Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer Planning

One of the things I appreciated most about my Master's program was that it provided focus and structure to my summer planning.

Without some level of structure, I find myself easily overwhelmed by the sheer amount of books I'd like to read, most of which provide many ideas I'd like to incorporate into my own teaching.  

The trouble is, when I try to do everything, I am unable to do anything.  

So, I'm learning to set goals for myself to create the structure that I need to grow.

This summer, I have three principal goals:

1) Deepen my perspective on worldviews and justice. 
After three years of teaching with justice as my central course theme (and worldview as a major focus along the way), I'm finding myself satisfied with these themes.  I feel like what I'm teaching is important, and most of the students seem to buy in.  With those themes firmly established, I want to develop my own understanding.  I'm asking students to articulate a personal perspective of justice in their final essays, and I think that if I were to try my hand at this same task, it would lack nuance.  I have three books on my reading list for this summer that I hope will bolster my foundation in teaching to these themes, and possibly provide me with solid classroom readings for the students:

I read this book in 2010, but was too new to teaching for the ideas to really sink in and affect my teaching.  I've tried picking it up again several times over the years, but haven't made progress until now.  I read the first two chapters this morning, and already the book has touched on worldview, justice, agency, and various levels of action (personal, local, national and global), all of which are topics of study in class.  It's so good so far, I'm thinking about making it a required text for 11th grade!

I've used the first chapter in class for the past two school-years, but haven't read further than that before.  I have always appreciated Dr. Keller's perspective, and find him to be more readable than many theologians tend to be.  This is next on the list after I finish the Monsma book. 

The first semester of my Humanities class has developed into a study of worldviews.  Necessary and good changes in the CAJ Bible curriculum mean that the 10th graders are not doing an overview of worldviews as they were in the past, which is fine since 11th grade is a more developmentally appropriate age for this kind of thinking anyway.  It provides a natural context for looking at the relationship of literature to culture, and the various literary/artistic movements that have come and gone.  It also provides an opportunity to engage with utopian and dystopian views of humanity and society, which have incredible bearing on our discussions about justice second semester.  Tim Keller recommended this book on his Facebook account a while back, and trusting his recommendation, I have added this to my list, too. 

2) Sharpen my ability to teach rhetorical analysis.
Rhetorical analysis is perhaps the cornerstone of AP English: Language & Composition--being able to dissect and evaluate someone else's argument, while also being able to construct one's own.  This is a skill-set with value that extends beyond students taking AP English--this is a key component of good reading comprehension and even critical thinking in general.  It has tremendous implications for productive debates and discussions, both of which play a large role in my class.  The trouble is, this type of reading is something that comes easily to me, and always has.  Ever since high school, I've tested well on critical reading without ever really having to stop and think through the steps (which is nothing short of a miracle, considering how little reading I did during my school-years).  This means that I have an expert blind-spot--I've expected my students to just "get it", and have grown impatient or discouraged when many do not.  I want to do now what I should have done long ago--break the process of critical reading and argument analysis down into its component steps, first so that I can better understand what my brain is doing while I read, but also so that I can more effectively teach students to read in this way, and look out for where in the process understanding is breaking down.  I have two books that I hope will help me develop a stronger understanding of rhetorical analysis:

There has been a 1970s edition of this book on my classroom shelf since before my time.  I cracked the book open this Spring, and while it was very outdated in its examples, the table of contents looked promising.  So, when I found out that the authors had released updated editions over the years, I asked our librarian to order the 2009 edition.  What's appealing to me about this book is its direct focus on debate, as this is something I can use in class, as well as with the debate team.

Everything's An Argument by Andrea Lunsford, John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters
This is evidently the textbook on rhetorical analysis.  This, too, has been on my shelf for a couple of years, but I have not committed to sitting and reading it yet.  My hope and plan is to get around to it this summer. 

3) Align my curriculum more closely to carefully chosen standards. 
I've grown increasingly settled on my overall course themes, but it had been a few years since I had looked closely at my standards and benchmarks.  What I realized is that I had listed way more benchmarks in my curriculum map than I was actually teaching; way more for each unit than I would ever have time to cover.   So, my campaign for this summer as far as actual curriculum work goes is to pare down my standards and benchmarks to what I believe to be absolutely necessary to my course themes (and by extension, to preparing students for their Senior Comprehensives after they finish my class).  I would like to use the benchmarks on my rubrics this year, something I haven't done before, and to make that worthwhile, I need to be much choosier than I have been.  As I said at the start of this post, when I try to do everything, I am unable to do anything--better to choose fewer benchmarks, but teach them well!

While there may be other things I think about this summer (for instance, I hope to meet with one of my colleagues who teaches math to brainstorm ways to further integrate Humanities and STEM), these larger goals should hopefully provide me with the structure I need to move forward!