Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer learning', better teachin'

On Wednesday morning, I was jolted awake.  Not by the soothing, melodic tones of my alarm (the Sleep Cycle app on my iPhone), but rather by the realization that work was starting up again 35 minutes later with several days of staff meetings.  You see, this summer was an odd one for me... I was busy, having started my Master's classes online and fitting in three weeks of Japanese tutoring on top of that.  Perhaps more strange was the fact that I never really settled into summer mode.  After school finished in June, I had three busy weeks in Japan before I went back to America for three busy weeks with family before returning to Japan for three busy weeks (well technically two sick weeks and one busy week).  It was the summer of threes, and the pacing was less than leisurely.  It was a good summer, though!  The opportunity to learn, deepening both my understanding of my calling as a teacher and my ability to speak, read and listen to Japanese was valuable.  The time with my family (particularly introducing them to my fiancee) was precious.  Now, I am looking forward to the first day of classes, perhaps less rested than usual, but no less excited.

There are several reasons why I am, perhaps, more excited than usual for this coming year:

1. I was able to be a student again this summer.  I returned to concepts and texts that I'd read in college, when teaching was 100% theoretical in my mind and found new things as I read from the vantage point four years of experience.  I delved into new and exciting books that opened my eyes to so many possibilities for what a classroom can and should be.  I also learned a lot as I watched how my professors structured the class and gave feedback.  It's fun to watch how education professors teach--and I am sure that it must be more than a little stressful for the professors, who must be aware that their pedagogy itself is being scrutinized!  Fortunately, I was blessed with very good professors who provided me with many wonderful ideas simply by the way they set up the classes.

2. My schedule.  Check this out:

1st period: Prep
2nd-3rd period: Humanities A
4th-5th period: Humanities B
6th period: Matsu (yearbook)
7th period: Prep

It's never been a secret that 11th grade Humanities is my favorite subject to teach--I love the variety of learning opportunities that emerge when U.S. History and American Literature are combined into a blended block class!  However, this year I have the opportunity to teach two sections of Humanities, which is a blessing!  The past two years, I taught 9th grade World History in addition to Humanities and English 11 (just the American Lit--those students had another teacher for U.S. History) making for 3 preps and working with close to 100 students every day.  I learned that even thinking about (let alone teaching) 100 different students requires a lot of mental energy.

By contrast, this year, I have 2 preps, and between the two sections of Humanities, only 46 students.  I retooled my Humanities curriculum over July and August as an assignment for one of my summer classes, and I will be taking an online course this fall on assessment strategies.  In other words, I've developed the course to a higher level of quality than it was at last year, and I will continue to develop it as the semester goes on in tandem with my own online learning.  Humanities is my focus this year as a teacher, and my main responsibility.  The lion's share of my prep energy and grading energy can go into this single class.  I could not ask for a better assignment and I am excited!

I started working on my syllabus this afternoon at 4:30 and before I knew it, it was 7:30.  I'd become so engrossed in my work that I lost track of time.  I am really just ready for the students to come back so I can start teaching.  That's a good place to be the week before school starts, I think :)

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