June is a strange time for educators.
It seems that we are simultaneously:
1) focusing our energy on the final few weeks, 2) gazing ahead to summer and long-awaited plans that soon will be realized, and 3) looking into the rear-view mirror of our year, making note of what worked, what didn't, what to scrap, what to build, and what to create anew.
It's arguably the best and worst time to be a teacher.
On one hand, we can see the finish line ahead, and we know what we must do to cross it. However, there's a lot to do before we crash through that ribbon!
Personally, I am trying to find a balance between finishing up my final units and completing my end-of-year tasks (mainly the creation and grading of final exams) with thorough reflection on the highs and lows of the year.
I have a Microsoft Word document full of ideas and changes for 2007-2008 that has been ongoing since the fall. I find that if I don't write my thoughts down in a centralized location, they become lost and forgotten.
As teachers, we have so many responsibilities and daily decisions to make that it's often difficult to take a break from the marathon, and contemplate where we've traveled and how we've reached our current point.
Unfortunately, there is no time for this type of reflective practice built into our schedules. At my school, teachers have a 55-minute prep period and a 55-minute "duty" period each day. As anyone in education knows, 55 minutes is hardly sufficient for all the photocopying, grading, grade keeping, organizing, e-mailing, phone-calling, researching, assessing, writing, reading, and form-completing we need to do on a daily basis.
Frankly, there's no time in those 55 minutes for reflecting, refining, or collaborating. Yet those three actions have, in my experience, had the most profound effect on my instruction and my students' learning.
It would be WONDERFUL if teachers at my school were able to spend their duty periods (which currently consist of monitoring bathrooms, hallways, the cafeteria, the library, study halls, and the internal suspension room) working with each other to further their instruction and enhance their execution of the curriculum.
Unfortunately, it seems our federal government would rather spend taxpayers' money destroying and rebuilding other countries than building our own.
Wouldn't it be nice if No Child Left Behind was sufficiently funded? Wouldn't it be nice if teachers could spend time working together to improve their overall effectiveness? I've always found it ironic that we, as teachers, have so few opportunities to actually teach each other how to be better teachers.
The days of shut your classroom door and do your own thing are over. Today's businesses place communication and collaboration atop the list of priorities. Our country's schools should do the same.
Now I'm not naive. I realize there is only a certain amount of money available for a certain number of workers to perform a set number of tasks.
From a local perspective, until communities receive a greater amount of state and federal aid for their schools - and class sizes are reduced and educators have more professional time - it will be difficult to improve the quality of instruction our students receive.
I suppose one of the reasons I blog is because I strongly value being a member of a greater professional community. There are some fantastic teachers at my school whom I've been able to network with and learn from, but these interactions, frankly, don't happen enough. When they do, they occur after school, on our own time, and as a result, are inconsistent due to the fact that we DO have lives outside of the main door.
Through this blog I've been able to learn from numerous teachers across the United States and the globe, and I am truly grateful for these distant - yet strangely intimate - relationships. I honestly can't imagine not having this blog and these fantastic resources.
One of my most significant accomplishments this year was starting the blog, posting students' work, and sharing my experiences as a growing educator with all of you. I didn't intend for this to be a "thank you," but it is. Through your postings, comments, and sharing of lessons and ideas, you have made me a richer, more enlightened person and teacher.
Image from art.com, accessed 6/3/07