This is a blog post that I’ve been thinking about writing for a very long time. I think it’s a scary post for me to publish because once I share my plan, I’m truly committed to it, and what if I’m wrong? I know that I’ve been wrong before, but this is a very public way of possibly making a big mistake, but then again, it’s also a way of having the support to hopefully meet with success.
Contrary to how things might usually be done, I’m going to share a bit about myself before I share my plan.
- This is my fifteenth year teaching for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. I’ve wanted to teach since I was a little girl, and I worked hard to meet this goal.
- I’m definitely a “curriculum geek.” I read curriculum documents every summer, and I know the expectations well. I look for overlaps between expectations, and when I plan, I do so with the expectations in mind.
- I love data! I pay attention to numbers. I track student growth, and when students are not progressing well, I ask a lot of questions, try different strategies, and attempt to find ones that help them meet with success.
- More than anything else, I care about kids! I may not have my own biological children, but I have 23 children that I care about just as much. When they struggle, I struggle, and when they succeed, I couldn’t be happier.
It’s for this last reason, that I’ve considered this new plan of mine. This year, social skills, problem solving skills, and self-regulation are going to be the three big areas that I focus on first. This doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring the academic areas. As students play, we find lots of opportunities to develop oral language skills (and phonemic awareness skills), provide meaningful reasons to read and write (for those students that are ready to do so), introduce and reinforce math concepts, explore science areas, develop fine motor and gross motor skills, and learn and share through The Arts. But, many of the conversations that my partner and I have with the children first, involve …
- learning how to take turns.
- learning words we can use to express our feelings.
- persevering through difficult tasks.
- taking responsibility (in numerous ways).
- learning how to safely take risks, and if/when to ask for help.
- finding ways to up- or down-regulate, so that we can be “calm” enough to learn.
- learning how to soothe ourselves when we feel upset.
- learning how to recognize important signals in our body (from hunger to the need to go to the bathroom), and how we can respond to each of them.
- learning that what works for one person, may not work for everyone, and that’s okay.
- learning what works best for us, and using these strategies independently to meet with success.
All of this, leads to my big wonder. I wonder, if by putting social skills, problem solving skills, and self-regulation, before academics, if I will ultimately see greater gains in these academic areas, as students will develop the skills necessary to be independent learners. Our play-based learning environment, also provides many opportunities for developing oral language skills, including phonemic awareness and vocabulary skills, and both of these impact on reading success. Will this plan work? I really hope that by meeting students where they’re at, targeting the instruction to all of the different students based on their strengths and needs, modelling and instructing primarily in small groups, and continuing to track progress, re-evaluate needs, and make changes, the data will show significant growth. So often reading, writing, and/or math benchmarks drive instruction, but maybe to see progress in these areas, we first have to look even more closely at the learning skills that actually have the biggest section for comments on all of our report cards. What do you think?