End of Year Reflection – Part II

It’s now, officially, one week without any students, planning, or grading for me.  The school year starts and ends pretty quickly here in the Midwest, and I’ve still got one more week off until summer session starts.  While I know that many teachers in other parts of the country are still winding things down, my week off has been a good time to reflect (and put a sizable dent in a long, summer “honey-do” list).

What I will build on for next year (not, “what I will do the same next year”)

This was my third year teaching science (after three years teaching fifth grade and two years of middle school social studies and K-8 P.E. prior to that) and I feel like it takes about three years to get really comfortable with a new subject/grade, so I’m excited for next year.  That said, I try not to do anything the exact same from year to year.  Each class has it’s own personality and there are always new things to try.

Since I started teaching science, I’ve tried to make the scientific process the heart of the curriculum.   At each grade level, I add another level of analysis to the lab reports students complete.  This year, I tried to make each class as lab based as possible and it’s something I will definitely continue.  It took me the last three years to figure out what labs really help students learn (analyzing microbes on their desks) and which ones fall flat (genetics with teensy-tiny paper cut outs).  I want to build on this base of labs I’ve done in the past and have begun work on a database of labs for middle school science.  More than anything, it will help me stay organized, but I also plan to make this resource available on the web.  When it will be finished is up in the air, but I’ll make sure to get the word out when I do.

What I hope to change for next year

My hope for next year is to spend more time building community.  I have a tendency to get tunnel vision and exclude some of life’s details in pursuit of a goal.  In the past I’ve always tried to take periodic breaks from class and have a round table discussion with my students about anything except science/math/etc.  I let that slip this year in favor of trying to get more done.  While I felt pretty happy with what we accomplished, I didn’t feel like I connected with students as well as I could have.   Next year, I’m going to bring back the round tables and spend a little more time building relationships.  I think that bringing greater balance will help my classes more and we’ll get just as much, if not more, accomplished.

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