Each August I start to plan what I want to do in the upcoming school year. Many things that I do stay similar to previous years, but if I ever had to repeat exactly what I did last year I would probably have to quit the profession. So while I may teach a certain novel or a particular style of writing with my students every year, something new has to come into play as well.
This year I am exploring three things:
1. Mindfulness. Since I teach in a parochial school, you would think spiritual self-awareness would be a no-brainer as it is a huge part of what we do in devotional time and such. And it is to some degree. However, I see the students rush into my classroom at the top of each block and they seem so stirred up. I want to find a way to get them to pause, take a deep breath (or 10) and to focus on what their purpose for being in class today will be. I am thinking that 1-3 minutes spent in quiet and in focusing could be very valuable. Have been doing a lot of reading on the benefits of quiet contemplation of a task before actually diving in. Visualizing the work, centering the mind, these are all going to be pretty important to my students— and to me.
2. Homework. I hate homework – I hate giving it, I hate grading it. And I know my students hate it too. I am exploring how to banish it. Does that mean my kids won’t do anything English related while at home? No. I am hoping they will find a quiet spot to read, maybe some will keep a journal, maybe others will blog. I am hoping we can find ways to NOT make it a drudge. There is the potential for “turf loss” here… should I risk it? What if I cut out homework and the teacher down the hall piles on 30 minutes more in their subject and my kids don’t read. What about accountability? This brings me to the next area.
3. Grades. I am more and more convinced if you reduce everything to a percentage in life all you do is create people who become adept at “playing the numbers game”. With a move toward greater and greater focus on knowing HOW to learn, think, and question… shouldn’t we be building this into how we assign a “grade” to things. That said, I am considering having my students keep a portfolio and at midterm and end of term they will need to defend what their “grade” should be. They will have their test data, their papers, and their participation information, and we will sit down together and come up with a number for how they think they did. Could be pretty exciting come about late October, couldn’t it?
So if any of you teacher types out there have some ideas for me in these areas, please comment or tweet to me your thoughts!