Professional Goal Setting

As we're in the midst of our summer, I've been reflecting on changes and new endeavors that I plan to do during the next school year. Every year, I seem to reinvent myself as a teacher as I get better and better and want to incorporate those changes accordingly. When I was in high school, my chemistry teacher, Mr. Kahl, had a three ring binder of the curriculum that he had been teaching to for the better of twenty years. Apparently, he thought that is was satisfactory. No wonder that the students found it dry and boring and that I didn't go into Chemistry as my chosen profession.

We should sell ourselves short though. Every year, new research comes out on how students learn and new innovations in teaching and learning. Before setting out on determining some good goals, I think that's it's good to reflect on what was accomplished last year and appreciate the successes of what was done. For me it was:
  1. Designing some high quality assessments for both math and science including summative labs for science. Although some of the assessments might require a little "tinkering" they're all very solid and concise and target the learning benchmarks well. I have some practices to view here but will refine these more next year. I hope to include some of the project rubrics and descriptions next year as well.
  2. Creating online study guides that correlate learning assignments to learning benchmarks. These were so time consuming but now that they're done, they're done. For a list, click here.
  3.  Improving Math MAP test scores. The mean was up to 5.5 up from 4. Although the quality of our assessment to foster higher order thinking skills was a key part, I felt that some instructional practices needed some improvement. 
When making goals, they should be realistic and attainable. I recoil at how many teachers are mandated to meet certain data points or risk losing their jobs. It's education, not a factory production line. Some ideas that you might consider to work on for next year:
  • Developing a professional learning network (PLN) of educators through edmodo or twitter.
  • Incorporating new ideas for tech integration or web 2.0 interfaces.
  • Improving lesson plans, projects, or assessments.
  • Entering your class in an international competition. 
 I feel that many of my resources are in place, so I can devote some of my time to a number of new endeavors. They are:
  1. Creating a series of instructional videos for math teachers.  I've dubbed them "Rock Star Math Productions" and they'll start by outlining the learning objective and then debriefing homework and documenting some of the rich learning tasks that dig into deeper understanding. Most videos on the web seem to be a teacher lecturing into a camera on how to "go through the motions". I want to present how I'm debriefing flipped lessons as homework assignments, creating opportunities for students to practice problem solving skills, and how to be playful and creative. Although the primary audience will be for educators, I think parents would enjoy them to see how learning happens in my classroom. Finally, I want to show students doing them in action. I'll post them to this blog as I churn them out.
  2. Entering my class in a number of international competitions. Most educational competitions focus on high school students, but I've found some pertaining to middle school students. These ccompetitions do not merely divide up the "winners" and "losers" but celebrate innovation and creativity. Furthermore, they give some more name recognition to the participating schools. It's good to look around during the summer than try to slap them together mid year. For example, I'm hoping to enter my class in a robotics competition (for my after school club) that is a year in length. To understand the requirements has given me a handle on logistics and how to manage my time during the year.
  3. New student grouping strategies. I had read about a grouping called "shoulder buddies" that is a three person group that goes all year or all semester long. The thinking is that a three person group is more dynamic and less intimdating but also more accountable than a 4 or 5 person groups. The length of time encourages a more supportive network. I hope to experiment with this in both math and science. Also, for math, I'm going to try two work stations with roughly 10 students at each. At one station, students can work independently (or with their shoulders buddies) and at the other station work with me on rich task. I will undoubtedly heterogeneously mix up groups for projects and other activities but I hope these two grouping strategies prove a good foundation to cooperative learning. 
  4. Integrating more language arts into math and science. It's not in my mandate to assess language arts, but I think that for students to become better readers and writers, we need to reinforce these skills in other disciplines. In the past, I felt that I gave them "lip service" but I hope to make them more systematic this year. I have a document on my computer desktop with a number of reading and writing traits which I will date and check off when I have incorporated these into a lesson of mine. In team meetings, I will remind the language arts teachers to keep me informed of the skills that they are teaching so I know that if they're working on "summarizing" I can do some summarizing skills in science class. I hope to document these with instructional videos.
  5. Creating timeless lesson plans. I have (what I think are) some really great learning activities that I do year after year. I hope to create some lessons that I document well and don't feel the need to rewrite every year. I want them to be interesting, engaging, tech integrated and meaningful.
To set new goals as educators shows that we too are learners. Whether your school mandates them or not, they're a great opportunity to put in practice new ideas you've learned in order to make learning fun!

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