At the end of my second year of teaching in the School District of Philadelphia I can proudly say, "it's getting easier." I find that lesson planning comes faster and more ideas are rolling around in my head than ever before. This year has exposed me to so much more than I could have imagined in terms of technology and pedagogy that I cannot even remember my thoughts at the end of last year. Here are a few of the highlights of what I've learned/done this year and want to continue/augment for next year:
- Conversations with students: I spent more time this year reflecting with my students on their learning. Starting with an issue-filled classroom that could not keep quiet, I spread a reflection day to my other classes where they discovered how difficult it is for them to get themselves quiet, even if they are only listening to each other. I used many tools from Restorative Practices to help me create these experiences and I want to improve upon them next year.
- Laptops: Providing at-will computer access has allowed my students to conduct research in real-time, use the tools of the business world now instead of waiting years, access information in multiple modalities (graphically, verbally, through audio, etc.), and to top it off has saved multiple reams of paper.
- Critical Friends: Being a part of a voluntary program with some of my staff to provide feedback on our classroom instruction has been an incredibly valuable enterprise. Focusing on the education competencies developed by Microsoft has framed our discussion of pedagogy and allowed ample time for cookie-cake eating (shout-out to Kate).
- Personal Learning Network: In addition to the people I talk to at work and in my personal life, I have begun to engage in educational conversations with people all over the region and the world. I follow multiple educators on Twitter (I recommend @mbteach, @ddmeyer, and @DianeRavitch for starters). I read blogs daily (Philly Teacher, City School Stories, and dy/dan - some overlap with twitter). I have also attended my first ever EdCampPhilly and hope to attend more in the future.
- Think Outside the Classroom: As much as I want to focus on my students all the time, there are so many things that make that harder outside my classroom door. I have been reading blogs and articles on The Notebook daily as well as checking on Philly.com for updates about School Reform Commission meetings, court cases, Union controversies, and more. If you are not keeping yourself in the loop, the loop is soon going to overtake you.
I am sure there are more but I don't want to bore you. If you are a teacher, GREAT job this year. Take your summer and make the most of it - whether that means reading books on pedagogy and revising your curricula or just sitting by a beach/lakefront and enjoying a cold drink. For everyone else, keep up the good work!
I will be posting intermittently throughout the summer months but am traveling between July 3 - August 10. Stay tuned.