It’s that bitter-sweet time of year again, where I am so proud of my students’ accomplishments: their risk, failures, successes, and in all the ways they’ve learned and grown. No matter how exciting it is to see kids move on to the next grade, it’s also an incredibly emotional time. Next week, we have our fifth graders graduate and move on to various middle schools. Despite it being close to the end, it’s an amazingly busy time for everyone, including students. As teachers, we only have a certain amount of time with them, and then it’s over. We have to make each moment count. One thing a few of us do this time of year is have students reflect on their growth and create portfolios of some of the work they’ve done through the year and then share these with their parents. I like this for several reasons:
1) The kids take ownership of the evaluation process.
2) Both students and parents can see, through the actual work of their children, what they can and cannot do.
3) Through the students’ reflection of their work, parents can start a conversation about effort, motivation, future goals, etc.
4) Kids can convey so much when they talk about their work and we can learn so much from them.
5) It provides evidence of work and learning, that letter grades can’t. (Even written narratives have their limits)
6) It is rigorous work.
7) Students are highly motivated to show off their work.
Speaking of reflections, I haven’t been able to keep up with the Ralph Waldo Emerson inspired reflection per day. Instead, I’ll just copy the next 4 quotes below, not even mention the prompts, and write one reflection.
Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
What would I say to the person I’m going to be five years from now? Wherever you end up, be it the same place because you love it, or trying something new because you believe you can make a larger positive impact, stay true to yourself and your beliefs about education. Make sure, however, those beliefs are informed. Don’t base them solely on data you can neatly fit on a spreadsheet, nor simply because ‘it has always been done this way. ‘Don’t base those beliefs just because you have a ‘feeling’ about them. Use data, feelings, and even tradition as starting points, but use the evidence you see in front of you. Do what you think is right because you believe it is the right thing to do, not because you are told to do it. Always remember Emerson’s quote, “Imitation is Suicide.” Lead. Don’t follow.