Evolve, Not Revolve

Beth Maloney Education, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Uncategorized

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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.


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.

Comments 4

  1. Sandy Merz

    This reminds me a lot of what I wrote last year in The Changing Face of Inattention – Other aspects of personality that develop late are the ability to work long on hard problems and empathy. Those combined with arrested development of self-awareness is a dangerous cocktail. It sometimes feels like we’re swimming against a current and that the opportunities we provide to students to develop the Big Three seem insufficient compared to the forces – societal and within the education system – working in the other way. But what else can we do? Give up? Not yet! (More about giving up is my last post – and with that I’ve successfully plugged 2 previous posts in one comment!

  2. Jen Robinson

    Hi Beth- Thanks for reminding us what 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.” Often times we need to remind ourselves to slow down and that revealing someone else’s riches takes time.

  3. Donnie Lee

    May I join your 5th graders? I feel like I could use some help learning to use all of my metacognitve abilities. I love how you have stressed that is more important to teach students how to think and not just what to think.

  4. Angelia Ebner

    Thank you so much for reminding us of the importance of metacognition and looking at the often frustrating scenarios in the classroom as opportunities to help our students grow. They often don’t realize how they impact the world around them and they need someone to hold up the mirror for them to reflect on their own thoughts and actions. Thank you!

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