The following statements are from an activity we did this week at my school, as part of our preparation for when the kids come back. I found it interesting how much better able to answer each of these questions I felt I was as a result of the thoughtful and frequent reflection I do on this blog.
How am I mindful in my approach to teaching?
I blog about teaching. I talk to others in my discipline team and in my life about teaching. I foster my connections with people I have worked with in other schools and I maintain my connections with them through online forums and groups that meet periodically. I am open to new ideas and I share my thoughts honestly and widely.
I reflect on the experiences students have in my classroom and use this to inform (as best I can) what approach I will take in the future. I ask students to give me feedback on my teaching so that I can take in what their perspective is to help myself learn and grow.
I take time off. I let myself leave work at work whenever possible—and it is usually possible. I nourish other interests outside of teaching. I am more than “just” a teacher.
How do I teach kids to be mindful?
I ask students to explain their thought processes, to become active participants in their own learning process. I allow them time and space to ponder. I ask and require that students work in groups and navigate the differences that arise in communicating and collaborating with others; to balance the needs of others in the group with their personal strengths and challenges. I address status issues and allow all students the chance to shine and demonstrate their smartnesses.
I will give them many more opportunities this year to journal their thinking, both about math and about other school-related issues and I will honor their time and thinking by reading their words thoughtfully and responding to their comments and questions. I will allow them to sit with uncertainty and ambiguity until they can resolve some questions on their own. I will ask questions instead of providing answers whenever possible. I will give students time to reflect on what they know and provide them with tools to self-assess their understanding. I will talk to students about community and respect for everyone in the group—including themselves.
What are my blind spots? (Where in my teaching am I not as mindful as I would like to be?)
[I originally wrote this as one long paragraph. But, when I read it aloud to my partner, she thought it was a lot of different blindspots whereas I saw them more as linked ideas. I bulleted them to emphasize this. The sentences in bold are the ones I chose as my “focus areas” for the upcoming year, per my partner’s excellent suggestion.]
- I am not as mindful about communicating with families as I could be.
- I am not always consistent and careful about analyzing student work as I would like to be. I don’t always (perhaps this is true the majority of the time) use student work as a planning tool. I have difficulty adapting to what students need in the moment, or neglect to make changes that I realize are necessary, either because of forgetfulness or due to a misguided belief that students will develop a skill or concept in time without direct intervention.
- I don’t work with students one-on-one early enough or often enough. I rely on students to seek out support instead of offering it to them. I let students hitchhike. Too often I realize misunderstandings and misconceptions at the time of an assessment—I am surprised too often.
- I don’t probe deeply enough into students’ thinking when they seem to be “getting it.” I don’t provide enough opportunities for challenge to students who grasp the course content easily.
Then we brainstormed some things I could do to help address my focus areas:
- Take 10 minutes every class to assess which students I need to check in one-on-one with. Then make tutorial appointments with them, or make time to talk to these students in class.
- Create a shared google-doc of challenge problems for the math team, and add one question each week.
- Create a notebook in evernote for challenging problems I find when I am reading blogs.