I’ve enjoyed using them for interactive teaching activities. However, my favorite feature of task cards is that I always have them on hand. They have saved my bacon a few times- when a test didn’t take as long as expected, I can simply pull out a ring of task cards and hand them to the fast finishers, and they are happily off to the races. Or when there’s another random amount of free time, I select a few cards and put them under the document camera for the whole class and wha-la! a great sponge activity with students getting good review.
First-time experience this year… Joining Teachers Pay Teachers as a seller this summer
Rachel- After spending a few years as a buyer on Teachers Pay Teachers, this summer Theresa and I took the plunge and opened our own storefront. We submerged ourselves into learning everything we could about the community of TPT, the buyers on TPT and what they need/want, and how to take our classroom tested approaches and create high quality products that would be beneficial for other teachers and their students. I’ve learned that this is a community of dedicated and generous professionals and am proud to be a part of them. I have learned so much about the technical aspects of preparing downloads for TPT. I’ve gotten even more proficient with PowerPoint which is a great tool for teachers preparing The biggest challenge for me has been translating what’s in my head onto things on a page that other teachers can understand and use.
The best outcome of this step outside of my comfort zone is that being more involved with TPT has actually improved my teaching overall. I feel I’ve grown so much as an educator throughout this journey, and it has been so rewarding to hear from other teachers who are being successful using my ideas and resources with their own students.
Lessons learned about teaching this year… improving time management by getting serious about work flow
Theresa– time is precious. I’ve learned the importance of using templates to streamline work flow. For example, I send a weekly teaching tip to teachers using an already created template and email list. I simply need to add the new tip of the week and a visual to accompany it and I’ve got a great reminder for teachers without spending a whole bunch of time. This has been so successful that I’m already looking at upcoming tasks and trying to figure out how to use templates or other pre-done work to streamline my work. It’s worth it to spend a little bit more time up front to gain minutes and even hours down the road.
Great teaching resource I discovered this year… Battling Boredom: 99 Strategies to Spark Student Engagement by Bryan Harris
Rachel- This book has been an amazing resource this year to give a little spark to my planning. It’s a great collection of strategies to use to start a lesson, end a lesson, for independent work, for the whole group, strategies for partners and small groups, and strategies for student movement. The teachers at my school were literally fighting each other to get a copy of this book- it’s that good! It has helped me mix things up and keep students engaged and learning.
Looking ahead to 2016
With all the optimism that a new year brings, we’re excited for a new year working in a profession we love, and working with the teachers and students who we have the honor of interacting with. We’ve got a pile of books we look forward to reading, ideas we’re hoping to be able to share, and just overall hope for a fulfilling and fruitful year. Here’s hoping that you all have an exciting new year!
I’ve enjoyed writing this post for Secondary Sara’s Blog Hop! Many thanks and enjoy all the great tips from Secondary Teachers.
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