t’s almost time for school, and teachers have lots of plans for the new school year. But did you ever think of what you’re NOT going to do? Here’s my list of things I’m NOT going to do this year.
1. I won’t wait to the last minute to connect with parents and families. This year, I plan on being extremely proactive. I’m not going to delay speaking to parents until there is a problem with a student. I’m going to reach out to parents and families early and often. I won’t let language or other barriers stand in the way. And I’m not going to just contact the parents of students with academic or behavioral issues – I also want to communicate with the families of students who are doing well in my class, to provide updates and to celebrate success. I’m going to let parents and families know how they can help their child achieve more during the high school experience.
2. I’m not going to be the “sage on the stage.” Instead, I will create a classroom environment that increases students’ confidence and helps students build their capacity to manage their own discussions. Last year, I was fortunate enough to learn the techniques of John Saphier’s Making Student Thinking Visible. MSTV focuses on helping students articulate their thinking so that teachers can cultivate student-led learning and ignite student discourse. At the end of the year, I implemented several MSTV strategies in my classes, and the results were phenomenal – students took charge of their own learning and worked together to find answers to questions, and that created a much more meaningful classroom experience for them.
3. I’m not going to take on more than I can handle. I say this every year, but this year I MEAN it. As teachers, it’s so easy for us to commit to conducting presentations and workshops, to take a spot on countless committees, to be club advisors and mentors, and to attend every school event. This year, I plan on making sure that I don’t spread myself too thin, and I want to continue to focus on the activities that will help my students achieve.
4. I’m not going to confine my students’ learning to the four walls of my classroom. This will mean that I will take my students to plays, operas, dance performances, and art museums. I will continue to reach out to my friends at One Day University, so that my students can experience sessions with world class professors speaking on a variety of topics, which are new to high school students or which expand on the subjects currently taught in high school. In fact, this October, my students will hear a Tufts University professor discuss 1000 years of religion, a Yale University professor explore the evolution of irrationality, a Georgetown professor examine the genius of Ellington and Gershwin, and they will listen and learn as Alan Dershowitz from Harvard Law School discusses the fundamental issues of censorship and the First Amendment, civil rights, abortion, homicide and the increasing role that science plays in a legal defense.
5. I’m not going to forget why I became a teacher. During the school year, there’s so much that can weigh a teacher down: over-emphasis on test scores, endless new initiatives, negativity, demonizing of teachers by politicians. It can be exhausting and demoralizing. This year I intend to focus on the positive, to enjoy the collegiality of my fellow teachers, and to celebrate my students’ successes.
Have a great school year!!