My End of Year Self-Assessment, Part 1

Original photo by Buffy J. Hamilton

As part of the Georgia Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) , the common evaluation system designed for building teacher effectiveness and ensuring consistency and comparability throughout the state, we have an end of year conference with our supervising administrator.  My principal, Mrs. Jennifer Kogod, asked us to prepare a written self-assessment as a springboard for our face to face end of year conference.

I wrote way more than than was required, but composing my thoughts on how well I did meeting my professional TKES goals was a great reflective exercise.  I’ll write an additional and broader “end of year review” to piggyback on this post, but because this year was such an important one of learning and growth, I wanted to share it here on the blog.  Because I was a media specialist when TKES was first piloted, this is my first year being evaluated as a classroom teacher with the TKES platform.

Buffy Hamilton Title I Writing Teacher
2016-17 Academic Year
May 2, 2017

Original Goal Statement:

Knowing that student writing promotes lasting learning, I will implement Jim Vopat’s method of writing circles with all of my Writer’s Workshop and Writing Connections classes to help students improve writing fluency and skills across multiple genres. The evidence for achieving the goal will be an action research study examining student work and student self-assessment portfolios crafted between September and April.

Target Performance Standards:
• Standard 3: Instructional Strategies
• Standard 5: Assessment Strategies
• Standard 6: Assessment Uses


Students will work in writing circles to choose writing topics, types of writing pieces within a genre unit of study we are studying as a class, share writing, provide regular feedback on writing pieces, and draft two at least two days a week in class. We will use writing cycles to lead to regular intervals of publishing our best work.

I will observe and take notes on writing group meetings as well as hold writing conferences with individual students; I will keep notes on these observations and conferences as data.

My Reflections and Self-Assessment

My original goal was to implement Jim Vopat’s writing circles method to help facilitate student writing growth and fluency across multiple genres. Although this particular approach was ultimately not a good fit for where my grades 6-8 learners were, I was still able to accomplish many of the same targets that were embedded in the writing circle method:

• Students had regular opportunities to brainstorm, explore, and self-select their writing topics.
• Students engaged in a wide variety of writing genres, including personal narratives, poetry, informational writing (through zines), problem-solution writing, persuasive (grade 6) and argumentative writing (grades 7 and 8), and research-based writing.
• Students had regular opportunities to share their work through class readings, Google Documents, gallery walks of student work, peer editing and review, and our class KidBlogs.
• Students in each grade wrote regularly every week–students engaged in writing on a daily basis including Writer’s Notebook entries, Quickwrites, paragraphs, essays, extended pieces of writing, and shorter pieces of writing that were part of our daily work of thinking through our writing.

Reflections By Professional Standards

Standard 3: Instructional Strategies

I tried a wide range of instructional strategies for writing this year as I drew upon the work of literacy leaders like Kelly Gallagher, Allison Marchetti, Rebekah O’Dell, Harvey Daniels, Jim Wilhelm, Nancy Steineke, and Gretchen Bernabei. I also borrowed ideas from fellow Language Arts teachers I know through Twitter.

In particular, I used a great deal of modeling and mentor texts with my students—these mentor texts were not only pieces from other writers, but I frequently used my students’ work as a mentor text across grade levels. I also tried different methods of keeping writers’ notebooks across all grade levels and Ralph Fletcher’s “greenbelt” writing with 6th graders.

Standard 5: Assessment Strategies and Standard 6: Assessment Uses

These two standards are the area I have wrestled with throughout the year. Increasingly, I am thinking about how “grading” differs from assessment and what exactly a “grade” means, particularly in a writer’s workshop environment. Throughout most of my career, assessment and grading have been treated as a concept that is scientific and pure, and that if we establish solid learning targets and design rubrics aligned to those tools, then all should be fine and good, right? However, I see more and more areas of gray, especially when it comes to struggling writers. I sometimes wonder how grades influence how they see themselves as writers and if that grade and the feedback you try to include with the rubric has any real value to middle school writers. I also am not sure if the grade and assessments I have given/administered will actually correlate to the Milestones writing tasks since they are 1. All evidence-based writing and 2. Writing that is inherently dependent on the students’ ability to read and comprehend multiple texts. Consequently, I have concerns about the limitations of a Milestones writing score as it really assesses only one type of writing and even with that, I am not sure about the validity of that score and if the assessment REALLY measures what it intends to do so.  (*Note:  our test data indicates my 7th and 8th writing cohorts both showed improvement in every area of the writing assessment on the EOG Milestones; they also showed marked improvement in other areas of the Milestones ELA*).

