Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Make a List of Good Things You Did This Year Before You Forget Them

At the end of my first year of teaching, despite some good results, I found myself dwelling on my many failures. The job had been harder than I possibly could have imagined, and so I wondered: What did I actually accomplish this year? Did I do anything right?

To refocus on the positive, I made a list of "good things I accomplished this year" before I forgot everything over the summer.  My mind tends to remember negatives much more vividly than positives, especially over time (I imagine this is true for most people).

I suggest that you take some time right around the end of your school year to make your own list.  It should include positive impacts you had on students but also any other successes you've had.  I think you'll find that once you force yourself to start, you'll have many more accomplishments to be proud of than you thought beforehand. 

What might this look like?  Here are some items I included in lists from my first two years in the classroom:

Good Things I Accomplished in 2003-2004
  1. Improvement in classwork and behavior of... [I listed specific student names and realized that I had quite a long list!]
  2. Building strong bonds with students outside the classroom- [Again, once I started listing students it was hard to stop!]
  3. Keeping the pressure on my ESL students to do well by going to [the campus ESL coordinator] for help
  4. Keeping the pressure on my CMC kids to do well by meeting with Sp. Ed. teachers regularly
  5. Being able to keep up with the quick curriculum pace and still help them do well on their nonstop ridiculous tests
  6. Improving my classroom management--calling parents, writing referrals, not letting kids get away with whatever they want.  "Lockdown" was a great idea for 8th, but dealing with individual students would in retrospect have been better
  7. Figuring out how to do this job without (or perhaps even while) going crazy!
  8. My dedication to what's best for my students, not for the administration!
  9. 76% passing the TAKS, including many surprises.  We improved on every benchmark!
  10. Proficient & Exceeds on PDAS
Good Things I Accomplished in 2004-2005
  1. Creating a classroom where disrespect is not allowed, handling classroom management as best I can
  2. Early success of brilliant students like [another long list of amazing kids]
  3. Calling parents about discipline and failing grades more than ever.
  4. Not allowing any student to be directly disrespectful to me; not letting things go like I did last year, but not letting it get me upset
  5. Getting 2nd, 7th and 8th under control
  6. Mi espanol esta mejorando!
  7. Making the kids not doing classwork sign contracts to do their work, and making sure they come during lunch every day to finish it.
  8. My idea for academies after benchmarks was picked up by the administration.
  9. My idea to pool the history department's money to buy an LCD projector worked out.
  10. Starting lunch detention earlier this year and enforcing it without any help from the cluster.
  11. Reaching out to students in alternative [I spent a lot of time heading over to the district AEP to visit students who were sent there.]
  12. Using the lessons from Teaching with Love & Logic correctly and successfully.
  13. Continuing to fight for students who the other teachers have written off and refuse to make any modifications for them.  I'm trying to change lives and they're worried about their own petty concerns.  What the [heck] do your TEKS matter if this student crashes and burns next year, drops out, gets in trouble with drugs, crime or worse?  "You just have to do the work exactly like everybody else."  Why?  Because everyone learns in exactly the same way, and you're God's gift to teaching?  It flies in the face of everything I've ever been taught.  Why do we only make adjustments for those the school officially designates as in need?  [Obviously I was thinking about one student in particular here, but it certainly could have applied to many others.]
  14. Improving the ease of make-up work through assignment folders, an example binder for non-notebook assignments, and occasional class progress reports
  15. 83% TAKS passing rate with a higher standard and a more challenging group
  16. Used the mobile lab this year
  17. Improved at making more purposeful graphic organizers and utilizing pre, during and post-reading strategies for readings, skits, movies, etc

Do you use a helpful reflection exercise at the end of the school year?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments.