(Full Disclosure – this post has nothing to do with John Lennon’s song of the same title. I was hoping it would, but not happening. On with the post…)
Here at Trinity School, we are always striving to increase our ability to help our students. One of the main ways this happens is through the professional development (PD) that Trinity offers. Our PD is meaningful and impacting.
This is my third year at Trinity, and I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that I have grown more professionally in those three years than in the 18 I was in public school. That statement is hard to believe, I imagine. I am sure that you may even think that I am employing hyperbole, but I honestly think it is a true statement.
I have mentioned in a previous post that we are not only expected to continue to grow as a teacher, but it is encouraged. Opportunities abound for teachers and staff members to explore areas and techniques that will benefit us in the classroom, but also in areas of our own personal growth. The administration knows that when we are taking care of ourselves, stretching our minds, learning new things, we will be more effective in the classroom, and ultimately that is our main goal. To become the best that we can be in the classroom so that our students will get the absolute best education they can while they are at Trinity.
So, how does that tie into the title of this post? That would be the recent addition of the concept of mini-lessons to the classroom. What is a mini-lesson? From the Web Site, Teacher Vision, “A mini lesson is a short lesson with a narrow focus that provides instruction in a skill or concept that students will then relate to a larger lesson that will follow. A mini lesson typically precedes reading workshop or writing workshop, but it can serve as an introduction to a social studies, science, or math lesson.”
I have always been a whole-group teaching kind of teacher. I have relied on my ability to hold my students’ attention through my kinetic personality and delivery as well as finding ways to help the students connect to the lesson. I think I have been successful at this, but after learning about mini-lessons and seeing this approach from some of my co-workers I have made a decision that it will benefit my students more if I adopt this method as well. It is a big change in teaching styles and one that I am attempting to make this year.
Two critical factors in successfully implementing the mini-lesson strategy are keeping the lessons short and concise and the conferencing that occurs with individual students while the remainder of the class is independently working. I’m not necessarily known for being one to get directly to the point. My students learn that pretty quickly. I am learning to cut down my delivery to the very essence of the lesson I am introducing or teaching to the class. Doing so will help to ensure that the engagement of the students will be held. One on one conferencing takes time, practice and a very different approach than a whole-group style of teaching. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not a quiet person, but in order to not distract the other students, I am going to need to
find use my inside voice. I have one, I just don’t use it very often. Learning to be unobtrusive as I make my way around the classroom to confer with students is something that I can see may be another challenge for me.
Luckily, I have the knowledge that challenges make me rise to the occasion. I have 20 years of experience in education. I have so many tools in my toolbox (teacher lingo, y’all). Most importantly, I have the support of an awesome administrative team and co-workers who will help me with this challenge. Their encouragement, advice, and observations will guide me along this path to taking my teaching to a new level.
To top it off, I am inviting my administrators and colleagues in my class to watch me this year as I am starting over. Robert Kaplinsky has issued the #ObserveMe Challenge, a chance for teachers to invite others in to observe them in the moment and look for specific feedback on different goals the teacher lists on a sign outside the classroom door:
I am excited about this and a little nervous. As I said, it is a big change for me, but one that I know will be beneficial for my students, and above all else, as a teacher, I want to be the very best I can for my students. (Maybe I should’ve had the David Bowie song in mind instead.)
What challenges are you facing and what goals have you set for yourself this school year? I’d love to hear from you on these topics.
Learner, Thinker, Writer: Thomas Benefield serves the Trinity School community as 5th Grade lead teacher.