Friday, September 3, 2010

Beginning the School Year

It's the last day of the first week of school. I have a (somewhat tenuous) grasp of my students' names. We've established the ground rules and expectations, mostly. My students are all working on their first writing assignments of the year. It's not so different from any other year, really. Except the obvious. And yet: it's my third year at the same school. I feel like I actually know whom to ask for the things I need. I know where all my classrooms are, and I know the fastest way to get to them from where my new office is. I have a sense of the energetic rhythm of the year. I know what that the class I meet on the first day of class isn't the same as class I'll finish the term with. And I know that I will have more papers than I can handle at some times. All that it pretty reassuring. But the third year brings with it some burdens: it isn't just one long party. I will be getting class visits by the dean of academics and by my department chair. My lesson plans will be scrutinized, as will my way of relating to my students. And I'll develop some new ideas about how I can grow as a teacher.

This year, I'm also part of a group at Urban that's doing inquiry work. The inquiry work involves developing a question on which to focus during the year, then devising ways of exploring that question in teaching/coaching students. The goal is to create a more equitable classroom environment—to better reach more students. I'm currently trying to find a focus that's also somewhat in line with my goals as a third-year teacher. The questions I've been working with so far will not be surprising to regular readers of this blog:

1.How can I design assessments that are enjoyable for students and help me see where they’re meeting/not meeting standards?

2. How can I grade papers in a way that students can clearly understand what they need to do to improve? And how can that grading be done most efficiently?

3. What do I do with boys in my classes who are either a) confident that they are smarter than I am, and therefore dismissive of me (usually older students); or b) deliberately acting out for a variety of reasons (usually younger students)?

I'm not sure which of these questions I'll focus on most. Part of what I'm supposed to do is find a particular student and focus on that student's needs/the issues I have with that student. But it's a little too early to read my students. So right now, I'm just letting the questions marinate. And I haven't had time yet to consider my goals for my third-year assessment. So maybe something else will come up as the year goes on. Something always does.

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