The exams are all graded, reports (and advisor reports) written, closing academic meetings done, so it must be summer. As usual at this time of year, I feel a bit like a traveler arriving in a post-apocalyptic landscape, unclear as to what to make of all the rubble.
What are my professional development plans for the summer?
I’m currently participating in two book clubs. The George School faculty book club met a couple of nights ago to discuss Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. It was a treat to have a conversation about a meaty work of contemporary fiction with so many English teachers, former English teachers, and just plain book lovers. Our next book, which we won’t discuss until late August, is James Lee Burke’s Jolie Blon’s Bounce. I haven’t read any Burke before, so it will be fun to discover a new author.
Meanwhile, #TABSchat is running a book club this summer, too. The first conversation will be this coming Wednesday night at 8pm. We’ll be discussing Daniel Willingham’s Why Don’t Students Like School? Apparently the Foundational Skills Committee here at GS read it several years ago, but that was after I rolled off of FSC, so it’s new to me. I’m three chapters in now, and I’m finding it to be excellent. I hope that #TABSchat continues to pick texts that expand my educational horizons. I find #TABSchat to be the most high-brow Twitter chat among educators each week, so I anticipate that the conversations will be intriguing.
I’ve also made a commitment to use Duolingo this summer to try to learn a little German. Duolingo is a popular app for foreign language acquisition, and it was one of the ones mentioned by Mary Meeker in her most recent Internet Trends presentation. I’m curious about technological threats to my industry writ large, and this seems to be one worth investigating. Will Duolingo kill high school classroom language instruction? No, it doesn’t look like it. But could a fourteen year old spend the summer before ninth grade using Duolingo every day to learn enough Spanish or French to place into Spanish 2 or French 2 in September? I asked that question of my colleague Laura, who has also used Duolingo and who is involved in our testing/placement process, and she thought the answer might be yes. What are the implications, then? Could we effectively eliminate level 1 classes in those languages and insist that students entering in ninth grade use Duolingo during the summer?
Meanwhile, a big part of my summer will be devoted to running the giant summer reading and blogging assignment for our rising sophomores. I’m going to need to log on every morning and see who has posted to their blog, give them responses, advice, make connections, and so forth. There will be student and parent emails to respond to, and who knows what problems will crop up. Fortunately, my colleagues are providing lots of support and encouragement, and I’ve already received roughly 80% of the student blog URLs that I need. This assignment might just fly!