At the start of the school year, we were all so filled with excitement. We were anxious to meet our new students, enthusiastic about the new lessons we had prepared, and hopeful that we would do it all "right." Now that we are a few weeks in, we start to question ourselves about that great success we anticipated. Am I doing this right? Are they getting it?
I always started my year with a super fun-filled unit on the basics of Geography. Most of this unit should have been review from the 6th grade, but some of the activities included current articles and modern issues to be considered by my new-to-high-school 9th graders. My unit included vocabulary practice, investigative skills, competitive games, and plenty of map skills practice. Each of the days brought fun and laughter, inquiry and investigation, and many light bulbs glowing bright!
Throughout the unit, I assessed my students through daily exit slips, "POP-ORAL QUIZZES" and simple questioning as my students worked on activities or completed tasks. I often found myself impressed with the answers my students were providing, and even in the questions they were asking me about the topics of study. This unit was a hit!
And then came the first test. The summative assessment. The big finale! And how did it go? Well, I'll just say: It did not go as I expected. Some of my students performed incredibly, while others seemed to sink in the testing quicksand. How could this be? Did I fail? What do I do now?
How could this be? Simple. Students are different. Some studied. Some did not. Some took their time on the test, some finished before I had them all passed out. Some cared about their performance, some are trying to test the high school waters.
Did I fail? While I always take my students' failures as personal failures, I always try to remind myself that this is never the end. This is just the first test in the first quarter or the first year of high school. There will be time to change the early failures to great successes. I just have to work to find the correct strategies to make a difference.
What do I do now? I teach. I go in tomorrow and I begin the next unit. Of course, I have now adapted this coming unit to include the concepts that were not "absorbed" in the last unit, and I plan to stress the importance of the process in my future lessons - the entire process from start to finish.
Teaching, just like learning, is NOT about the test. The test is just one more tool we use in the classroom to see where are students need us more. The test is never the end; it is just a new beginning.
So, you ask, how are my classes going? Tomorrow we start a new unit, and I am so excited! We will be learning about new things, reviewing some old, and investigating what it means to be a student in this world. What could be more fun?!
"...Our lessons come from the journey, not the destination."
-Don Williams Jr.