October Goals Reflection

In the classroom, I will:

1. help my students become more adept around the Harkness table, such that all students in Honors U.S. History can co-lead at least one discussion (preferably two) before the end of the year.

It’s early, and with a foray into project-based learning and some unforeseen scheduling blips, we’ve gotten out of “Harkness mode” over the last month or so. That said, I think most of my students are probably on track for this. I do have a few VERY quiet students who will need a lot of coaching to reach this point. I need to start actively planning in that direction.

2. continue to develop more formative rather than summative assessments and assessment policies.

This is going fairly well, I think. In my sophomore Western Civ classes, I did a lot of skill-based formative assessment in the beginning of the year. As the pace of the year has picked up, I’ve definitely drifted a bit, but on the whole, I’m making the effort to gather information about their understandings/abilities before formal assessments are given.

3. solicit frequent feedback from students.

Except in informal ways, I haven’t really done this much. I need to rededicate myself to this goal.

4. make a conscious effort to see the world (or at least my class) through my students’ eyes.

Teaching sophomores for the first time this year, this has been something of a challenge. The difference in maturity and responsibility between sophomores and juniors is striking. I need to make more of an effort to understand them, and I’m sure some of this will just develop with time. Taking steps to meet my previous goal would likely help as well.

To further my own personal and professional development, I will:

1. read at least one book per month about history and/or education and write a short review for this blog.

I wrote a review of Deborah Meier’s In Schools We Trust in September, but I did not write a review in October. I read Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers and Why Read? by Mark Edmundson, but I did not have the time to write a review of either. Perhaps I’ll try to do so this month, but more likely, I’ll just try to get back on track.

2. self-evaluate some aspect of my own teaching via blog post every month.

I find I’m writing about philosophical issues more than craft, but if I fudge a bit on what qualifies as a self-evaluation, I can say I’m meeting this goal. Going forward, though, I do need to carve out time to reflect more specifically on what I’m doing in the classroom.

3. continue to explore formal professional development opportunities.

I recently attended the bi-annual Teacher Conference sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools. This is my third time attending, and it’s always pretty good. A particular highlight this year, though, was hearing outgoing NAIS President Pat Bassett speak. I was particularly moved by his comment that he wished he were beginning his career rather than wrapping it up. Amidst the day-to-day realities of teaching, it was a nice reminder of the opportunities I have ahead of me.

4. begin to seek leadership opportunities, whether formal or informal, in-school or out-of-school.

I have continued my work with my school’s nascent Faculty Forum (serving on the Steering Committee), and I volunteered to take part in the innovation-oriented “Think Tank” sponsored by our new head of school. In addition, I recently gave my first conference presentation (at the aforementioned NCAIS conference)–a terrific experience. More on this to come. Overall, I’m starting to view myself as a teacher-leader, and I’m hoping to continually developing these skills.

To preserve my own mental, physical, and emotional well-being during the nine-month marathon that is a school year, I will:

1. expend less energy on things that either a) aren’t within my control, b) aren’t in need of my attention specifically, or c) aren’t worth my time and energy.

I did very well on this at the beginning of the year, but I’ve allowed myself to get sucked in to things at times. Strangely, it seems that I’m most likely to falter on this goal when I’m busiest. Perhaps it has to do with general stress and frustration levels. Over the last couple of weeks, though, I’ve been trying to get back on track here.

2. use my time—and especially my planning periods—more wisely, in order to free up time with friends and family and achieve a healthier, more sustainable work-life balance.

Again, I did a great job of this early in the year. In the last month or so, it’s been difficult–I think it’s mainly a matter of the sheer quantity of work. Essays need to be graded, I’ve reached the end of my “summer pre-plan” and thus have more prep work to do, etc. I do think I’ve been much less stressed this year while at home, so I’d give myself a thumbs-up on this overall.

3. prioritize my health by setting aside time for exercise and relaxation.

This has been a real success. I’ve pretty much stopped going to the gym, but I am still running 2-4 times per week and am noticing some legitimate gains in my pace and endurance. I daresay I have almost reached a point where I enjoy running. Almost.

To hold myself accountable to the aforementioned goals, I will:

1. assess my progress toward these goals via blog post on a bi-monthly basis (late October, December, February, April, June).

One down.

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