Bernard Pierorazio

Leader, Educator, Activist

Tag: School

End of the Year Reflection

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As we enter the last few weeks of the academic calendar, I would advise teachers and educational professionals alike to spend the time and reflect on their experience within the classroom.

Over the course of the year, teachers face a myriad of daily choices: classroom management, classroom expectations, students goals, and, of course, student achievement. Many of these choices involve matters that are so ingrained within the day-to-day of the classroom that we tend to overlook the implications and transformative change we make on a daily basis. But as much as we can focus on the operations within the day-to-day, it is imperative for your development as an educator to think, address and reflect on the choices you have made during this academic calendar year. Self-reflection will not only highlight the strengths and achievements you have accomplished with your students, but it also address the flaws and weaknesses you can work to improve within your trade. This type of intense reflection will also allow you to identify and revise best practices and avoid inferior lessons for your next group of students.

To do this effectively, begin by dispositioning yourself away from the expectations set by your superiors. This suspension of judgment will allow you to holistically view your work in a more meaningful way. To get you started in a more positive direction, begin by thinking about your strengths and overall accomplishments you have achieved during this year. Think about those impactful lessons that will resonate with your students for the next up and coming year. Ask yourself what you were most proud of and what areas you grew within the field. For example, if you were able to devise a lesson that incorporated research, writing, and public speaking, make a note of that collaborative achievement. Not many teachers can get this type of engagement from their students, let alone all three in one lesson.

Once you have fully analyzed the positive achievement, take time to examine your own personal and professional weaknesses you may have experienced during the year. For some teachers, this could be specific lessons such as an unachieved Common Core standard or a particular lesson involving a higher-level text. For others, this could just simply be a specific trade skill like research or lesson planning. Whatever is the case, make sure you examine them deeply. Internalize those mistakes and ask yourself what you could have done to improve and build up for those skills or lessons for the betterment of your students. Having that type of awareness will allow you to hone in on specific skills and approaches for next year. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to ignore these weaknesses. Remember, no one is perfect. In fact, the only time this can be a problem is if you think there is no room for improvement. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. Use this reflective thinking to think about what you can do to further better yourself for not just your career, but also for your students.

To fully analyze these weaknesses in a more beneficial and positive way, try evaluating your students based on their academic gain. Begin with those overarching goals you have set for yourself and your students. Ask yourself if your scholars were able to hit their targeted academic goals. If they were, great! If not, dive deeper and question what you could have done that year to possibly see success. To aid you with the process, make sure you utilize the student data in a more active and powerful way. Expert teachers adapt their reflective thinking to the situation and recognize each level of the data that could have changed this. If you see that your students were collectively weak on one Common Core standard, ask yourself questions about those specific lessons such as: What troubles did you see with those lessons? Why did your students struggle with that particular standard? What could you have done to break down the information in a more accessible way? These questions will not only identify your flaws, but also shape your lessons for next year.

Now the last thing you should look into is the situational portion of teaching. Whether you like it or not, teachers and educators are more than just individuals equipped with a textbook. They are the parents, coaches, mentors, and game-changers that can positively impact the aspiration and goals of a student. While there will always be difficult and arduous moments within a teacher’s day, it is important to think of areas where you can build a stronger relationship and classroom culture for your students.

The only way to get the best out of your students is if they can invest in your vision and goals for their future. Continue to think about ways where you can enhance your management and classroom culture in a more driven and invested environment. Remember, our students do not care what you know. They just want to know you are there for them. Take this time to refine those moments so that you can give your students the excellent education that they deserve.

The New Age of Teaching: Bell-To-Bell

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Unlike the antiquated style of teaching where in the past a teacher can stand in front of a classroom and lecture for an entire hour, the new supportive instructional delivery has taken a more interactive stance of what is required by both the teacher and their students. A lot of this is shaped by the new Common Core State Standards that require teachers to rethink and reflect the way in which they support their student each and every day. But with this new style of teaching, we have to ask ourselves if the new instructional deliveries are beneficial to the teachers and their students.

