Looking Back At My “One Word” And Looking Forward To A New “One!”

Yesterday, I caught Sue Dunlop‘s tweeted challenge in response to Donna’s Fry‘s recent blog post.

2015-07-25_10-57-17I knew that I needed to update my “one word” post, as so much of what I’ve done this year has revolved around this word: being uncomfortable. I just did a search on my professional blog for the word “uncomfortable,” and since writing my blog post on December 31st, I have three pages of blog posts all connected to this single word. Looking back at these blog posts, I realized that I’ve been uncomfortable …

  • in my classroom practices.
  • in my reflections and goal-setting.
  • in my interactions with colleagues.
  • in many different choices that I made this year.

Maybe my biggest “uncomfortable” challenge is what I have in store for next year: teaching Senior Kindergarten. It’s not about the grade choice. I’ve taught this grade many times before, and absolutely loved it. But the challenges are,

  • teaching this grade with a new Program Document than we had before. I say that I’ve taught Kindergarten for eight years before, and I have, but never with this new document. While I sat on an advisory committee for the document, and I’ve read it many times before and know the thinking behind it, I haven’t experienced this thinking in practice with four- and five-year-olds. Six years ago, I left Kindergarten because I didn’t agree with the philosophy behind the Full-Day Kindergarten Program. My thinking has changed since then, but as September comes closer, I’m getting scared. What if everything I believe in theory, doesn’t work in practice? How can I stay true to the document, while also addressing the diverse needs of our learners?
  • teaching this grade in a school with many different student needsLast year, I started teaching at a different school. It’s an incredible school with a very diverse student population. Poverty remains an issue down in the area where I teach. For many students, English is also their second language, and this may be the first year that some of our Kindergarten students are learning English. I keep thinking back to a comment that a previous Early Years Consultant made at the time when I last taught Kindergarten: “We don’t withdraw students for support in Kindergarten because the Kindergarten classroom is the ideal place for English Language Learners. There is so much of the oral language that they need.” I understand and agree with this statement. I’m a big believer that all students can learn, and with the right supports in place, can meet with success. What if I’m wrong? If the students don’t make enough academic gains, will people start questioning the Kindergarten program? Will I? How long do we wait for growth to occur before making changes to approaches?
  • sharing a classroom with somebody else. My partner for next year is fantastic, and we’ve already had so many great conversations on classroom set-up, programming, and pedagogy, but for 14 years, I’ve been used to largely planning alone. Now the “I” is becoming “we,” and this is both exciting and scary. How do we continue to develop this strong partnership? If/when disagreements occur, how might we go about solving them? What have others done before?

All of these challenges, while connected to being uncomfortable, are making me think that it might be time to update my “one word.” I know that this was a year-long challenge, but in teaching, the new year starts in September, and I wonder if this is when my word also needs to change. I really think that success for this upcoming year is going to come down to listening. I’d like to think that I’m a good listener. I do watch and listen to people often, but …

  • how often do I “listen” with what I think the answer is already in my head?
  • how often do I “listen” just for the purpose of responding?
  • how often do I “listen” just to give myself time to think about what I want to say next?
  • how often do I “listen” and interject prematurely?
  • how often do I “listen” and nod along, but not really “hear” anything at all?
  • how often do I “listen,” comment, and question, but forget about the wait-time that students and adults may need?

If I can become a better listener, I’ll be able to find out,

  • what students know.
  • what students want to learn about.
  • what students struggle with, and how I might be able to help.
  • how students communicate (with me and with each other) regardless of the language that they’re using at the time.
  • how students solve problems, and what they do if/when they can’t solve them.
  • what my teaching partner thinks and believes.
  • issues/concerns that my teaching partner may have, and how she would like to solve them.

From listening comes next steps, growth, and learning … for both children and adults. As the new school year approaches, I’m going to “get uncomfortable” again as I focus on how to become a better listener for myself, my teaching partner, and my students. What impact has your “one word” had on your practices this year? Will you continue with your current word until the end of December, or will September bring a shift for you? Why? I’d love to hear your response to this updated one word challenge!


8 thoughts on “Looking Back At My “One Word” And Looking Forward To A New “One!”

  1. Aviva,

    I have never thought about my “one word”…so I have been thinking about it today. After a day of walking and thinking I have decided on my word: open.

    I am approaching new situations and learning with an open mind. I am striving to be more open to other’s persepctives and trying new things.

    We shall see how being “open” impacts me over the course of the fall. Thanks for the idea!


    • What a great word, Sarah! I’m curious to hear how this one word impacts on your interactions with others and your teaching and learning experiences this year (personally and professionally). Do you blog? Sharing your reflections on your “one word” could be a great blogging option. I always used to share my Annual Learning Plan goals on my blog, and then reflect on how things were going throughout the school year. This is now what I’m doing with this “one word” goal. Maybe this can be a simpler, but still powerful, Annual Learning Plan. Thanks for sharing your word, and please share where this “word” takes you this year!


  2. Aviva,
    I will continue with my 2015 one word “sharing” until December and add another one word “better” for the upcoming school year. This year I want to improve my teaching, learning, “sharing” with colleagues, leadership and get “better” overall. There is a saying that states ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’ and I have been blessed with great teaching stamina, health, attitude, grit and this year I will reflect and celebrate 25 years experience with the HWDSB. The longer I teach, the more motivated I am to be “better’ and improve my teaching skills, be a positive role model and inspire others as an experienced educator.

    • Thanks for the comment, David! These are two wonderful words. I’m thinking about your word, “better.” Are there specific areas in which you wish to improve? How do you think you’ll go about doing so? How will you judge your success?

      I hope that this upcoming school year is a wonderful one for you, and that you continue to be blessed in all the ways that you shared here!


  3. Aviva, you have certainly put yourself in lots of uncomfortable situations this year. I have a new motto for you: “Go hard or go home!” You throw yourself into every challenge and new situation no matter how scared you are.

    Of all the questions you ask yourself in the post, which has the most resonance for you?

    • Thanks for the comment, Sue! I love this new motto. Yes, I’m often scared by these different situations, but I try to remember that in the end, the “uncomfortableness” was worth it.

      I must say that you ask hard questions. 🙂 I think that all of the listening questions really resonated with me (hence why I want to update my one word). If I had to choose one question though, I’d pick this one:

      How often do I “listen” just for the purpose of responding?

      The more that I read and think about listening, the more that I question how good I am at really “listening.” I think that I often have a running commentary in my head, and while I appear to be listening, I don’t know how much I really hear. I think that I’m just trying to figure out what I want to say next. This is hard to admit, but it’s something I want to change. I’m going to try to remember this as I work on being a better listener in this upcoming school year.


      • A very common thing. Tons of people do this (including me). You want to become more of an active listener – listening to understand, not to respond.

        • Yes Sue! This is exactly what I want. I think that this is going to be a really hard goal to meet, but I can see it having personal and professional benefits. Reading now about the Reggio Emilia approach and pedagogical documentation makes me think that improving in these listening skills will also be incredibly beneficial when it comes to planning, programming, and supporting student learning in the Kindergarten Program. I definitely welcome any recommendations on how to get better at “active listening.”


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