5 Musings for Next Year
As the school year winds down, it’s good to think about all the adjustments we’ve made to keep kids engaged and interested in learning. It’s important to know what our challenges were as well (there were many), but if we stay focused on the positive, next year will be much better. We spend a lot of time in school, so it’s worth taking a little bit of time to reflect on how to keep things fresh with new ideas and approaches.
Here are some goals to get you excited about next year:
1. Don’t take work home
Over the years, I’ve learned different strategies like bundling assignments to cut back on grading time. I teach English, so I quickly learned that giving a variety of verbal feedback to my class on their essays can cut down on the amount of time I spend writing out long commentary. I had a supervisor once tell me, your students should work harder than you. When I walk out the building and breathe in the fresh air, I know my time is my own.
2. Create meaningful projects
Projects don’t have to involve time outside of school or extra work to grade. It’s simply a time to link literature to the modern world. Projects allow students to learn on their own and do something meaningful with their discoveries, like creating visuals, podcasts, and videos that they can share with their friends and family.
3. Have fun and be yourself
To build positive relationships, we don’t need to be friends with everyone. We just have get students excited to enter our classroom. That means laughing, telling stories, and digressing to interesting topics. Teaching is all about immersion – how can we be passionate about what we teach? How can we be reflections of the exciting and changing universe we inhabit? How can we help students experience the excitement of uncovering the truth?
4. Prioritize creativity and freedom
Students will never get excited to learn if they feel like they are on the receiving end of every assignment and activity. They should feel like school is an adventure where they can choose what to watch, or listen to, or read or what to create, like an adaptation, poem, short story, video, or collaborative graphic.
5. Experience practical PD with new ideas
I’m always inspired by what I see going on in classrooms across the country. A good conversation with a colleague helps me keep curriculum and pedagogy fresh and new. The pandemic showed us that you don’t need to get in a car or pay a bunch of money to have someone come to your school and lead professional development. There’s practical and useful professional development created by teachers online with downloadable resources and personalized ways to interact with the presenter. In ELA alone, there’s so many blogs and podcasts from creative teachers.
Going to school is like driving. Kids go from sitting in a car seat, to sitting in the passenger’s seat where they can get a better view of what we’re doing in the driver’s seat. Eventually they learn to drive with someone guiding the way, pointing out the dangers and how to be courteous, but mostly showing them all the exciting places they can go. The limitlessness of roads. How they can show us what exists and what could be. Eventually, they have to take the skills they’ve learned and go on their own.
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers