The problem with long, overdue reflections are that they are long and overdue. So much time has passed, so many things have happened, and it is hard to determine what to reflect upon first. The reason I started this blog was to keep up with my technology journey. I have composed posts, reflections, accomplishments and pitfalls in my head many times a day, but have let the time slip away without documenting any of it. For those of you that have taught for a while, you can understand that reflection undocumented eventually exists nowhere. The file drawers in my brain have since been filled up with other tasks, thoughts and ideas that have pushed those reflections into the cobwebs of my brain, forever lost. This post is an attempt to get back on track with reflecting in a permanent way that allows me to look backward in order to move forward.
Reflection 1: Get outside of your walls!
The biggest ongoing motivator for me has been my participation in #gwinchat, a Twitter chat with educators that began with a group of Gwinnett County educators, but has grown to include a group of teachers in many roles and places. In some ways, #gwinchat replaced this blog for me. Every Wednesday, I know there will be a topic and people that will challenge me on my thoughts, beliefs and practices as an educator. Having an informal PLN that is outside of the walls of my school is key to keeping things fresh. Don’t get me wrong, I work every day with absolutely amazing educators that teach me new things all the time, but it is different when you get outside of your school walls on your own terms. The perspectives of coaches, coordinators, administrators, general education teachers, special education teachers, consultants and many more all working with students at different levels of education gives you a real world picture that can’t be replicated in professional development. The ability to explore the topics you care about, and not the topics somebody tells you to care about also adds value beyond compare. One thing is for sure, a platform called Twitter that limits me to such a small amount of characters per tweet, really makes me reflect on my ideas, words, and beliefs in a way that I never could have imagined.
Reflection 2: Small steps work!
I began this journey using small steps and continue this journey the same way. As I take a moment to think about life since August, I am amazed at where I started and where I am now. In August, having a personal blog and initiating Genius Hour were my two goals. As the year has progressed, I realize those goals have led to a plethora of new tools that I have tried or better yet have allowed my students to try. Here are a few:
- KidBlog classroom blogs
- Smore presentations
- Powtoon presentations
- e-maze presentations
- rewordify.com to help students read Genius Hour texts
- Kahoot quizzes
- Wonderopolis to explore wonders
- Zaption.com to create “quiz” videos
- Explain Everything to create video books
- iMovie to create class and presentation video
- Class Twitter page (admittedly not being used a lot)
As I look at that list and consider where my journey began, I am in awe of all that we have already done this year. I can only imagine how much more we will learn together as the second half of the year unfolds.
Reflection 3: Reflecting in writing is more powerful than in my head!
This time of year can feel overwhelming in the classroom. There is a lot to do still and the time is growing shorter to accomplish it all. Testing season begins, and we all know what that does to both teacher and student psyche. Also, being a special education teacher means that the full throttle IEP season is in full gear with many deadlines looming. Add in a new initiative to put a minimum of two data points per objective per week for every student in a database that is brand new to you, and you can just about get sent over the edge with all the “non-teaching” tasks that are coming up.
Taking the time to reflect today (which is honestly only happening because I am home with a sick child instead of at work) has made me realize that although there is a long way to go, we have come a long way. I have taken the time to create a few creative lessons that will hopefully engage and connect students, as well as recharge my enthusiasm.
I am grateful to take my small steps with amazing co-teachers and students every day. Some days a teacher just needs to sit still to reflect and remember the journey taken and plan the journey to come. Perhaps I am home with this sick child because this is just what I needed today, the gift of reflection.