While many educators may disagree with the style and concepts of the Common Core State Standard initiatives, we need to take into consideration that the world has changed. And with that change, we also need to view holistically the evolution of education. Where we were and what we learned five years ago, ten years ago is completely different to what our students are learning today. Because of that simple reason, we as educators need to make a shift within our system and succumb to the concept of change in order to improve the lifestyle and learning for the betterment of our students. If we do not, we are not just hurting the academic profession, but the future leaders of tomorrow.

So how does it work? What do these new teaching initiatives look like on a day-to-day basis?

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When creating your lesson plan, you need to think of the overall bigger picture. Simply put it, plan out your goals. To do this, you need to look at the entire curriculum and what you want to accomplish at the end of each academic quarter. This is what we call, backwards planning. Backwards planning, also referred to as backwards mapping, is the process that an educator uses to design instructional techniques and lesson plans in order to achieve a specific learning goal. By conceptualizing and framing your day-to-day lessons as necessary building blocks, you will be able to truly transform the impact you can have on your students in just a few months. In addition, backwards planning allows you to foresee any future problems such as difficult lessons or challenging concepts that will be necessary for the growth of your students. By planning strategically, you will be able to accommodate for any speed bumps you can see down around the road. This will thus, in turn provide you with stronger lessons so that you and your students can reach your academic objectives.

Once you develop your goals (quarterly, weekly, and daily), you will be able to begin planning your day-to-day instructions. With the new instructional initiatives, you will see your day broken down into five parts:

  1. Bell Ringer: review or preview
  2. I-DO: teacher led instructions
  3. We Do: group work and class work
  4. You Do: Independent work
  5. D.I.: differentiated instructional groups

While these concepts may seem foreign, do not be intimidated. These parts, once mastered, will allow you to deliver your lesson plans and work independently with each student each and every day.

Bell Ringer: Review or Preview

To begin the day, start by giving your students a quick assignment that can be easily accomplished within a five to seven minute span. While essentially you can provide any type of assignment, you want to make sure you pick a task that is beneficial and strategic to your lesson and your objectives. You can do this by either optimizing a review assignment or previewing a task for your current lesson. Keep in mind, this is not your lesson. This portion should only take a couple of minutes. Any bell ringer that is more than ten minutes can compromise your goals for that day.

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I-Do – Teacher Led Discussion

While we do want to move away from the antiquated style of teaching, that does not mean we want to completely eliminating it from the field. For this portion, you will be doing most of the talking. As you lecture, make sure you provide easily understood information and examples so that your students can comprehend and replicate for the later sections. To enhance engagement, try and utilize visual tactics throughout your presentation such as teacher modeling, gestures, and teacher examples. In addition, provide your students with the necessary notes that they will utilize later on in the day or course. Lastly, be cognizant of your time. The biggest mistake teachers’ make is going over time with their teacher led discussions. Try to keep this to around 15 to 20 minutes. If you happen to go over time, note that you will have to cut some of the other sections so that you stay on pace.

We-Do – Group Work – Team Work

With the ‘We Do’ portion, group your students in either pairs or table groups so that they can collaborate and discuss with one another. This is the portion where students are able to interact and learn from one another. One helpful hint is to keep your ‘teacher-led’ example up on the board so that they can reference your example if they are having any troubles. While the students are working together, move around the classroom. Sit in on some groups and discuss a variety of ideas and how they came about with that answer. Afterwards, bring the class together and give them the opportunity to share their group answers with the rest of the class.

You-DO – Independent Work

Once you have finished the ‘We-Do’ portion of the class, have the students attempt the assignment quietly and independently. Provide them with a new problem or topic. While they are working by themselves, continue to walk around the room and work with students you saw struggling throughout the lesson. This will give you an opportunity to provide them with that necessary one-on-one time to truly learn the material.

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Differentiated Instructions Group

This is often the section where many teachers overlook. As much as they can cut this out of their lessons, you need to understand the importance and benefit that this can have on your students. A differentiated instruction begins with students moving into their specific groups, usually based on their statewide scores. By meeting with these groups, you will be able to work with the students who most need the help. Remember, the students entering your classroom are not all on the same level. To make that a reality, you need to provide the extra time, dedication, and support to get them to where they need to be.

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Learn More…

Bernard has done so much to help young people with their education.  Apart from the school however, he has hobbies and interests that he highlights on his personal site.  You can visit it by clicking the link below.

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