With my first year at Wirreanda High School complete and a few days to take a breath, I now take the opportunity to reflect.
As a teacher of students with disabilities, report writing tends to be a frustrating time for me. Ticking boxing and giving numbers or letters to students for whom the most minor improvements are actually great gains is difficult to say the least. In previous years I have handed the report to parents with an apologetic shrug, knowing that it by no means reflects how I would like to indicate their learning. Report time for parents of students with disabilities are often just reminders of the things their child cannot do, what they haven’t achieved and for many, no different from last years report! Horrible. I always try to imagine what it must be like to be reminded each day that you have a child with needs you never expected, the challenges and the impact this has on every ‘today’.
The following clip embodies much of what I try to remember about my families when it comes to reporting on their child.
This year though a shining light. I have been given the flexibility (thanks to a great supportive leadership – @CFishpool @LunnisTony) to report against each student’s individual goals in the manner I choose. This allowed me to represent student growth in multiple ways. A much more valuable reflection on the improvement each student has made and also an opportunity for students, families and myself to celebrate their learning. Next year I hope to include audio and video as part of their learning record via student blogging which will provide even richer sources to showcase each student’s growth.
Along with each “Semester Reflection” – as opposed to “Report Card” I wrote a letter to each student. I tried to reflect how they had each impacted in the classroom, on their peers and on myself. I expressed times where I thought they showed courage (generally through risk-taking/trying new things), thoughtfulness and persistence – all things we encourage in class. Whilst I have always penned my students a Christmas card each with a paragraph or two about my year with them, I had never attempted a letter before. As I wrote to each student I found myself connecting at a deeper level as I acknowledge the impact each has had.
The following include some of my writing:
I remember one of the first times we met way back when you were a year 7. It was upstairs in the Learning Centre when you came to visit from your primary school. You helped me get the paints and tables ready and I knew right then we were going to be good friends.
This year was hard for both of us at first, as we got to learn about our new school and where everything belongs. We had to meet lots of new people and do things we had not done before.
you have worked so hard on talking… more and more people can hear all you have to say. You should be very proud of this (student name) and I know you will keep trying to improve even when it gets tough. (see this previous post)
it would be hard to pick even a handful of memories that stand out from your year because there have been so many times that you have done something new. The big things like camp, rock climbing and bike riding are easy to choose as they were big events that left us on a high. I find myself smiling at the thought of you half way up the wall with Mr (teacher) yelling “go (student name)!” (he is so loud) and you squealing with delight as you sped around the carpark on the tricycle. The times I will remember always though, are our everyday times to have a chat and catch up as you always have “lots to say”.
Wow the year is already over and soon you will officially be a year 8 high school boy at Wirreanda! It was so wonderful you could come and join us in the Unit and I have had so much fun learning about you and your family. You have taught me a lot about Holdens and I always enjoy hearing about Ninny and your Pop.
Writing these letters gave me an opportunity to value all the things that each of these young adults brings to our school community. I truly believe that this process has made me a better teacher. Even as I write this now I feel an excitement about starting the new year and being part of their learning once again.