Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Here We Go Again: 5 Things I'm Looking Forward to This School Year

The school year officially starts tomorrow for me, and I'm pretty excited to get back to helping my students do and learn amazing things.  
Image:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The summer was a wonderful time for me, and I enjoyed pursuing passions I have outside of teaching.  I spent three amazing weeks touring Europe with my family and did a bit of travel blogging.  I started training for a half marathon that I'm going to run in November.  I enjoyed time with my wife and kids.

For the first summer in a long time, I took time away from teaching and education.  I didn't attend any conferences this summer or teach any graduate classes.  The books I read were all on subjects other than education (most were travel guides to places in Europe).  You may have noticed that I haven't posted on this blog for about two months.  

I needed that time away.  I wasn't feeling burned out by any means, but I was feeling frustrated.  So many of the trends in education are bad for our students, and I needed time away to accept that the change in direction I'm fighting for sometimes happens slower than I want.

Now, refreshed, I'm looking forward to a new school year and all of the amazing things that will happen in the next 9 months.  As a throwback to my previous "Friday's Five" posts, here are five things I'm really looking forward to this year:
  • Having my students blog regularly - I've done bits of blogging with my kids before, but not on any kind of regular basis.  This year, I'm going to have them start in the first week of school and post often.  While our class wiki has been a great place for students to post the amazing things they've done over the past 5 years, I want each student to also have a place on the web that is their own.  I want them to be able to share the incredible things they are doing with others, get feedback, and have pride in the product of their learning.
  • Giving students more freedom in what they read - Every year it seems that I learn new ways to ditch the reading textbook, give students more choice, and still teach all of the standards that my kids are supposed to learn.  I'm hoping to expand that even more this year and rely on the textbook even less.
  • Math class - I love teaching math.  I love that my students seem to love learning math.  I love that my admin collected all the math textbooks in trucks and sold them to some other school district.
  • Being an American History teacher during a presidential election.  Sure, there's the obvious benefits of it being an election year like the fact that it's much easier for kids to understand the electoral college.  There's also the less obvious benefits that students will disagree, argue, and debate more.  There will be ample opportunity to have them defend their positions, research why candidates do the things they do, and learn about bias.  
  • The unknown - Each year and each group of kids is so different than any other.  I love that the best lessons and the most meaningful interactions usually happen in moments of unplanned serendipity.  I can't wait to experience more of those moments with this year's group of students.