Best Year Ahead- Making your Teaching Something Special
This past school year was inundated with a wave of changes. As much as I had been looking forward to finally settling into my fourth year of teaching third grade, Rushton Hurley’s quote rang truer than ever–”Every year can be the best year of our teaching career if we are constantly trying to improve.”
The #BestYearYet began with a complete facelift. A classroom move made it much easier to gut the contents of the room and implement flexible seating. Along with a shifting mindset, our third-grade class this year was the first to explore many different things such as Flipgrid, Seesaw, and coding. In some capacities, we tested the waters first and in others, we jumped right in! Little did I know we were biding our time before the perfect storm that would culminate into an amazing school year ahead!
About halfway through the school year, I took a moment to stop and reflect as to why I felt our classroom was ready to run and thrive so much sooner than most years. In the midst of it all, it seemed pretty clear–rather than simply trying to drive content, we as a class had spent as much time developing our own mindsets, refining our own work habits, and exploring the different 21st Century Skills as much as simply trying to “cover the content.” While front-loading these skills at the beginning of the year was essential, continuing to be intentional about these practices were just as important to maintain these perspectives. The result was a strong second half of our school year which had students wondering where the school year had gone as we departed on summer vacation.
One of our activities on the last day of school was our final BreakoutEDU activity of the year. Aside from the month of November, our class put our brains together every month of the school year to think critically and search for and solve clues, all while refining our communication and collaboration skills. While BreakoutEDU was initially a simple and fun activity to bring into our classroom, watching our students progress as problem solvers throughout the year was a joy to watch, but maybe even more importantly, one of the key contributors to our classroom success this year!
We have found SO many different reasons as to why we love BreakoutEDU from a teacher’s perspective, but after our annual round of state testing, Holly Clark’s voice rang loud and true as “testing season” came to a close. She once mentioned that posting objectives can often take the thinking out of it for students. By doing so, we eliminate the need for students to think and handcuff the inquiry process.
Despite the fact that we hardly spent any time on “test prep” this year, I felt students persevered through the challenges at hand much more seamlessly than classes in years past. I firmly believe that activities like BreakoutEDU contributed to this mindset as students did not know what question they were trying to solve. They simply assessed the situation, processed what they did know, then tried their best to make the most of it until it made sense. Whether trying to solve a BreakoutEDU challenge or taking a standardized test, this mindset helped to crack the code of the task at hand.
As the learning and accountability continued to shift more and more into the hands of our students throughout the year, it was apparent that our focus on our 21st Century Learning Skills translated far past just the activity or lesson we were applying it to for the day. Watching students think critically throughout the school day across many different subjects while both helping and challenging each other was a joy to be a part of. While it was certainly sad to say goodbye while sending students off for summer, I’m excited to continue to refine our 21st Century classroom and for another #BestYearYet ahead!