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My own Reflection and the Last Geometry Digital Portfolio Assignment of the year

It is summer.... finally... I am writing this sitting, in shorts and a T-shirt, in my kitchen while one kid naps and the other is on the Ipad (#motheroftheyear, #learningapps). I finally feel relaxed and have a bit of time to write about my year. I assigned my students to write reflections, so it is only fitting that I write one too.

So here is the prompt I gave my students to guide their reflection. Responses varied greatly. Some did the bare minimum and some wrote detailed, insightful commentaries on their year. One kid even mentioned that he learned to value process over product. I nearly fell off the couch with joy.

As for me, I feel like I have a lot to polish. I want improve my prompts, rubrics and system for grading and giving feedback. I had many a late night trying to grade every blog post and write something of value to each student. I did an okay job, but the time it took still didn't merit what I felt was mediocre feedback from me. There has a to be a better, spreadsheet filled system for me to use. I look forward to my students having laptops with them everyday (1:1 spreading to grades 8 and 9) so that I can help them to manage their time better. Students complained in their reflections (perhaps rightly so) that the blogs took too much time. I am confident that I can carve out some class time next year and students won't feel as bogged down by the blogging.

Another way I would like to improve next year is to find the time to provide more formative assessment. I used My favorite no... I used fun math games that let them know if they were getting it right... I made them correct all assessments... Still, I would like there to be more.

Also, I loved this video from @mythagon about not writing grades on assessments. That is going to be my goal for next year... I am a little worried about how it will go over in the traditional environment where I teach, but a little controversy will make the year exciting - and it will be good for my stressed out, competitive students. :)

Praise - I did a few things that I am proud of this year: I vowed to have more fun and be more engaging. I stole as many great problem based learning tasks and games from my PLN as possible. Kids mentioned those lessons specifically in their reflections. I really liked how the math blogs turned out too. While they did not get universal praise from my students (they are time consuming), I love how it taught them to consider what we are learning in class more than to just prepare for an exam. Blogging made them analyze, teach, test and interact with content in a much more meaningful way. I know that blogging isn't the only way to achieve this, but I can't think of a better way for students to keep track of major concepts, write thoughtfully about the learning process, and publish their work.

As an example, I will share one last prompt for the year. I asked my geometry students to find an object, measure it, and calculate its surface area and volume. On its face it is a very simple task, though any "project" that asks students to take a look at the world around them and try to see the math that is already there is indeed more engaging than just doing a problem out of the book. Still, what I think took this to the next level, was requiring them to blog about it. Take a look at Elly's response. When students have the chance to create something, publish it and look at it again, they take pride in their work and are more engaged. Better still if the teach provides immediate, thoughtful feedback and allows the student to submit multiple drafts until he or she is happy with the results (I am a work in progress myself).

The last part of the reflection I assigned was for my students to consider how they have learned and grown this year "as a person." I have learned to learn from my failures. I have failed a bit this year. I gave a lousy session at a conference, though I meant well by it. I struggled to always listen to my students in leiu of giving advice or stern talks. I did a lot better than early years, though a few examples are stinging in my brain right now.

I have also learned that I don't need promotions, accolades, or atta-girl's from my supervisors to feel like I am doing a good job (though, I would still totally welcome them). This was a tough lesson for me because I thrive on positive feedback, who doesn't? It isn't reality though. I needed to grow up a bit and realize that I (luckily) work at a school where everyone is on top of their game. I am not all that. I learned (and will continue to learn) to take my own advice: learn, grow, breathe, grit yet but appreciate the process, and be joy.

Lastly, I have learned that as valuable as I know twitter and the MTOSB to be, that I can't blog and tweet at the expense of my family. I have a long (hopefully) teaching career ahead of me, full of time to become an expert teacher/colleague/blogger. My kids will only be two and four once. So at that, I will sign off and get ready for our afternoon swim. Thank you to my tweeps for making this my favorite year (out of 13) in the classroom thus far. Thank you especially to @mosspike for getting me going with blogging and tweeting and thinking outside the box.