I’ve decided to take this blog — and my classroom — in a new direction.
There’s been a nagging feeling for some time now that my classroom was not as it should be. For the last few years, I’ve felt like I was losing touch with the reasons why I wanted to be a teacher, and losing control of being able to guide the atmosphere of my classroom into being one that encouraged students to enjoy their time at school while they learn.
Of course, my first year and a half as a teacher probably focused more on the enjoyment aspect rather than the learning. Yes, students liked being in my class, but it was because of the digressions we had during class discussions, or the multimedia projects that probably focused more on how “cool” the students’ videos looked rather than how much they actually learned doing them. To counter-act that, I’ve felt as though the last few years in my classroom have been swinging too far the other way. I’ve graded more harshly, I’ve spent less time really getting to know my students… everything was their fault if they didn’t have the intrinsic motivation to learn.
I’ve been reading, tweeting, but most of all rethinking everything I’ve come to view as the norm in my classroom. It’s not enough and it’s certainly not the best way for the students under my care to learn. I’ve been too much of a lecturer and the resident expert on everything. I’ve taken away their freedom and assigned them writing prompts that may hold no interest for them whatsoever.
This year, that all changes.
Overnight? Of course not. This will be a daunting year. My wife and I are expecting a baby in October. I have a student teacher coming in January. I’m a week away from the start of the school year and some of these ideas are still just swirling around in my head, yet to take on a coherent shape.
Here’s my ideal: No grades. No homework. Develop in them a deep desire for exploration. I want my students to learn and love learning.
I’ve been reading the newspaper all summer, seeing the steps being taken by our government to “improve” the education system. Instead, all I see is the federal government killing teachers’ desire to help students learn and eviscerating students’ natural inclination to learn about the world around them by replacing learning with testing. The way this whole system is being run is wrong. And no one at the top has any clue about what it will take to fix it.
That’s where we come in. I’m trying to transform my classroom this year into a place where every student has every opportunity to learn and to make the necessary mistakes to get to that learning. Will it be pretty? No. I readily expect this to be a messy year. I expect to make a lot of mistakes myself. I expect to feel exhausted at the end of every day (or more than usual, I guess). I expect to try to reach every student and still be disappointed by a handful that never connect with what we’re doing. Maybe my expectations going into this will be enough to keep up morale when the going gets tough.
So what about this blog? I’ve been a bad blogger. I don’t write regularly and I’m not anticipating that changing for this school year. But now this blog also has a focus to it that I really never had before. I want this place to chronicle the steps I take this year. I want it to be a list of my failures and blunders, as well as my successes and discoveries. I want to be an example for others… whether it is an example of how to make this transition or how not to make it, only time will tell.
The tagline for this blog is Yoda’s line from The Empire Strikes Back: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Amen. Let’s get to it.