This will be my eleventh year teaching. In years past, probably every year since my second year, the face you see on the left would have been my disposition towards going back to work. Absolute reluctance.
In all honesty, one of the reasons I became a teacher was so that I could have summers off with my family and relax a bit. Little did I know that spending the summer with my three children would be 10 times harder than actually working at my job teaching over 100 children. It is so wonderful and so miserable at the same time; I'm sure any parent can empathize. This year I added to that stress by squeezing in a graduate class that involved internship hours at my school, as well as seemingly endless readings and papers. We live ten minutes from the beach and we only went three times. Luckily I have a pool to throw the kids into, but I was only able to get in about five times max. I watched about five hours of television total and read (and this is what I'm most sad about) no novels of any kind. It was short and not summer-ish at all.
Despite this, though, and with the difficulty of refereeing three wee ones who are sick of each other, I still did not ever want to go back to work. I usually dreaded it and I went back kicking and screaming.
This year, it is different. This year, I feel like my children did last week when I took them to my new classroom to start setting up (see below). There was so much anticipation and the excitement was palpable (even though this is not their school and they were not actually starting school). This year will be my first year not teaching Social Studies. Instead I have a course to teach where I am passionate about the subject matter: Literacy and Media Technology. The sky is the limit with this course. I can do whatever I want. I have so many ideas, I do not know where to begin with the planning. I don't want to go to bed because I want to try so many new things this year in addition to the new content.
First, I am changing how I grade. I'm going to try my best to make this course standards-based. I will design projects where students can learn to master digital literacy and technology standards. There will be no tests or quizzes; everything will be project-based.
Second, my students will receive feedback and be given the opportunity to improve their work before receiving a final grade. They can work on a project as long as they want to until they either a) master the skill, or b) give up and move onto something else. I'm hoping it's choice A. Menu boards, or choice assignments, will have to be offered to allow for differentiation of the work, especially since the classes will be heterogeneous and students will move at vastly different paces. Turning these "grades" into numbers for the grade book/report card is another issue I will have to work out, but I am confident I can make it work.
Third, I am still wrestling with the idea of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. For the last three years I have used Class Dojo as a behavior management tool, mostly with success. But, through a small faction on Twitter, I was made aware that research shows that people do inferior work when they are "paid to perform." I don't even remember what chat I was on, but about a dozen people recommended that I read Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes." This book has application in my classroom and in my house (where I've also been using Class Dojo). I'm about a third of the way through and feel that I have "seen the light," but still do not know the method I ought to take instead. Hopefully I can make some more progress with this book before school starts next week. Can Kohn's philosophy coexist with Robert Marzano's emphasis on "celebrating student success"?
Finally, I would like to learn more about gamification. I've done some preliminary research, but was not successful in figuring anything out. I love the idea of giving my students digital badges as they complete each new skill. But, then, does this count as the extrinsic motivation that I'm trying to do away with?
I have one more thing that I am extremely excited for, and that is the 300 hours of internship fieldwork to complete at my school to earn my Principal certification. I designed and will implement a change project, while experiencing all of the highs and lows of being an administrator over the next eight months or so. (More to come on this at a later date.) I love change; I actually love the upheaval this will bring to my life. It's going to be an awesome year!
I intend this blog to be a reflection journal of sorts, on topics such as teaching, leadership, pedagogy, and tacos.