When I was in little league, my coaches used to tell me that if you’re not getting better you’re getting worse. I never really understood that growing up, but now that I’m on the wrong side of my sporting career it makes sense. I try to remember that during the summer where it’s really easy to fall back into what we’ve always done before.
Luckily my principal has either intentionally or randomly chosen to change the course I’ll be teaching almost every year I’ve been teaching which keeps me on my toes. It’s helpful, but as I’ve reflected on the beginning of the school year, I realize that they have always gone well but I’m beginning to wonder if I could do more or do things differently. I want to front load the first week of school with information gathering about my students to help me in meeting their needs throughout the school year.
The first weeks of school for my school is relationship building and introducing the students to our school. We have a project based learning initiative at our campus, so last year I put together a PBL for our 6th graders to introduce them to the process we go through for project based learning as a school. We found in it’s first year last year that it helped the new 6th graders better understand project based learning and the expectations their teachers had for them. It also helped the kids learn more about the school and our policies up front so they all knew what basic policies (library, technology, late work, etc.) were in the beginning which meant we didn’t need to cover them in our classes individually. The 6th grade team though it went really well and with a few tweeks it will be done again this school year. I’ll put up a post in the next few days where I outline this grade-wide project.
While refining the school-wide project, I want to do a better job of understanding all my students from the beginning. I did some reading on My Beginning of the Year Student Questionnaire by Pernille Ripp and her other post on Parent Questionnaires I decided that I could easily collect a lot of information very easily. I’m also going to try Curriculum Compacting with at least one student this year, so knowing more about each child’s interests will help me to create projects and products that they find interesting and engaging.
The other big change in my classroom is that I’ve been asked to be in a pilot group of teachers employing Results Only Learning Environment in my classroom as well as Standards Based Grading. I’m really excited about the change in grading especially. I know it will be a lot of work in the beginning especially while I’m getting used to it, but I realize that it’s better for my kids. I need to reread parts of the book to make sure I’m on the same page with the rest of the people who are piloting this concept.
I’m trying to be intentional about changing up my routines as I go through my career teaching so that I don’t turn into a formulaic teacher. That being said, I want to make sure I’m doing things that have real meaning and purpose for my classroom. I don’t want to push the envelope just for the sake of pushing the envelope, I want to make sure that it adds to my classroom or is research based. What are you doing to change your teaching this school year? Are you getting better or getting worse?