Monday, February 7, 2011

How am I doing?

I spent that last few days completing a self-evaluation required of faculty in the Mathematics Department at GVSU. This is a chance to reflect on my work over the past school year in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and service and communicate my efforts to my peers. As I reread the teaching section, I decided it might be interesting to share this portion of my self-evaluation on my blogs. Hopefully, it makes my thinking visible regarding my journey as a reflective practitioner. Well, here it goes...

I start each semester by apologizing to my students. I tell them that I will teach the course better next time because I learn more about what works and what doesn’t based on their feedback. This is an opportunity to model for future teachers a growth mindset toward the profession and it reminds me to keep looking for ways to improve my practice. This past year, I must admit, these improvements have been modest.
One way I continue to strive to improve is setting reasonable limits for my students and myself. The workshop model that I use for class activities and assignments offers a structure that supports these efforts, in terms of my students. Each workshop sets a one-hour time limit for them to engage in learning. At the end of this time, they are free to end the activity and move to something else. I want them to become comfortable with the idea that learning is an ongoing process that cannot always be accomplished in a single sitting. I want them to experience “learning lust” – the desire to keep going because they want to learn more and not because they have to complete an assignment. But mostly, I want them to practice having balance and boundaries in their lives. As future teachers, these are essential elements if they are to have a sustainable, successful career.
I am trying to apply the same idea into my own teaching practice. I find it easy to spend hours upon hours planning lessons or evaluating assessments. The more time I have the more time I use. This past year I have worked to set limits on both of these activities by setting time limits. I do not always stop when the time is up, but I have found myself being more discerning about how I manage my time. This is an ongoing effort that I will continue to hone.

School often teaches us to avoid (or hide) our struggles, but learning theory shows that challenges are a natural part of the process of developing firm understandings. What are you working on improving and how are you going about making the change? I'd be interested to hear how you reflect on your practice.

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