I believe my most effective assessment method was one of formative assessment with writing conferences. Thanks to the work of Carl Anderson, I feel I have shown tremendous growth in my ability to engage in meaningful writing conferences with my students. I believe this is one of the things I have done that has had the most impact on my young writers. I am thankful for small classes that allow me to do this on a regular basis; the only limitation was time as our classes meet for roughly 40 minutes, and it’s hard to get to each student in that time frame.

I have also given students multiple opportunities to self-assess their work both informally and formally. Helping them to know on their own when a piece of writing is “finished” and giving them revising and writing strategies to evaluate and determine this for themselves is something I’ve worked on all year. I believe this is one of the ultimate benchmarks of growth when a student looks more to himself or herself and less to me to understand when a piece of writing is complete and why/how that is so.

I have tried keeping hard copy student portfolios as well as digital, but I haven’t quite yet found a means that feels efficient and accessible. This endeavor is one I will continue to contemplate and work on during 2017-18.

Though not all students have grown as writers in the ways I hoped, many have shown tremendous growth in different areas. I am proud that all students have been challenged and given multiple opportunities to wrestle with ideas and their thinking; I am also proud that students have used writing not just an end product but as a tool for thinking and expression.

Mapping Out a Year of Enchantment in The Unquiet Library

For the last three months, I’ve been thinking and talking about libraries and enchantment.  For the last two years, I’ve utilized Mindomo to go beyond my normal program goals/theme paper document to create a multimedia mindmap of program goals.  This year, I’m playing with Mindomo to see how I can align library program themes, services, and learning processes with the three pillars of enchantment.   In the past, the program map has been something I created at the beginning of the year and used as a compass; this year, I envision this program mindmap as more of an organic document that I’d like to populate throughout the school year with concrete examples for each topic/subtopic from the 2011-12 academic year as we hopefully build enchantment with our learning community.

I think one this year’s major challenges, especially in light of the fact we have no clerical assistance, is really taking on a greater role as a learning specialist and instructional leader, which dovetails with my efforts to implement the embedded librarian model here even though we are only a staff of two.  I’ve really come to realize in the last six months that the quality and authenticity of instruction in multiple literacies we provide is directly proportionate to the quality of the instructional design that we facilitate with teachers and students.  I’ve been thinking much more with my former classroom teacher hat in some ways as I’ve been working more with teachers to help them think about pedagogy and strategies for creating learning experiences that will be relevant and more inquiry driven.  As I collaborate with faculty, we’re having more conversations that are framed by the backwards design model of instructional design as we’re trying to be more intentional in thinking about learning targets, formative and summative assessments, and learning experiences.  I am hopeful that my ongoing stance in looking at multiple literacies through an inquiry lens will continue to inform my practice; additionally, I’m looking forward to exploring threshold concepts and how that lens might inform my work as a learning specialist and instructional partner with our faculty (thank you Brian Mathews for putting this on my radar and to Roberto C. Delgadillo for pointing me to some additional resources on this topic).

Oh, the Places We Hope to Go: Mapping Program and Learning Themes 2010-11 FTW!

Unquiet Library Learning and Program Themes, 2010-11

Once again, I am using Mindomo to help me pull together the swirling mass of ideas for 2010-11 that have been simmering in my mind throughout the summer.    You can see the working draft (which is subject to change and evolution throughout the next ten months) of the map that outlines the major program and learning initiatives for The Unquiet Library in 2010-11.     These goals and initiatives will take place against the backdrop of reduced staff as our district lost all of its media clerks for the 2010-11 year; protecting instructional services is our priority as is minimizing the ease and flow of access to the physical library space.

