This is the final part of my reflection series on my first year return to teaching.

In my opinion it has been a very successful first year back.  I have had my ups and downs, joys and sorrows, meeting great people (staff, students and parents), meeting some “interesting” people (staff, students and parents), re-join my PLN and the opportunity to make a difference for my students.

I purposely didn’t go into many of the negatives that happened during this series, it serves no purpose to dwell on them and give them too much weight.  Staying positive is much more important.

What stood out for me this year?

  • A young lady who when I first got there was missing on average 2-3 days of school per week, now it is very seldom that she misses school at all and when she does, she sends an email apologizing and asks what she is missing.
  • 3 young men who wouldn’t read at all when I first got there unless you absolutely forced them too, once they get settled in (which sometimes takes a few minutes), now on most days they have a hard time putting down their books after they get going.  One even told me he reads at home sometimes.
  • A young lady who didn’t have the self-confidence to move out of the Resource Room (even though she was ready academically), who once she did blossomed and is doing great in the regular education classroom.
  • A young man who had some really difficult times with peer relations at the beginning of the year, doing so much better with how he gets along with his peers.
  • Working with several parents, who really want to see their kids do well in school.
  • How supportive Administration was in my transition back to teaching.
  • The collegial support that I received from my fellow teachers and assistant teachers.  Everyone made my transition back much easier.
  • My participation in the school’s student mentoring program.
  • Compared to the first month I was back in teaching, that the behaviors have been much more positive in the classroom.
  • That I was able to make positive relationships with almost all of my students…even the ones that didn’t always see eye to eye with me on classroom behaviors/expectations.
  • My Personal Learning Network on Twitter which really helped me through some of the rough spots and continues to provide me with ideas to become a better teacher and person.

Somethings that I didn’t like:

  • I felt disjointed in my efforts of teaching English Language Arts, it seemed as though my pacing and choices within the curriculum were off all year long.  Sometimes it is the nature of the students in the Resource Room, but attempting to teach the curriculum that was in place was difficult for me for some reason.
  • I procrastinated finishing up Special Education paperwork at times and that I am developing a real negative stance on the why’s and why not’s of so much paperwork, that seems to be more for CYA than actual student improvement.  I wasn’t late in submitting the paperwork, I was just not up to my own personal standards this year.
  • Standardized tests – My philosophy on standardized tests has not changed much over the past few years and if you have read my blogs previously you know my opinion of Standardized Testing.  That it is often unnecessary and has been detrimental to education under NCLB.

I believe that as a district we need to look at the amount of standardized testing that our District does and discontinue those that overlap or no longer are applicable to what we do today i.e. getting rid of LAS vestiges.  I am not opposed to all standardized testing, but only if it is used diagnostically not to punish schools or students.

 We need to answer: what the test is measuring, why is it necessary and what useful instructional information will be the result of the test?  We can not continue to simply add test after test on to the student’s and staff’s plate, without careful consideration of those questions and should attempt to reduce the number of assessments or standardized tests that are required over the course of an academic year.

  • Coming home brain-dead many nights, the stress of attempting to teach those, who on many days do not want to be taught can be exhaustive and totally draining.  Things got better as the year went on, but it still is something that all teachers combat.

What do I want to accomplish next year?

  • Become more involved with the 7th grade English Curriculum Committee next year (I loop teaching 7th & 8th grades).
  • Look at opportunities where I can help integrate UDL and technology more into my classroom and school-wide.
  • Ask to serve on the technology committee, I have served on this committee wherever I have worked, so will try here as well.
  • Continue to work to more integrate Special Education into the school, not be a separate program.
  • The biggest thing that I want to accomplish again next year is to create positive relationships with my students, their parents and the school staff (teachers and administration).
  • Participate in the school’s student mentoring program.
  • Help out with the school’s cross country team.

There are so many other things that I want to do or attempt that there really are not enough hours in a day and I probably do not have enough personal energy to accomplish them.  So the big thing that I need/have to do is monitor how much I give to teaching, so that I ensure that I have something left for a personal life.

I have to remember that teaching is what I do, not who I am.

I found out Friday that there will be a next year, I was part of the teachers that were approved for renewal at Thursday’s School Board meeting.  This is a good thing, I enjoy where I am working and love that I am back to teaching in the classroom.  I was very happy to learn that I will be coming back, after next year is going to be the tough one, when the Stimulus funding runs out.

When I was asked by my wife earlier this week, if I was happy with my choice about coming back to teaching.  I didn’t hesitate and answered – “Absolutely, it was the right thing to do, I am a teacher and I love being in the classroom.”

So here is to teaching next year and having the summer to get ready for it!

Have you made a difference today? How?