Sunday, 19 May 2013

End-of-Year Essentials

I must've blinked.  Seriously, I could've sworn we just got back from Spring Break.  Was that really 7 weeks ago?  Maybe it's a defense mechanism, but I'm in total denial that it's mid-May, time for the mad dash to the end of the school year.  With a few more mini-lessons and assessments mapped out, report card writing looming, and final meetings and farewells filling up my calendar, I wonder how it'll all get done. 

Somehow it will because it always does.  Having said that, last week's department meeting reminded me of the end-of-year essentials that we should consider in our remaining lessons with our students. 

Celebrate growth.  We began our meeting last week sharing major highlights.  Like us, our students have grown so much this year, and we need to acknowledge it.  Have them name their major accomplishments as readers and writers.  Ask them what they can do now that they couldn't do before.  Tell them to pick their most influential mini-lesson, book and piece of writing.  Give time for them to share their achievements with each other.  In doing so, it honors growth and reaffirms learning.

Consider next steps.  After celebrating our accomplishments, we took time last week to consider our next steps. In small groups, we discussed aspects of a digital workshop like blogging and online notebooks.  By clarifying questions, exploring possibilities, and setting potential plans, we're already better prepared.  It's the same with our students.  They should plan their next steps as readers and writers.  Have them create individualized summer reading lists.  Ask them to write down possible goals for next year.  When considering next steps, they commit themselves to continued growth.  After all, learning doesn't have to end just because the school year does.

Cultivate community.  In a community of learners, relationships matter.  Whether we like it or not, we live in a transient community where people come and go far too often.  That's why it's more important than ever to spend time cultivating our communities and recognize the importance of every individual's contributions no matter how long he/she has been here.  Generate a class list of experiences that only a particular class could have created.  Honor students who are moving on by sharing moments that mattered and contributions they made. 

With these three end-of-year C's in mind, I offer a few final reflections on my first year as Literacy Coach:
  • I'm thankful for the 8th grade team's deep dedication to student learning and professional support.  You participated in rich, collegial and personal PLC discussions where you honored every team member's strengths while respecting each other's differences.  Your classrooms were equally engaging as students read and wrote with purpose and vigor.  Their commitment and creativity in the Independent Writing Project is a true testament to your hard work.
  • The 7th grade team inspires me in so many ways.  In the first MS in-house labsite, you thought deeply and critically about student engagement and transference, and you set concrete steps to fine-tune your practice. You created a once-in-a-lifetime experience for your students by inviting Debbie Wiles and her works into their reading and writing lives.  You've lead the charge in implementing technology into your classrooms by embracing Goodreads and other online tools that showcase your readers and writers.  I know that we can continue to rely on you as we all go 1:1 in August. 
  • I applaud the 6th grade team for your flexibility and willingness to open your classrooms.  Through our labsites, planning sessions, and PLC discussions, we created assessments, crafted lessons and calibrated student work like never before.  Our discussions are professional and collaborative, and we always base our decisions on our students' best interests.

In short, this year has been another year of tremendous growth. As I submit my final blog post of the year, I am most grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside each and every one of you. I am a better teacher because of it.  And while I can guarantee that the next couple of weeks will be a whirlwind, I can also guarantee that I wouldn't want to experience them with any other group of colleagues.  

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