Evolve, Not Revolve

If you read my last post, you could see that I was ready for winter break.  I gave myself to days of family time, reading non-school-related books and lots of hiking.  This time was just what I needed because it allowed me to step out of the daily chaos and reflect on the needs of my class and how I can best serve them in our final semester.

Specific memories from the first semester floated to the surface…

  • Student A, when faced with a complex scenario, to me: “I don’t know how…can you just do it?”
  • Student B to Student C: “Last year, you hurt my feelings so badly that I thought life wasn’t worth living!” Student C: “I had no idea that hurt your feelings!”
  • Me: “Tell me everything you remember about the story you just read.” Student D: “Uhh..I guess it was about shoes…Uhhh…yeah, shoes…”

Upon reflection, I began to see the pattern.  I realized that these incidents are the result of a lack of self-awareness in many of my students, both socially and academically.

Self-awareness comes from the paralimbic system of the brain, the structures that are involved in emotion processing, goal setting, motivation and self-control.  It is no wonder that my students struggle with this.  The paralimbic system is notoriously underdeveloped during the teen years.  Not a surprise for any parents or teachers of teenagers!

I’ve taught metacognitive strategies all year.  Metacognition is the awareness of knowledge (both what is known and unknown) and the ability to understand and even control thought processes. I teach metacognitive strategies to my students because it includes knowing when, where, how and why to use particular strategies we learn in content areas. Understanding metacognition helps my students use prior knowledge to plan a strategy for approaching a problem, reflect on and evaluate the results, and modify the approach as needed.  It even facilitates self-correction in response to self-assessment, evaluating progress toward completion of a task, and becoming aware of distractions.  In other words, I teach metacognition because it is important for students to understand how they learn, not just what they learn.

Self-reflection leads to self-efficacy.  Learning and improving from mistakes, developing relationships, and judging their own performance and behavior will stay with my students long after our fifth grade year is behind them.  They are life skills.  As Benjamin Disraeli said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”   I resolved to continue to teach my students about their greatest riches – their brain- by integrating meta-cognitive practices into my learning objectives and lessons.  This way, I will help my students evolve, not revolve.


Beth Maloney

I am in my twentieth year of teaching and enjoy every minute of my time in the classroom. I have taught kindergarten, third grade, and currently teach fifth-grade science and social studies in Surprise, Arizona. I am an enthusiastic public school advocate. I am a National Board Certified Teacher and a Candidate Support Provider for the Arizona K12 Center, where I coach and mentor other teachers undergoing the rigorous National Board certification. I am the past president and co-founder of the Arizona National Board Certified Teacher Network and president and founder of the Arizona Chapter of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. I am honored to be Arizona’s 2014 Teacher of the Year and appreciate having the opportunity to represent the teachers of Arizona. I love talking with and learning from other teachers around the world. I strongly believe that teacher voice in the public education dialogue is the best way to make change for the better for all students.

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