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As a teacher with 31 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the... Read more

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Self Evaluation: Processing, Understanding and Sharing Progress

Protected in a corner of each student’s desk, a white two-inch binder rests, eagerly awaiting its next writing entry, poem or assignment. All writing is neatly organized chronologically in order to observe and analyze growth over time. How have I progressed as a reader, a writer, a mathematician, a scientist, a historian, a learner, a human being? It is imperative that students reflect on what they are doing, assess their strengths and weaknesses and make goals to improve.

Looking in the mirror and asking, “What do I see?” is necessary in stimulating the social-emotional perspective of our learning. The responses to this question, when compared to the first day of school, show that students are beginning to look more closely inside themselves to evaluate who they are, where they are going and what they want to be. This shift will significantly impact their academic achievement as they move through the year. It will also affect how they see the world and themselves interacting with others in this world.

What do I see?

“I see a sparkle in my eye. I see a beautiful girl shining in a bright light. I feel optimism floating through the sweet air.” Linda

“I see a girl who is willing to take risks.” Danielle

“I see a girl who is not a regular girl anymore.” Destiny

“I see a beautiful girl who is tenacious. I see energy passing through me.” Lauryn

“I can see my future trying to go on.” Ashley

“I see a young boy growing up to be a mature grown up.” Adrian

“I see a girl who is not afraid to challenge herself to the end.” Emmah

“I see open-minded.” Philip

On November 11, parents attended student led conferences to learn the progress of their children. In preparation, every child highlighted important information, wrote extensive notes on “post its” to indicate specific pieces of work to share and drafted an agenda to follow during the conference. I stepped back and watched as each student stepped forward, taking on the responsibility of reporting his own progress.




Student Goals for Second Quarter

“My behavior skills have been off a lot, but now they need to be on for the rest of the year. As stage manager, I got to be on the same track as the class.”

“I need to be fluent in reading.”

“Being selfless”

“I need to not say I can’t do it.”

“I need to work on reading carefully.”

“I want to write up to four pages without making the reader fall asleep.”

“I want to do everything on the protocol.”

“Being nice to my classmates when they are mean to me.”

“Explaining my thinking”


“Not being distracted”

Angel, Samantha and Sofia’s conferences

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Mary Ruth McGinn

About Mary Ruth McGinn

As a teacher with 32 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the learning experiences and opportunities of students and their families. Nineteen years ago she had an experience that changed her life and altered her professional path in a profound way. She attended training sessions at The Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York City, spent nine intense days living the process of creating an original opera and learned how to replicate the experience with her students. She then began creating opera with her students and using the process of creating the opera as a vehicle to teach curriculum and life skills. The authentic purpose for learning coupled with the arts provided the perfect stage on which to construct a love for life-long learning. The profundity of the work, the transformation of the students and a desire to “bring to light” new ideas in education, inspired Mary Ruth to share this way of thinking and learning. In 2006 she was granted a Fulbright Scholarship, sponsored and funded by Teatro Real and Fundación SaludArte in Madrid, and a sabbatical from Montgomery County, to travel to Spain to develop and implement a similar program there. She lived there two years training teachers and working side by side with teachers and students in their classrooms. The reception of the project was overwhelming. Mary Ruth returns to Madrid every summer to train a new team of educators and artists in the process. In the summer of 2018, she joined forces with The Kennedy Center to offer the opera training for teachers in the Washington Metro area. She currently teaches third grade at Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery Village, Maryland where she is implementing a classroom curriculum based on the principles of authentic learning. Read more of Mary Ruth's blog Learning for Real.


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