This year, our principal assigned us some summer reading. People groaned when they heard that they’d have to read the student summer reading as well as a teacher book. I didn’t say much because I’m a nerd and I usually read that kind of stuff.

The book we were assigned is Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word by Barbara R. Blackburn. She will be presenting during one of our start of year in-services, too.

It’s an interesting book thus far (I’m only two chapters in). Blackburn tries to be interactive by posing questions and allowing space to write out your answer, kind of like a worksheet. I don’t think the books are ours to keep, so I’ve been making my notes elsewhere. One of the “assignments” was to:

Write a letter to a friend or colleague. Project yourself in the future; date it one year from today. Now, explain what happened in your classroom over the last year as you increased rigor. What did you do? How did your students respond over time? What was your biggest success? Even though you are writing what you hope will happen, write it in past tense, as though it has already occurred. (18)

Seeing as how I’ve been ignoring this here blog, I thought I’d post the letter here.

June 9, 2011

Dear Blogueros,

My 6th year of teaching has come to a close and I can’t believe how awesome it was. If you had asked me at the end of last year if any year could be better, I’d have been doubtful.

Armed with experience and more knowledge, my students grew by leaps and bounds. My lessons were not only engaging, but challenging as well. Can you believe that the Shakespeare unit was an even bigger hit? The kids had so much fun doing the research about Shakespeare’s life. They actually did research. RESEARCH!!!

Not only that, my kids read, A LOT. All of the changes that I started implementing at the end of my 5th year were a great way to start (reader’s response journals, keeping a list of books that were and weren’t read, me reading more), and I think it made a huge difference with my students. It was also pretty cool that I had more support when it came to students having reading material at all times since this was a requirement across the board.

Their writing was also way better than any other kids I’ve taught. I know it was me, too because I really used all the cool strategies I learned this summer in my staff development. Can you believe that we got more 3’s and 4’s than ever on the state exam?

What I’m most proud of though has to be the growth in student vocabulary. It’s amazing. In the past, it was always a big dark cloud over my head because I didn’t know how to get them to learn the words. I mean, I could get them to memorize the definitions, but I couldn’t get them to keep them long term or relate them to other words that were similar.

I know that at first my students thought I was crazy, which is not unusual in my case, but at the end of the year, they really got it. They saw that together, we demolished all of those fences people like to build around them. I know it increased their confidence and for many of them, that was the missing factor.

I am so glad I changed my ways. I really think I’m on the right track now. I can’t wait for school to start, so I can start on my new crop of kids.



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