Ice-cold lemonade. Delicious bar-be-que. Pool time and family vacations. The season synonymous with these things is upon us, and although I eagerly look forward to it, I view the Summer as just the off-season. Like a dedicated athlete, I spend the majority of the Summer training for the next school year. Training may include attending a workshop, participating in Twitter chats, doing some curriculum planning, and/or reading professional texts.
I just finished reading Shift This by Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr on Twitter), a book that in my opinion should be required reading in all pre-service educator programs in America. The ideas (or "shifts") discussed in Shift This must reach a novice audience of educators if instruction in America is truly going to be student-centered and innovative. While reading the book, I realized that Joy's ideas are not about buzzwords. Her ideas are about common-sense best practices for learners. Her ideas can help a veteran teacher like myself to be at the top of my game.
Here are my top 3 take-aways from Shift This:
1. I need a mission statement, one that sincerely speaks to my core beliefs as an educator and boldly states what I will dedicate myself to providing for my students. Once I have crafted my mission statement, I should share it with my students, their parents, and perhaps also my colleagues. My mission statement should be the light on the path ahead, keeping me honestly focused on my professional promises.
2. I need to teach my students how to have productive discussions in class, and doing EdCafes is one avenue by which to reach that destination. EdCafes also present choices to students, allowing them to choose topics of interest on which to meet and confer with their peers. After modeling, practice, and support, I see EdCafes becoming an integral part of how we'll learn together in the coming school year.
3. I need to change the what and why of how I grade. I should be assessing the transfer and application of skills to complex tasks--not how neatly notes are written and objectives that do not align with curricular standards. This will no doubt be the toughest shift to make, but I have to do what is right for my students instead of what is easy for me.
Joy Kirr's book Shift This has so much to offer to both the novice and the veteran teacher. I am better for reading her ideas and reflecting on my practice. Shifting gears not only to a new grade level but also to best practices are changes I want to make. Change starts with each one of us in classrooms...one "shift" at a time.
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