Each year I feel challenged to be the best teacher that I can be. And each year is a new challenge. I’m not one of those teachers who saves her lesson plans from one year to the next or goes along with the same books that worked before. I don’t follow the same pace or have the same expectations. One year I had a child in my room who could read third-grade-level chapter books. One year I had a child who couldn’t recognize his own name. And each year I have a dozen or more children who are somewhere in between. So I like to fine-tune my general plan into one that meets the needs of this year’s class. In order to do that I spend the first week testing, talking, and observing.
Many parents may wonder why their child has a paper with Xs and Os and lines and scribbles on it. Or they may wonder why they don’t see any math work in their child’s backpack. I don’t have time to explain everything this week. I save a lot of that for our first conference. This week is strictly about getting to know my students and predicting their needs.
I ask each of my students the standard questions- name, address, phone number, birthday, etc. I show them flash cards and ask them to identify the letters of the alphabet, numbers 1-20, colors, etc. Then we do a series of simple tasks that produce a wealth of information for me. I quickly find out who knows left from right, top from bottom. I see who is interested in the “task at hand” and who wants to entertain the class. I observe the talkers and the time wasters. I see who takes care of supplies and handles papers with coordination. I find out who is confident enough to ask me a question and who asks their seatmate. I gather all of the information that I can possibly acquire in four days and then on Friday I look ahead at where we need to start so that by May we know 14 pages of state standards.
It is a daunting task and each year I have to give myself the “you can do it” speech. LOL
Thankfully I still feel that “Yes, I can!”