A week ago, I received this comment from Sue Dunlop on one of my previous blog posts, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
In my reply, I told Sue that I really liked her idea (which I do), and that I was going to think of some measures and likely write another blog post (which is what I’m doing now).
Usually I would have blogged a long time ago in response, but it’s taken me a while to really narrow down my measures. Likely unbeknownst to her, Sue mentioned one of my greatest weaknesses in her reply: I often have too many goals, which makes it difficult to accomplish everything. This is never my intention. I usually start with a goal or two, but each experience and reflection seems to multiply my number of next steps, and pretty soon I need to slow down and really focus on where to go. I’m hoping that by blogging about these measures and taking the time throughout the year to come back to them and reflect, I will stay more focused in my goals and achieve greater success. Considering all of this, here are my three measures for “success.”
1. Have students successfully self-regulate so that they are ready and able to learn. I have blogged a lot about self-regulation over the past couple of years, and I do believe that it’s an essential skill for students and adults to develop. Self-regulation is also part of one of the four frames that are outlined in our new Growing Success – The Kindergarten Addendum. This shows the importance of it and the need to focus on this area.
Speaking to my new teaching partner for this year, and having met some of the new JK students that will be joining our class, I can see that many of the students are currently co-regulating. With help from adults and other children, they’re able to get to “calm.” I think that the next step is to give students a chance to find out what self-regulation strategies work for them, and continually give them opportunities to choose and use the strategies that work. This seems easy when outlined in writing, but is a lot more challenging to do in a classroom context — especially considering that there could be a wide variety of strategies that work. Likely this will take time, patience, and various amounts of support for different students. A home/school connection could also be really important here, both in terms of allowing for similar self-regulation options at home and at school, and finding out what works in the different environments.
2. Meet and/or exceed the Board’s reading benchmarks by the end of Kindergarten. While I’m new to this school, having met with parents and talked to students at the Kindergarten Orientation evening, seen some soon-to-be SK work samples around the classroom, and spoken to my teaching partner about her experiences, I can tell that many — if not all — of the students are ready to read. Some are already reading. The children have the oral language and vocabulary skills necessary to move to this next step. Working with my teaching partner, I want to help nurture and develop these skills, so that the students can meet with continued reading success.
3. Help develop independent problem solvers. While I’ve taught Kindergarten more than any other grade, I have teaching experiences up to Grade 6. I know that for students to continue to grow as learners, they need to become more independent (not just looking to an adult for support) and solve many complex problems (many of which require multiple attempts and critical thinking skills). Even just playing with the JK students on the Kindergarten Orientation evening, I could tell that they’re already solving some simple problems, showing some confidence in their own ideas, and interested in doing things on their own. Now we need to nurture and develop these skills in the classroom.
While these measures are a start, I’m not done yet. Once I’ve had a chance to talk more with my teaching partner and meet the students, I can get a better idea about percentages for each goal. What is a reasonable number of students that can meet this goal, and for the students that can’t meet this goal, what can they meet instead? These percentages will give me some targets as I track progress throughout the year.
I’m also thinking about what I will use to measure growth in each of these areas. I really like Growing Success, and the focus on the triangulation of data. Based on this model, we assess students with the use of observations, conversations, and work products. If this works for students, could it also work for educators? I think that it could, and with this in mind, noting growth in my goal areas may involve …
- looking at anecdotal records.
- looking back at documentation (photographs, videos, podcasts, and written notes).
- conversations with my teaching partner, with parents, and with students about their observations and experiences.
- exploring the self-regulation options that children choose to use.
- running records and DRA data (which could almost function as a “work product” in this case).
- reading shared during play and individual and/or small group reading experiences.
- looking at perseverance and success during building and/or coding challenges in the classroom.
- examining work connected to classroom inquiries.
I think that this list is likely to grow as I delve into my goals more, talk to my teaching partner and other colleagues online and in person, and read some new resources, including the one that I ordered today: Miriam Trehearne’s Multiple Paths To Literacy: K-2. I can use the ideas in the list above to track growth over time though, and looking at the resources, strategies, and ideas we choose to use, see for myself — am I making a difference?
Thank you, Sue, for pushing me to think in this way. What are your measures (or goals) to see if you’re successful? As a new school year approaches, maybe we can all share what we might be tracking as we continually look at how to improve.
I can’t help but notice that all of your goals have to do with ways in which you will help students, which can make it tricky to measure. How much of their success is a direct result of you vs how much would they have accomplished anyways? I think you have set yourself up with some great things to focus on as a teacher, but I’d like to offer you some friendly encouragement to set one goal for yourself that does not rely on student success, but rather that you can measure entirely based upon you.
Thanks for your comment, Melanie! I would be lying if I said that I didn’t recognize this as well as I was thinking about the goals and writing this post. I do have another goal that connects just to me and my own area of need and “next best step” (as part of our Board directive and my own professional learning), but the kind of success I was looking at in the last blog post was around student growth. In this past case, I wondered if I was getting better based on how the students did last year and “success” I’ve noticed in other years. It’s hard, as the children are different so the comparison isn’t the same, but I was still left wondering if I could do more. I guess this post is about my “more.”
Next year, I have a different group of students, so the comparison won’t be the same either, but I’m hoping that by looking at the use of specific strategies and approaches (which I will explain more throughout the year), I can see my impact on student success. Did these strategies and approaches work? If not, what could I do differently? What else did I try? I know that it’s challenging to separate the student growth that might happen anyway with the growth that I may have impacted, but I really do want to look more closely at this. Last year left me wondering, and this year, I’m hoping to find some answers. Does this make sense?
This totally makes sense. It seems well thought out too. I think about this all the time after I have taught something…. was it me or would they have done awesome without me? The tricky part is also that a strategy that works for one might not work for another. I look forward to learning how this all plays out. You’ve put intentional thought into how to find out so hopefully you will be able to draw some conclusions.
Thanks Melanie! I think that the “conversations” piece may be key, as then I can also find out if it was the approach itself that worked, or if students improved despite what I did. I’m definitely going to have to spend a lot of time thinking about strategies, observing students, and engaging in meaningful conversations with students and other adults about observations. I’m very interested in seeing how this goes, and will certainly be blogging again about these goals.