NERD ALERT: I have no fewer than 89 “notes to self” regarding teaching ideas for the upcoming year. You’re reading this, so I bet you can relate. The problem (sorta) is that most of these ideas are brand new. I mean, I think some of them are pretty darn good. (For instance, infusing more Malcolm Gladwell into the curriculum is always a good idea.) But in the cyclone of nerdiness, I often forget to note teaching successes of the past. This means I’m missing out on the opportunity to revise some already solid approaches.
Again, I’m betting I’m not alone on this. We teachers often get caught up in innovation. And innovation is a good–no, a great thing. But innovative educators have been innovative for years and careers. We don’t always have to start from scratch. I suggest we all take some time to stop, celebrate, revise, and repeat.
Step 1: Stop.
Think back to a lesson or unit that was especially successful. I’ve just been thinking back to how I kicked things off last fall. Prompted by this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, published last August, I composed my own written address to my new students. I titled it, “Here’s What I Need You to Understand,” and shared it on the first full day of classes. Of course, my message wasn’t the end-all-be-all, and I extended the invitation (eh hem, assigned students) to compose a written response.
Step 2: Celebrate!
Take time to acknowledge your awesome approach and relive that “Woohoo! It’s working!” feeling. For me, this initial writing activity accomplished a few things. First, it allowed me to share my philosophy with my students. Second, it showed my students that I, too, am a writer. And, third, it prompted our journey of written conversation. I was pleased with my efforts, but thrilled when a student wrote, “Honestly, there are not many teachers who dedicate this much time on the first day of school to explain what they value and expect from their students.” While I can assure this gentleman that there are, in fact, many teachers who dedicate a lot of time and thought into such efforts, I’m glad he saw me as one of them. Success!
Step 3: Revise.
It’s time to take another look at what year-ago-me thought, reconsider, and revise. (I can already tell you that I don’t love the wording of belief II.) With any luck (and a whole lot of writing revision), I can make this fall’s class kick-off even more successful. Perhaps I’ll also incorporate a conference into the student writing process.
Step 4: Repeat.
T-minus 30 days…
So what teaching successes do you need to remember, celebrate, revise, and repeat going into the 2016-2017 school year?
Amy Menzel is an English language arts teacher who has taught at Cudahy High School, Franklin High School (WI), Emerson College, Wheaton College (MA), and is excited to continue her career teaching at Waukesha West High School (WI) starting this fall. She is a teacher-consultant through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Writing Project and holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. She wants (needs) to write more.
Tagged: Readers Writers Workshop