I was honored to participate in a Public Radio podcast sponsored by the Mill Valley Public Library called "Eight Books that Made Me". Literature has always been a very important part of my life and having the opportunity to reflect on my favorite books, and their impact on my life and career was a blessing. A link to the episode is below:
Students came back this Monday! Although this year marks 17 years in the classroom, one my favorite aspects of the teaching vocation is the feeling of renewal. Invention. Reinvention. Doing this over. Trying knew things. Failing. Succeeding. Sorta succeeding. All the goodness in between. I love it!
Below are 5, simple, nerdy pedagogical shifts I'm making this school year just because I feel like it. Nothing groundbreaking here. Just the joy of teaching. I hope your hear is off to a fabulous start, and you are finding simple, little ways, to see your job as more of an art, than a science.
#1. Plan in the 80's, and revise in 2017.
This year I am going to write every lesson plan as if the only technology I have is a whiteboard. Analyze areas where my instruction could be more robust, amplified, personalized, etc. Then integrate technology to hep fill those gaps and reach my "21st Century" students. I'm hopeful this will keep pedagogy as the primary focus.
#2. Wait 5 seconds.
This year, every time I am trying to gather my students attention, I'm going to wait five seconds, before trying to gather their attention again. I am HORRIBLE at classroom management, and find myself always depending on my loud "teacher voice" to gather them. No more. Wait for them to naturally calm. 5 seconds. Then request attention. Thank you to so much to Jennifer Gonzales over at Cult of Pedagogy for this ProTip.
#3. Three questions.
This year I'm going to put 3 question marks (? ? ?) at the top of every quiz, test, etc. Im such a pushover, and find myself answering questions such as the dreaded "Am I doing this right?". I'm going to give them three opportunities to ask questions, and each time they do, cross off one "?". I'm hopeful this will force critical thinking and metacognition about what they need help on, and what they can negotiate on their own.
#4. Share my writing with my students.
I love sharing ideas with other teachers, writing blogs, etc. This desire was the catalyst for writing Spark Learning. By asking my students to keep Website Portfolios of their work, and engage in lessons, on a website that lives on my personal blog, I am hopeful that we will grow more connected and mutual reflective practitioners as they naturally engage in new work, while simultaneously being in close proximity to mine.
#5. Mobile prep desk (humanities).
The last chapter in Spark Learning is full of various, random "bonus strategies" for teachers that are not necessarily grounded in the book's thesis. One strategy is called the "Mobile Prep Desk" where I discuss using my prep period to plan in the back of a random colleagues classroom. Getting my prep done. Learning from a colleague. Two birds. One stone. This year, I'm going to make a point of doing this only in classrooms of humanities teachers. I see too much Science and Math! It's taken 17 years for me to branch out and actually observe my History and English colleagues. I am embarrassed its taken this long. Just think what I have could have been learning all this time!
"Show Your Work!" by Austin Kleon was a very important book for me as an educator. Albeit short, and a bit polarizing, the book reminded me that it sharing the process of my work, not just products, and encouraging my students to do the same, can be a very powerful process if curated strategically.
Not all work is worth sharing, however an attitude of curating the journey towards a final product can yield excellent feedback and subsequently empower one's learning community. Keeping this in mind, I have decided to take Kleon's call to action a step beyond simple tweeting, blogging, and encouraging my students to keep blogs.
This coming year, I will be doing ALL OF MY LESSON PLANNING (classroom teaching AND science camps) on my public website: cyclesoflearning.com. Thus, my website will serve as our classroom LMS, and be an interactive space for all lesson prompts, links, documents ,etc. (Click here to be directed to specific sub page where lessons will be kept).
I am hopeful that this approach will not only share work I find effective with other colleagues, but also force me to organizes my work for students in a more user friendly fashion.