Change Is Good; Learning Is Good

Recently one of our assistant principals observed my teaching.

I remember my first observation.  I worked hard on my delivery of the pre-reading notes.  I use to think it was important for students to see how much I knew about an author or poet.  After all, I did have the book with all of the answers.

Actually, I did not get a teacher’s annotated edition until I was in my 6th year of teaching, and this forced me to think and be creative on my own.  It was a true blessing.  But, I digress.


English: Daguerreotype of the poet Emily Dicki...

English: Daguerreotype of the poet Emily Dickinson, taken circa 1848. (Original is scratched.) From the Todd-Bingham Picture Collection and Family Papers, Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     After my mini-lecture, I read the poem to the class.  It was Emily Dickinson’s Because I Could Not Stop For Death:

Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,

And I had put away

My labour, and my leisure too,

For his civility.

We passed the school where children played,

Their lessons scarcely done;

We passed the fields of gazing grain,

We passed the setting sun.

We paused before a house that seemed

A swelling of the ground;

The roof was scarcely visible,

The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries; but each

Feels shorter than the day

I first surmised the horses’ heads

Were toward eternity.

Then I began to ask questions.  Are there any words you do not know?  What figurative language do you see?  What do you think the theme is?  Etc.

I would pause and wait for answers.  I would repeat or rephrase what the students said.   I would write notes on the board.  I was leading the lesson.  And, I received a great evaluation.

I try not to be the sage on the stage anymore.  I wonder how many of my students that day remember the poem?  While I read the poem, what were they thinking about?  While I asked a question and one student answered it, what were the other students doing?

I have to lead at times.  I know grammar rules better than most of the kids.  However, I do not have to explain what reading selections mean.  If I taught this poem today, I would do it differently.  I would have the students write a journal about what they want to do before they die; they would create a bucket list.  I would have the students get a partner and read the poem to one another.  Next, they would answer questions similar to the ones I asked that day long ago.  After they were finished, we would bring the class together, and I would let the students lead the discussion to see if their analysis of the poem was similar or different.  The final evaluation would be an analysis of a different poem.

I am curious to receive the feedback from our assistant principal.  He observed my warm-up activity of having students copy three vocabulary words and writing a creative sentence with figurative language as the context clue.  While the students do this, I take attendance and talk to students who were absent.

Next, the students used our laptops to write their short stories.  My classroom became a buzz of activity as students shared ideas, read each other’s stories, and asked me questions.  It never became too loud, nor was it silent.  I do wonder what my first principal would have thought of this. I ended with an exit ticket of self-evaluation:  If you had more time, what would you have done differently?  Of course, the students had the next day to continue their writing.

Now to grade those stories…



Filed under Education, Learning, Lesson Plans, Measuring Student Success, Teacher Evaluations, Writing

2 responses to “Change Is Good; Learning Is Good

  1. I have been reading your blog for about a month now. Thanks for posting so often….it always reminds me to carve out time for my own posts as well. As a fellow English teacher I can relate to your progression. We create similar environments and practices.

    One tip I’d like to pass along…I, too, use vocabulary as a sponge activity at the beginning (and as a chance to meet with kids and put in attendance). I think most English teachers do. Recently, I’ve “flipped” vocabulary instruction using Membean. I’m loving this method and trying to tell as many English teachers as I can about it. I know I sound like a spammer, but I’m not! Promise. Check it out. I think it would work well in your classroom, and it gives more control to the students:

  2. I try so, so hard to be the “guide on the side” rather than the sage, too. But sometimes I slip in to it without even thinking or realizing because it’s easy. I try to pacify myself by thinking that they’re answering the same questions either way…but then like you said, what are the other 25 kids in the room doing while the one kid is responding?

    And, like you, I’ve often looked back at the changes in my teaching over the last six years. Every year I feel like I’m doing it better than the year before and it makes me so happy to realize that. Maybe I’ll be satisfied with everything by the time I retire!

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