My teaching partner, Paula, and I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about our classroom blog. We recently had our Meet the Teacher Night, and heard from many parents how much they appreciated having the daily updates on our blog. It’s through these updates that they learn even more about what their child is doing in the room, but also the learning that’s happening on a global scale in the classroom. They feel as though they have a window into our room, while also learning different ways that they can support their child at home. That said, there’s another side to this story.
Paula and I are very open in our posts. We share snippets of conversations, strengths and areas of growth that we notice, but also next steps. These reflections are not just about the children. We also reflect on our professional practices. More than five years ago, Royan Lee, a fellow Ontario educator and blogger, wrote a post on filming yourself teaching and deconstructing your instruction. When he published this post, I saw teaching as just the full group instruction that I delivered at the front of the classroom. Now my thinking around “instruction” has changed, and the majority of my lessons happen in small groups. The same is true for Paula. I’m less focused on recording full class lessons — although at times I do — but much of our day is spent on a video camera. Sometimes Paula captures my conversations. Sometimes I capture hers. Sometimes we capture each other at the same time, or we just capture ourselves with the children. But we are forever listening to ourselves on film, discussing our approaches with each other, and considering changes we can make. It’s common for me to make the kind of comment that I did in this Instagram post the other day.
I share this because part of our thinking behind the blog is to help reframe perceptions of next steps.
- None of us are perfect.
- We all have a “next best move.”
- Sharing this thinking publicly helps remind us of our areas for growth.
- It also makes us more human.
Our hope is that parents, educators, and administrators will look at these posts and celebrate with us the different successes, but also support us (and kids) in where we’re going next. Throughout the year, we look back at these posts, and we focus on growth. Where did students begin and where are they now? Also, where did we begin and how have we changed? Just like with our Kindergarten Program Document, our focus is on the individual. It’s about the personal learning stories and the personal growth.
Over the years, I’ve learned many things from my parents. I have a gifted sister who’s 13 months younger than me, but skipped Grade 1, so we went through school together. As she was excelling, I was the struggling student with the learning disability. There were all kinds of opportunities for my parents to compare the two of us, but they never did. They recognized each of our strengths, and they realized that we would progress at our own rates. They also knew that with support, guidance, and targeted instruction, we would both achieve what we wanted to do. And that’s exactly what happened. As two educators, they were important parts of this instruction, but so were the incredible teachers that we had over the years.
I share this story because when observations, conversations, and work products are shared publicly, it becomes really easy to wonder, is my child doing okay? Do I need to be doing more? At times Paula and I question, should we share this particular experience? Are parents going to be concerned that their child is not performing at this level, or that their child is not doing well enough? Our hope is no. We know that parents want to see their own children, but also see what’s happening in the classroom. Sometimes when they don’t see their child in a particular space, this becomes a discussion point around, “What did you do in this area, or what might you do here tomorrow?”
Even for us, at times it takes looking back, to realize just how far forward our students have come. Just look at these two posts from the end of last year.
This growth may even be more incredible! Look what Milla wrote back in JK. Here is what she wrote on her own this week for our volunteer. This is how I know that kids have improved! ❤️❤️❤️ https://t.co/7SV6UFSCjM cc @RSHWDSB @john_gris @mannyhwdsb pic.twitter.com/Usl42VwB3N
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) June 14, 2018
Individuals just watching last year’s blog posts might only have seen …
- the child that could write,
- the child that could read,
- the child with incredible vocabulary,
but don’t forget that each of these children had a starting point. We all do! There are things that we would do over too … including my word choice over this second example of growth being “even more incredible.” It really is only in Kindergarten where even a week can make a massive difference for kids. The progress at this age is amazing, and we’re fortunate to get to witness and be a part of all of it. With our classroom blog, you can too. As parents and as educators though, what helps you stay focused on the individuals? The school year is only beginning, and we are already learning a lot about our 29 wonderful learners … and maybe just as much about ourselves!
Speaking as a parent, everything your talking about here would be amazing to experience. As you know, I think public documentation is a powerful process when done by pedagogues such as yourself and your partner.
Thank you for continuing to share your learning with the world!
Thanks Royan for the comment and the kind words! I think that we can all learn a lot from public documentation, and the conversations that come from it. Your comment reminds me of the importance of the multiple voices in these conversations: from children to parents to fellow educators and administrators. While we don’t get a lot of comments on our blog posts, we do get quite a bit of dialogue on our Instagram posts, and I think that these many voices make the power of this public sharing even more pronounced. Thanks for weighing in, and thanks for writing the blog post that I keep going back to again and again!