Things I Know 168 of 365: It was a good year

It is not so much the example of others we imitate as the reflection of ourselves in their eyes and the echo of ourselves in their words.

– Eric Hoffer

I listened more this year. I built structures into the classroom that led to better listening. Putting a point on it, I’d say the theme of my classroom this year was definitely choice. In ways I wasn’t ready for, comfortable with or even cognizant of when I started teaching, I opened up each unit plan and class activity to choice. Not hippie, “Do what makes you happy” choice, but choice of activities and ways of showing work that spoke to what I needed to know as a practitioner and also let our students speak to what they wanted as learners.

Reading in my G11 classes this year was opened up to texts of choice. Students were free to choose the books they wanted to read throughout the year. The first semester was successful in that more students were actually reading than any other class I’ve taught. But, because I couldn’t hand out the same assignment or ask the same text-based questions of all 32 students, I needed to create new structures to capture the information I needed to make better choices about instruction.

This is where collaboration really set in. Mid-way through the year I got to sit down with Larissa and our two interns from the Penn Literacy program. They helped me come up with a plan for information gathering that led to the collection of student information in one-on-one, small group and self-reflective spaces. I knew more about my students as readers than I ever have before.

The challenge of the year was grading. I’m not talking grading from a perspective of getting it all done (though that remained an omnipresent challenge). Because of the structures and approaches that shifted in the classroom, my feedback to student work was more voluminous than ever before. The spaces that had been created were spaces for conversations about learning. Still, students wanted a grade. We could have the best conversation about a piece of writing, but a B as the final grade seemed to negate all of that.

In talking to Meredith about it, she suggested no grades until the end of the quarter. I think that’s an interesting idea. I wonder too, if asking the students to grade their own work and then something akin to an artist’s statement explaining the work and their assessment might be an interesting way to go. My role could be that of Agree/Disagree. It still puts the ultimate authority in my hands, but it makes the students part of the process in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Next year, I hope to find dynamic ways to be a part of my advisory.

I hope to still be a part of the conversation about pedagogy and caring at SLA.

I hope to get to experience the capstone process as an outside mentor.

I hope to learn with everyone at SLA from afar.

I hope I get all A’s.

To everyone who was a part of my teaching career over the last 4 years, thank you for making this school a home for me.