November is here, and schools have closed the first quarter in the USA. The calendar break allows teachers to segue with changes in the classroom; the change into second quarter is a time for a quick classroom and teacher evaluation.
Why? Well, enough of the school year has passed that you can fairly evaluate what is working and what needs changed. Students know you well enough that they you provide feedback about lessons and procedures. You can gauge what certain classes need more of (reading time? grammar practice?), and methods that work for teaching them.
Plus, it is the end of a something. You can say, “starting this quarter, we will try…” and it is a natural flow.
The end of the first quarter is a perfect time to reflect on certain areas. Here are a few.
- Assess yourself.
Don’t beat yourself up, but look at what is going well, and what could go better. Give yourself a pat on the back for your strong points… because teaching is hard.
Also check what could change. For instance, students can pick up on tiny nonverbal communication. If a class really gets under your skin, you may inadvertently worsen the situation by revealing dread. If you don’t care for a certain subject, ensure you are teaching it the best you can. (For ways I teach poetry – not a favorite of mine! – read this.
2. Evaluate particular portions.
If students do poorly with textbook exercises, perhaps switch to task cards. When one class struggle to take notes, look into note outline sheets.
Dependent upon the type of grade-book you have, you may be able to sort out the “types” of grades for classes. What areas are students succeeding? floundering? This natural break into the second quarter works perfectly to try a new tool, or find more of a successful one.
Say you want to try interactive notebooks, but you’re not sure that classes will use them thoroughly, that classes will dive into them. Tell students you are running an experiment this quarter. Will interactive notebooks create more meaning for students? With older students, you can let them in on your plan. Try a different approach for nine weeks. Explain that one area has fallen behind (such as note taking), and this is a fix. I love that with older students, teachers can include them in the planning.
3. Look at your work-life balance.
(This may sound cliche, but it’s true – you can’t work all the time). Teaching is a weird profession in that people believe you should pack papers for home every night. From someone who once thought that and who once graded/ planned/ created every night, you cannot do that.
You should complete an enjoyable activity on the weekends, if not more time. Complete a scrapbooking page every weekend; play cards with friends. Your health matters too. Take a walk, take a class, take a something that gets your heart pumping.
4. Ask for help.
You may need more teaching materials, or different materials, or advice for creating materials. Asking a coworker who knows your exact situation is best, but online groups will support you too.
Show initiative and talk to other teachers. Asking for help in the teaching profession is a strength.
At the end of the first quarter, if students don’t follow a certain procedure or understand a specific (frequently taught!) concept, look at why. Do students understand the reasoning behind it? Do you provide materials and structure for students to complete the procedure or lesson? Evaluate what is lacking.
A reboot may be in order. Now that November has arrived, students should be in a rhythm and relationships between you and your students should be growing. If not, reflect about why, and go from there. It’s the perfect time to do so.