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First Year Teacher Self-Study Course

First Year Teacher is a self-paced professional development course for novice K-3 teachers, developed by Reading Rockets. The program provides teachers with an in-depth knowledge of reading so they are prepared to guide their students into becoming skilled and enthusiastic readers.

Photo of teacher and students

Week 10

The first report cards

Technically, this was a short week for me. We had off Tuesday for Election Day and Thursday and Friday for a Teachers Convention. But, before I left school on Wednesday, I had to submit grades for the first marking period, making the week feel very long. For the past 18 years, I had been receiving grades from teachers and professors, anxiously awaiting to see how I was assessed. Now I was on the other end, giving the grades, with students and parents waiting to see how I was going to assess them.

I never thought report cards would be a challenge. "Just review work in their portfolios and check test grades," I had told myself, thinking it was an easy task. What I was not prepared for was the personal evaluations I would be making on myself as a teacher. Looking at my students' work, I realized that their grades would assess how well they learned what I taught them. More importantly, it also assessed how well I was teaching the material. There are certain objectives that must be taught to all students. It is my job to ensure that these objectives are achieved, regardless of learning ability or style. While I assessed my students to give them grades, I also assessed myself and how well I had been teaching them.

Children come to school to learn. Teachers come to school to teach. It is my responsibility to ensure that students learn, not theirs. If a majority of my students do not do well on an assignment or do not master an objective, that is a reflection of my teaching skills, not their learning abilities. True, some students have severe learning disabilities, but in my class, there are none. And as I assessed my students for the first time, I realized that if grades are low, then that is something that I have to change within my teaching approach. Instead of analyzing the students and trying to find what is "wrong with them," I have to see if there is something wrong with how I am presenting the material. Did I explain the directions clearly? Was the worksheet I presented visually confusing? As I continue teaching, these are questions I will have to constantly ask myself.

The first time I assessed my students, I truly also assessed myself. While I had always reflected on my lessons, I now looked at my role as a teacher differently, realizing that low grades and poor progress may not be so much the child's fault as my own. I know that as I gain more experience, I will feel more confident in how I assess children and myself. But as a first year teacher, I will have to evaluate myself as much as I do my students.

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"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." — Walt Disney