Did anyone else feel a little discombobulated when they returned to school after the holiday? I always get a bit anxious and stressed returning in January, thinking about what I haven't taught the kids and how much I still need to do. I almost feel frozen - stopped in time, paralyzed by the overwhelming amount of what I need to accomplish by TESTING time.
The first week back, I gave my kids a self-reflection sheet that asked them to look over their reading lists, add up genres and formats read, make goals, etc. I ask them what they've learned as readers and writers so far and what they'd like to learn. I even ask them what they'd like to change about my class, what they don't like and what they love. It's difficult to ask those questions because 5th and 6th graders can be brutally honest! However, I keep an open mind and change things when I think it's reasonable.
This year I also added something that I believe I read in Katherine Sokolowski's blog. I added "Tell me something you'd like me to know." I only see my students for an hour a day, and I see 105 every day. I know there are kids I don't get to talk to much. I wanted to give them a chance to explain something or get out a thought or feeling. Not every student filled it in, but those who did reminded me of something. That anxiety-producing TEST is not the reason I show up every day at school. I know I'm responsible for making sure I teach them what is required, and I spend many hours making sure I do just that. However, after reading some of the answers to that prompt, I realize (yet again) that we are teaching PEOPLE who need to be heard. They need to tell us they made travel teams, forget homework because they're living in two houses, lost a pet to old age over winter break and have a broken heart, and just that they love reading or want to write a book.
So today, I remind myself I am on a JOURNEY with these kids. Not a destination that ends when they take that TEST. I'm there for them. I'm there to hear their stories, hopes, disappointments, heartaches, and joys. My goal this semester is to hold one-on-one conferences with every child every two weeks. That's still not enough, but it's better than what I've been doing. Maybe then I can make sure I'm not only helping them with reading and writing, but I can help them deal with this thing called life. We all need a little help with that!