Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Reflection On Reflection

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When I embarked on the first Reflective Teacher Blogging Challenge in September, I was certainly expecting to grow as I learned more about myself, my teaching practices and my students.  However, just like a good shopping trip where we set out to purchase one thing and find so many other good deals that we end up with bundles of items we never expected to buy, reflection has well exceeded my expectations.  Not surprisingly, as I blogged and read other blogs, I picked up ideas and inspiration that are making me a more progressive educator.  The best part is that it's changed my mindset and my students are the beneficiaries.

One thing that's surprised me is the virtual friendships I've made.  Okay, maybe I'm sounding like a real loser here, but after so many days of blogging and sharing, I have developed a strong connection to my #reflectiveteacher peeps.  So while I can't afford to continue blogging daily, I am trying to make the Tuesday night #reflectiveteacher Twitter chats.

Last night's chat was on "Encouraging Student Creativity in the Classroom". The first question posed was "What does fostering Student Creativity look like in your classroom?" to which I responded, "student voice and choice".  Well, that got my mind going and I realized that I really need to do more of that in order to foster creativity, but that's not too easy.  Most students aren't used to being in the drivers seat and react as any inexperienced driver would. They freeze.

So this morning I came to school inspired from last night's chat, ready to put my words in action.
And what did I do in my first class?  I put the ball in the student's court.  Every Friday, we have Show & Tell in my high school beginner ESL class.  Students are given a topic, usually related to their native country or culture, and they prepare a presentation and/or bring in something to show & tell the class about. For this weeks Show & Tell, I told them they were free to present anything related to generosity - which is our theme for the month.  I asked them to think about what they would like to present and email me their ideas. As expected, they froze and started asking questions in an attempt to get me to give them ideas, but I only answered with more questions.  It took a little longer to compose the emails than I had planned, but it was not lost time by any means and the emails came in with some wonderful ideas and suggestions.

Later in the day, I headed over to the middle school and used Today's Meet to gather feedback from my middle schoolers on the "words of affirmation" activity (see Brown Paper Bags post).  Most of them told me what I wanted to here, but many shared some constructive criticism.  While I didn't start any projects with them today, last night's conversations have inspired me to give them more voice. Now I will say fostering creativity in middle schoolers is more difficult than with high schoolers, but most of them are long term ELLs and having an increased English proficiency level is a benefit in it of itself. 

I also need to add that I've decided to start a monthly theme.  The idea was inspired by the "Attitude of Gratitude" Blogging Challenge. As gratitude was the theme for our blogging challenge, it also became a theme for the quotes I post and discuss in class.  So, we started with gratitude and now we are moving on to "generosity" for December.  In addition to presenting quotes about generosity and giving, we are taking it up a notch so that reading selections are also about giving.  This is the beginning of something new - a monthly theme.  This part I'm only doing at the high school level. They are my guinea pigs, if you will, the ones I test market all ideas on.

As my PLN grows, I grow and my students grow and I all know is that I still have so much more to grow.  The best is yet to come.


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