This week is going to be the last week of school for the first semester. As I put the finishing touches on final exams and study guides, I took a moment to reflect on my students over the past four months and would like to share some of my reflections with you.
My students have made some notable gains. I currently have one sixth-grader. He came to me refusing to do any work that required him to read or connect several ideas together. He also could not subtract, multiply, divide, and would get instantly aggressive at the mere mention of fractions or decimals.
I am very proud of his accomplishments this semester. He has mastered his IEP goal of subtraction with and without borrowing with a variety of numbers, and is near mastery in multiplication! He has gotten better with his reading fluency, and comprehension. He will now attempt to read and work independently. He is very aware of his challenges and will often ask if something is correct or ask for clarification.
This is a HUGE improvement from throwing things, yelling, and growling as he did in the beginning of the year. He has also had gains in self-monitoring. He can now look at an assignment and say, "Okay, Mr. Williams, now you know I am going to need help with this because I may get frustrated, right?" to which I reply, "That's okay, remember to ask for help as soon as something seems funny and I will be there." He will then get to work.
My three seventh-grade boys have made gains in non-academics. Their biggest gains have been behavioral. They are more aware of their emotions, seek out help to deal with them, and will be the first to say, "Mr. Williams, I've had a rough (insert part of the day). Is it cool if I stay here instead of going to (insert name of a different class) so that I can calm down and not get in trouble?" to which I reply, "Of course! Great job on being aware of how you are feeling. Do you want to go for a walk and talk about it or can you handle it on your own?"
Along with gains, we have had some setbacks and stagnation as well. My 7th-grade boys in general are not progressing as well as I hoped in reading and organization. We are currently battling their seemingly innate hatred of books and reading. I have struggled to get them to read aloud or individually. They are very aware they are severely behind in reading and have all but given up on ever reading well.
I think I am on to something but only time will tell. I tried out www.starfall.com, an elementary-level reading program that goes all the way back to phonics. They love it! I admit, it may be well below their actual reading levels, however, the ease in which they can go through the lessons, and still are learning or remembering things makes it worth the class time to "play that fun kiddy reading site." They have since begun to volunteer to read in class, while they may not read much, I am taking whatever I can get. I'm hopeful that next semester we can make some significant progress in reading skills.
I can say that this semester, my first-ever as a teacher, has been one of the most emotional and challenging things I have ever done in my short 23 years of life. Nonetheless, it has been the most influential and meaningful thing as well. I look forward to next semester and the years to come to further sharpen my skills and become a more effective teacher. How well have your students done so far this year? Do you have any plateaus or stagnation that is troubling?