Professional Development Opinion

Applying Personal Learning for Success in the New Year

By Starr Sackstein — August 08, 2014 2 min read
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Edcamps. Unconferences. Summer reading. Twitter chats. Incessant reflection on last year’s successes and well, not-so-successes.

Summer is truly an opportunity to recharge and establish the mindset we wish to create in the upcoming year.

For me, school doesn’t start until September, but I know many of you have returned already. August is my preparation month and it’s time for me to take the precious pearls of wisdom I’ve acquired and start applying them to my process.

But it isn’t as simple as just setting it all up. Years ago, I would spend the summer completing an entire year’s worth of material. To me, preparation and organization were vital to success in my space for me as a teacher and for my students.

Of course, this model doesn’t necessarily take into consideration the needs of my new students, it only considers those who have come before and their recommendations.

Last year for the first time, I experimented with a colleague involving the students in the planning of the curriculum in our elective class. It was fun and generated a natural investment in student engagement. We took their suggestions and built the entire year’s learning around it, still remaining flexible so that we could readjust as needed.

This year, I plan to do a little of both. Students have a right to be included in their learning, all parts of the process.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Have you taught the class you’re teaching before? If yes, was it successful? What determines its success?

  • Have you received feedback from students who have taken your courses?

  • While reflecting, what do you consider important and what can be adjusted?

  • What are the ages and levels of your students?

  • In what ways can you include your students in the planning for the year?

  • What have you done in the past that is worth changing?

  • How can you make your classroom more student-centered?

  • How can you take what you have learned either in professional development or during your own personal learning and implement it into your new program?

  • What risks are you willing to take?

  • What are your short term and long term goals?

  • How will you monitor and adjust the learning as you go to meet those goals?

Good pedagogy takes the students’ needs and places them above all other things. We need to elevate learning in our spaces to truly empower the kids and continue with our own learning as we go. The same we empower kids to take control of their own growth, we too must model that behavior.

Pushing ourselves to understand what achievement means to our students and then providing ways to help them get there is what teaching is all about. We can only keep up if we pay attention and follow the clues our students provide. If we invest ourselves in learning the technology, reading the books and collaborating with others, we can offer the best learning environment for all of our students.

As this new year begins, in what ways will you choose to grow and empower your students for learning? Please share.

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.