Rural Ed Chat

Teaching in the Country for the good of the Country.

Refocusing — Our Stories

Join us on Tuesday, January 6th at 8:30 pm eastern as we discuss Refocusing. Here are our stories…

Tammy’s Tale (@MathNeil):

When the new calendar year rolls around, I become very reflective. Have I done all that I could have done in the past 12 months? How can I make the next year even more successful? These questions help me refocus as we return to school after a long two week break.calendar

A new year implies a chance to start over. A time to refocus on those goals we set for ourselves in August. This past year, I completely changed curriculum areas. I went from a core subject (Math) to CTE courses (Computer Apps and Game Design). This change threw me somewhat off balance. All of a sudden I had lots of new materials to learn in a very short time.

Now that a semester is almost behind me, I can look back with relief that the beginning is done. I am starting to feel a rhythm to my classes. I am enjoying what I do. This time, refocusing means checking the standards and making sure I am on track, filling in any gaps I may find, and finding new resources to complete the year. Refocusing keeps me seeing clearly.

 

John’s Journey (@Edventures):

1370445545000-Aperture-1306051120_x-largeAs a lover of photography I often liken my perspective on the New Year to the photographer who strives to create a composition rather the amateur who tries to capture everything. You know the pictures, the scene is amazing and in your desire to preserve the entire scene, you zoom out and take the wide angle shot only to realize later that in trying to capture everything, the picture reflects nothing exciting.

It is our mind that places a value on the images captured by our eyes and all the variables that go into that creating that moment cannot be held in an image. The best photographers create a composition, they select one important thing or perhaps a couple of import things and focus on those. If you’re familiar with the rule of thirds, those focal points are rarely the things in the center of the image.

So for me the New Year is my opportunity to examine the scene, pick out what’s important, and to compose my future by focusing on those few important elements. What is important to me, to my family, to those I serve in my many capacities. I think it really comes down to intention, what are those important elements I’ve selected and what purposeful things can and should I do to bring them to life?

I’ve had enough experience in life to know that sometimes the scenes change, and the shot needs to be recomposed. What was originally envisioned and intended evolves and as a result so too must I. The nice thing about life is that it’s ok to refocus. The trick is to figure out what it is you wish to focus on.

Nat’s Notes (@NataleeStotz):

I have spent my entire life on a school schedule. My parents were both teachers. I landed a teaching job right out of college, and with the exception of 3 different years between some of my schools, I have always been in the classroom. That means that I have always thought of things in terms of the start of the school year, not the start of the calendar year. Each September is a new beginning. At some point I realized teaching gives me multiple fresh starts. When I started to view each marking period or semester as a chance to evaluate and change things up, I felt an incredible amount of freedom.

Over the last few years I have tried to become more reflective of my practices on a daily basis, looking at not just what my students were (or were not) doing but also what I was (or was not) doing. I realized I didn’t need to wait for the end of a marking period to make a change. Sometimes all you need is a weekend; sometimes it is okay to say midstream, “This isn’t working. We can do better. Let’s change,” and it is okay to say that to the kids.

Anyone in a rural community is familiar with unpaved roads. If the road isn’t maintained- graded (scraped) on a regular basis- ruts form and become very deep. You have two choices; stay in the ruts and keep going where they lead you, or push hard to get up and out of it so that you have more control and more options. In the middle of December I realized my classes had slid into a rut.

 After tweeting about it I got into a conversation with @LitLearnAct about not giving up read aloud and independent reading. I was struggling with feeling the need to give up those aspects to open up time for other things, but not wanting to give up such valuable pieces of our learning community. Dana and Sonja encouraged me to keep those elements. I realized I needed to simply move them from the top of our class block to the bottom. This did open things up. The change encouraged me to be more active and to get the students more active during class. We did some lessons and activities that involved getting them moving and interacting with each other more.

 A few simple changes brought much needed energy into the class. We ended the calendar year with a renewed energy and focus.

I’m so thankful that I have learned to not fear change. In fact I have learned to embrace change. Being a reflective teacher has helped me to recognize when I need to refocus and take advantage of any opportunity to pull myself and my students out of whatever rut we have gotten ourselves into.

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