Although teaching is certainly the best part time job I’ve ever had, I start almost daily, full-swing-style planning for my classes a few weeks before school starts, usually the week before kids go off to college. This is not to say that I don’t make little decisions all summer long about organizational or management aspects of my craft, but there are some years that I feel more ready than others to enter the classroom. #ThisYear is one of those years.
In preparing to write this post, and in being deliberate in my call for others to participate in the mandate to be the change one wishes to see in the world, I searched the tag #thisyear. I was pleased to see that others had already started using #thisyear, and that they also seemed to be meaning it in the same context in which I mean it: that this school-year needs to be different than the last, and that their purposeful actions could achieve this reality.
This post is not meant to address my student learning objectives (SLOs and chuckles, for my teacher-friends), which are clear, reasonable, and achievable, not to mention handed to a teacher like me from both the IB and NYS. With that in mind, I’d like to publicly state a few of my own learning goals for #thisyear.
I will go paperlite #thisyear. I purposefully say paperlite instead of paperless because I recognize that there is value at actually putting pen to physical paper to, for instance, practice annotating a passage, especially when students are tested until at least 2015 on physical paper. Post-PARCC, a completely paperless classroom will make more sense. To clarify, unless there is an educational value to actually physically handing students a paper copy of any document, save test prep as explained, they will access it electronically. I intend to collect and analyze data related to how many pages of paper I do not print this year, and convert that into real world dollars and cents for the district. It would also be interesting to see if the kids’ printing (which is free and freely available to the same Xerox copier I tend to use to make my copies on) increases as my own copying decreases, or if they seem to embrace the paperless environment.
I will focus on teaching #thisyear. It’s easy to fall into a trap of just doing things the unpurposeful way. I spent countless hours last year checking in student work for completion, work that Google will do for me this year in my paperlite environment. I squinted, wondering, Is that an A … Or a D? over I don’t know how many multiple choice assessments. Google will do that too this year. I made comments on drafts – whatever that meant – of student work and returned it, sometimes too late, sometimes to be ignored, and often to be returned as the final with no revisions. This year, I will not waste my time or my talents in these manners. With collaboration tools like shared Docs, there is no reason to call work as of X-date “a draft” – as though adult, professional or personal writing ever has only one iteration before seeing an editor – or to withhold my expertise until this apparently magical moment. My expertise extends into managing secondary students, and that includes encouraging collaboration. While I can and will advise and assist my students along the way, encouraging them to self-manage, to be responsible and resourceful, and to develop their own writing processes seems key to their success in colleges and careers.
I will continue to explore universal design for learning (UDL) and possible corollaries to student performance #thisyear. After last year’s experiment with a class set of iPads, I noticed that my students abandoned their desks as soon as I had set our purpose for the day. This year, I abandoned the desks for collaborative workspaces: rectangular and round tables. I hung nothing motivational on the walls to make way for student work and to better allow me to utilize that space for actual learning. No Lynette, I’m not planning on a word wall: QR codes that actually take us to content — student-created and curricular — will be there instead. I intend to involve the students in action research into UDL this year too, probably as a suggested topic for persuasive writing.
My hope is that by embracing the promise of a new start, I can deliberately seek to become a more purposeful and effective educator: one who uses technology strategically, who hones her expertise at her craft while eschewing purposeless timesuckers, and who researches the effect of an environment on learners.
What will you do differently #thisyear?