Gratitude Visits and “Dear Me” Reflection

As a culminating event for Literacy Labs in different districts each year, we celebrate with Gratitude Visits where members of the cohort visit each other’s classrooms and write letters of gratitude as if they were students. Then, we ask participants to write a letter to themselves to celebrate the risks, challenges, and rewards of our work together throughout the year.

To add some joy to your day, read over the shoulder of Mindy Wheeler – a middle school social studies teacher in the North Kansas City Schools, as she reflects on her work with students and colleagues this year:

Mindy Wheeler April 9, 2014 at 10:07pm
Dear Me,
When I started out my career at Northgate and I told my principal “well, I don’t really teach very much.” I now look back at his face and what he was probably thinking about me and laugh. I now know this is what I should have said to get my meaning across, “I use the workshop model and let the kids do the reading, writing and thinking.” I also know that just because I’m letting them do independent learning, it doesn’t mean I’m not teaching.

With this teaching style here are my successes:
1) I have gotten to know one of the best groups of students independently. I can tell you about their families, friends, and what they want to be. I am sad I’ve missed this so much in the past and only known surface level information, but so happy that I know how to go deeper and find what makes them individuals.

2) I’ve learned that it’s okay to read and write in other classes, including social studies! History is interesting when it’s a story, current events are like a reality show when you know the drama of dictators, and geography…well I’m still trying to figure out how to make that fun besides coloring.

What I want to do better next year/the rest of this year:
1) I really want to incorporate grading on a growth and mastery system. I think this will help students go further in each skill, and help me know how to push them better.

2) I want to make the students write more. I am having them read a lot, but creative writing to work on the process in a different content then ELA is important. That’s something historians, political scientists, and government figures do. I need to open that door better for them.

3) I will keep work of students throughout the year so they can also reflect on their process. Self-reflection is so important and I want to do better at helping them with this.

4) I want to incorporate some sort of project based learning unit to help kids connect the content to their world and make a difference.

Since this was a day of gratitude I feel only appropriate to acknowledge how I accomplished these successes and what makes me want to be better. What I’m grateful for in my job:

1) I am so thankful that I have been able to be a part of this cohort. Struggling beside these teachers has allowed me to think differently and change my classroom for the best. Tovani and Bennett have made me look not only at the how to be a better teacher, but the why I should be a better teacher and that relevancy has given my philosophy backbone.

2) I am also so grateful to my teaching and learning coach. I tell her this often, but I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without her. She keeps me accountable to my beliefs, tells me her opinions, and pushes me to push students.

3) I love my colleagues and admin. The support I watch them give students and each other is irreplaceable. I constantly lean for support, guidance, and friendship.

4) Finally, I’m thankful for my husband who is also an amazing teacher and rubs so much passion for kids and the ss content off on me everyday. In my first month teaching he saw me starring at the textbook every night, gave me the AVID book with his notes, and challenged me to be better than what I was taught. I haven’t looked back.

Good luck this year and just keep swimming!

Thank YOU, Mindy for your work with students this year and dedication to making sure school days are filled with meaning and opportunity and joy and learning and love — for grown ups and kids!
-Sam & Cris

One thought on “Gratitude Visits and “Dear Me” Reflection

  1. I visited the Spokane Coaches training yesterday, and just though that the two of you should know of your lasting impact in that group of incredible professionals! Your positive approach to each student’s reading and writing is really appreciated. Keep up the great work. I love this notion of leaving letters of gratitude to the host teachers.

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