First Week Back
So, I've been back in the classroom for a full week after 3 years away from the classroom. Here are some of my thoughts and reflections in no particular order...
Who are all these people?
I am teaching at the same school that I had previously taught at for about 10 years. It is wonderful to have the comforts of 'home' (I can find things I need, lots of familiar teacher faces, routines are similar) but it is disorienting that I don't know any students. At all. With my grade 9's this doesn't make a difference, but my grade 12's have their 'stranger danger' radar on, wondering who I am and whether they can trust me. This means more work for me when it comes to building relationships. The silver lining is that my students and I are all starting out with a clean slate. A fresh start like this is worth the skeptical glances and skill-testing questions being thrown my way.
Changing how I do business
"Less me, more them" is one of the general themes I am trying to carry with me throughout each day. Every teacher loves a captive audience, and our voices have a time and place, but my students' voices need to be more important. Last week when we had a minor tech failure (first week back...maybe a little too ambitious!?!) it was easy to switch plans on the fly, but the default fallback plan involves more 'me' than I would like. I look forward to finding a new teaching rhythm where the 'default' lesson is more student-centred.
Started the 'gradeless' conversation
On the first day of classes, I told my grade 12 students my thoughts about numeric grades. I acknowledged the importance of grades this year as they apply to post-secondary programs, but made it clear that I would not be focusing on marks with them. I asked for their trust, but I know that trust takes time. I plan to conference with my students in the next week or so to learn about their goals for the course and address their questions. This year might not be completely gradeless, but it will be feedback focused as much as possible. Saying the words out loud to my students will help me stay accountable to myself.
Students know more than we think
For anyone who has ever doubted students' ability to generate quality success criteria entirely on their own, please give it a try! In my prior teaching life I had never had students generate criteria for anything critical. This year, on the first day of school, my Chemistry students generated success criteria for writing scientific explanations that were more specific and thorough than anything I would have come up with on my own. My students have high standards and have already shown me that they can identify quality work and give effective feedback to one another. We spoke about the power of a team, and about how all of us can push one another to improve.
I spent time outside with all of my classes last week. We didn't spend a whole period outside (yet!) but took advantage of the sunshine and had a little bit of fun getting to know one another. While outside, one of my classes blew me away when they found a solution to an icebraker activity that I never anticipated. A challenge that had always taken a minute or two with other groups (adults!) was over in the blink of an eye, with only me left asking 'how did you...?' I love surprises. :)
I hope to blog more often this year. See you soon. :)