Friday, August 21, 2015

Resolutions for a New Year

It never ceases to amaze me how much the atmosphere on campus can change in just a week's time.

One week ago, the campus was practically deserted save for the window-washing crew and a plaza full of noisy cicada.

Today, the cicada chorus was overpowered by the constant hum of anticipation and activity: staff physicals in the mini-gym, last-minute meetings throughout the day, a staff family barbecue in the evening, tennis and volleyball practices on the courts and in the gym.

In just a couple days, campus will be full, and a new year will be fully underway.  Excitement is in the air.

In connection with what I learned in my summer Master's classes, I have two main resolutions for this new school-year:

The first is to use technology to free up class-time for more activities, discussion, work-shopping and especially independent reading.
For a project this summer, I read Flip Your Classroom by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams to learn more about how I could transfer more technical and dry aspects of class to be completed outside of class.

In the end, I settled on the idea of video-recording an explanation of my class syllabus, unit guides and all assignment prompts so that they can be watched (and re-watched) outside of class rather than taking up class time with me mostly just reading information to the students.

I posted my course syllabi for both English and History earlier this week.  I asked students to respond to a syllabus discussion forum by the 2nd day of school to indicate that they had read the syllabus and watched my explanation.  I've already gotten several responses, and I am excited to be able to dive right into important discussions about our theme for the year on the first day of class rather than spending the entire period reading my syllabus.

I think my idea has good potential moving forward and I hope to improve my video-making skills as time goes on.

My second resolution is to actively teach and work with the students on the development of time-management strategies.  For my summer class on learner development and principles of learning, I researched classroom management and came away with the conviction to really focus in on time-use with my students.  While other years in school receive a lot of attention as pivotal years of transition, I truly believe that 11th grade has been too often overlooked.  In essence, 11th graders must make the jump from underclassmen to Seniors, preparing for college or career.  That's quite a lot of ground to cover in one year, but I also firmly believe that 11th graders are up to the challenge.  They just need guidance, feedback and encouragement, and I would like to make that an integral part of my job this year.

In my syllabus, I outlined my two main rules for the classroom as being "Respecting one another" and "Cultivating a comfortable, healthy learning environment".  I told the students that since these rules were fairly broad, we would need to come up with a list of specific policies that would help support these goals and ensure that they are realized in practice.  Therefore, one of the posts that the students must complete in order to show that they've read the syllabus is to recommend at least one classroom policy.  So far, we have policies prohibiting bullying & put-downs, and policies calling for students to help classmates who are behind or struggling.  I'm looking forward to reading more of these as they come in and then boiling them down into a succinct list.  We will also spend some time in class creating a consequence structure, and discuss strategies for holding one another accountable.  I plan to revisit our classroom rules, policies and consequences with the students on a regular basis in order to reflect on how we are doing, make any necessary adjustments and practicing the ability to self-monitor.

I put the lion's share of my time and energy into my curriculum last summer.  While I have certainly spent quality time over the past week touching things up, and will continue to make adjustments as the year goes on, I feel that for the first time ever, I will be able to dedicate myself to classroom practice and maintenance as never before.  While I love working with ideas and thinking about the big picture (a trait that I think is helping me to develop as a resident curriculum geek), all of that would be meaningless without the human element: I love working with the students and am excited to help them grow not only as students of English and History, but as people.

The old year was amazing and I've got a feeling that the new year just around the corner will be even better.  I can't wait to get started!

1 comment:

  1. It is refreshing to see your positive excitement about teaching. Good work!