Wednesday, August 25, 2010

a retreat at home

it was incredibly helpful to my planning for the year to have a department retreat in my classroom yesterday. we talked about where the dept has been and where we're trying to move this year. we drafted our own professional goals, and began talking about the concept of a "principle of practice" (roberta lenger-kang). i'll talk about that more once i get her okay, lol... but we began the day by doing a timeline of our reading - which would be a wonderful activity to start the year off with my kids. i wound my way from "where the wild things are" (from which I learned that creating your own worlds is sometimes necessary and that anything is possible), to "teaching to transgress" (from which i learned so much about teaching from the heart and always with critical consciousness embedded into the work).

i began by making a calendar of my year, knowing that i want to condense my units and add 2 more. i want well-planned, every-day-is-essential units this year, and 6 weeks is mad long. i need to plan in time for giving and going over feedback on writing work, and strengthen the connection between the students' independent reading and literary elements/vocabulary. we need to make genre a daily conversation, and the students should be able to speak and write thoughtfully about why a text is from a particular genre - which means i need to up the ante on identifying genre features. i also need to broaden the scope of the texts that i introduce and do much more comparing and contrasting, to solidify form in their minds.

the idea of starting large - with what i want students to be able to do and understand, and working back to figure out which smaller skills they need to be able to tackle the large task - helps me incredibly in my planning. as s pointed out, it's similar to the concept of backward design (which i'm sure all you MACers are learning), in which you begin the product/assessment in mind. i do design my class that way, but i'm always struck by the fact that it's so difficult to assess true learning. who am i to judge if they have really mastered a skill? it's part of my job, and this is why i try to provide as many ways as i can for them to demonstrate to me what they know. i try to focus on progress and not on deficit, and find that they want to learn, subconsciously.

next steps - defining and designing my classroom roles and the job application process for such roles that i'm implementing in ELA, figuring out advisory's first few weeks, making the 9th grade intro zine, thinking about independent reading projects and daily logging/journaling, organizing and cataloguing my classroom library so ppl can begin "checking out" books. checking in with g to begin planning our class. making posters and bulletin boards (my favorite!!!! such a nerd)

i have my work cut out for me. but as always, with the chill of a late-august evening, i'm getting ready to begin anew. i love the prospect of each new year, the growth i've seen in myself and the challenges ahead. despite a crazy summer, i really do love my life and am blessed in so many ways. but my job is a big blessing, for real. so are my loved ones. thanks, universe. i'm trying to give back that good energy you supply me with every morning.


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