Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some goals for this year...

As I look ahead to school starting tomorrow, I've been reflecting a lot on how last year went and what the coming year might hold in store. Here are several things that I've been thinking of and I want to work toward:

1. Grading. This is still the biggie. I did a better job last year of getting grades back, but often failed to get grades back in a timely fashion. This year, my goal is to take no longer than a one-week turnaround time for major assignments (essays, papers or projects) and ideally getting assignments back within 3-4 school days. This means that I need to restructure how I grade, the type of feedback I give, and how much I split up my assignments into smaller chunks. It will also mean fighting my general lack of motivation to grade--it's not my favorite part of the job, but it is essential for the kids to grow and I really do owe it to them to support my goals for the class with insightful, timely feedback.

2. Unit planning. Day to day, I manage. I have gotten much better at thinking on my feet and so rarely feel like I'm at a loss for ideas. However, as nice as this skill is, and as good as it is to have long-range goals, I need to give attention to the middle level--the unit view. I hope to be more diligent in thinking through my unit goals ahead of time, deciding on my assessments up front and then working out a brief outline that will show me (and my students) how we're going to reach the goals.

3. Drink less coffee. Yes, I know I posted yesterday about how good coffee is for my planning... however, it's probably not the best thing to rely on to get through the day. I am going to try to cut back a bit this year.

4. Write more. I've thoroughly enjoyed making writing a daily habit over the past week. Writing helps me to think, to process what's happening in my life, and to challenge myself. It's easy to forget about writing when school starts up and my schedule becomes busy, but given that this is my 3rd year and I've already established my teaching style, philosophy and big-picture curriculum (things that are more or less absent/rudimentary during the first year), I think I can afford to make time for this.

5. Make time for friends. I did a horrible job of this during my first year--my entire social life consisted of JAM and while I appreciate that group of leaders tremendously, it wasn't healthy for me to not be around people my own age. That was a suffocatingly lonely year. Last year, I did a better job of setting aside time to relax and enjoy fellowship with the other young teachers and I hope to carry that forward this year, too. As young teachers, we have the unique ability to empathize with each other and the challenges that go into the earliest years of a teaching career. We can support and encourage each other, inspire each other and help each other improve and plan. And, sometimes we can simply NOT think about school and just enjoy an evening of movies, games, karaoke, eating, and talking.

6. Sing more. When I think back on what I miss most about high school and college, I often settle on the memories that I have of being in choir, or just singing with friends in general. I am going to try to sing more this year, whether that be alone in my classroom or perhaps informally with students and colleagues (I still think it'd be great to have a staff choir that meets once a month or something).

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