In a nutshell, here is where I hope to see the library program grow and go in 2010-11:

Media 21

This learning model will once again be the centerpiece of the program and will be the vehicle for a mini-pilot of the embedded librarian model.    Details will not be finalized until August 2, but tentatively, I have a team of four English teachers and one science teacher who are looking to scale out the work that Susan Lester and I did with our students in 2009-10. I will be writing a separate blog post outlining the goals, framework, tools, themes, and challenges of Media 21 for the upcoming year within the next two weeks;  I’ll also be outlining how I plan to grow my own instructional literacy and my past and present interests in looking at what happens next year through an anthropological lens, so please watch for that impending post.  This year, I hope to frame the Media 21 work as action research and/or ethnography to better understand and analyze student learning and the dynamics of what I hope will be a mini professional learning community.  In addition, I will also compose an additional post outlining and exploring my working conceptualization of participation literacy and its overarching influence on the design of Media 21.


This goal feels very much like a moving target in spite of my best efforts to approach our first efforts to roll out ereaders in a methodical and thoughtful way.   I’ll be meeting with the stakeholders who will be helping me in this process over the next weeks, but the preliminary plan at this time is to start with a small set of Kindles for circulation to students and faculty and hopefully expand the menu to include iPads and/or some other tablet device.   I want to have a mix so that students and teachers have options; in addition, I want a mix of dedicated ereaders as well as tablet devices with educational and productivity apps for learning.  The waters feel muddy as the library community grapples with digital rights management issues and the blitz of devices that are either in development or are on the brink of release, such as the Pandigital Novel. I definitely plan to continue collaboration with my personal learning network as we try to share our knowledge and criteria for evaluating these resources that will best fit the needs of our patrons.

I should also add that the initial plan is to purchase Kindles (and possibly Nooks) and to collect a considerable amount of student feedback and qualitative data from the students who use the initial set of devices.  I’ll be using student feedback and the results of their experiences to drive additional purchases and future directions with ereaders.


The Unquiet Library will be purchasing additional board games using Libraries Got Game as one of our compasses for purchasing materials that are engaging and aligned to the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners.  In addition, Kimberly Hirsh has been doing some cool work in aligning games to the standards as well, and her work will inform the decision making process; Justin Hoenke is another friend and colleague whose experience and wisdom I’ll be calling upon to help me develop my gaming collection.   I am also working on assembling a team of gaming bloggers who will post directly to The Unquiet Library blog and share their insights and experiences on games of their choosing.

Student Virtual Collection

I want to step up last year’s focus on student content creation while providing a virtual space for hosting student learning artifacts that they may create either in collaboration with teachers and the library or that they may create out of their own learning interests.  I feel this student virtual collection is a way of celebrating student learning while providing an archive and space to explore the evolution and diversity of student learning.

Community/Tribe Building

I’ll be exploring and crowdsourcing strategies for stepping up our current degree of transparency as well as for  inviting even more participation in 2010-11 not only from students, but from parents, administrators, faculty, and other community stakeholders.     I’m working to recruit a team of stakeholders who will be guest bloggers for The Unquiet Library blog as well as finding more ways to crowdsource library policies, events, purchases, and learning experiences that better reflect the needs and wishes of all of our patrons.  In addition, I’m working with other educators to hopefully implement more learning experiences that tap into a larger global network to connect our learning community with others outside of our corner of the world.  My goal is to get more voices participating in the conversations we’re having in and outside of our learning space in the library.

Mobile Learning and Library Services

I plan for the library to lead the way in increasing integration of mobile devices and computing into instruction while finding ways to better tap into students’ mobile devices for access to library services and materials.  In addition, I’m planning on incorporating essential educational apps into our catalog.

Bring It

Although I don’t report back to work officially until July 27, my summer has been a hive of activity and thinking although I certainly wish I could have a few more weeks for collaboration, contemplation, reading, listening, and reflection.   Each of these initiatives presents its own challenges, but I will once again use this blog space to share the journey with you in hopes that others can not only learn from my successes and failures, but  also help me problem solve the challenges along the way and inform my thinking, which I plan to keep fluid and open throughout the next school year.     I am excited to see where we’ll go this year and what we’ll all learn together!


21 Things for 21st Century Teens: What Would You Include?

21 Things for 21st Century Parents | via kwout

The Darien Library’s awesome new 21 Things for 21st Century Parents has me thinking about designing a 21 Things for 21st Century Teens that could be offered before or after school, one evening a week, and/or during summer hours.     Right now I am thinking about topics and tools related to digital footprints/digital citizenship, cloud computing, mobile computing, and tools for creating content.   What would you include in a program like this?