Monday marks the first day of my sixteenth year as a full-time teacher. At age 40, I’m thoroughly mid-career, and really, what have I got to prove anymore? In recent years I’ve set four or five goals for myself on Labor Day weekend, but I’m pretty exhausted right now, so I’ll just settle for one, modest, goal this year.
Goal: To be the most innovative teacher at George School.
Okay, okay, I was sandbagging. In truth I enter this year with more energy, enthusiasm, and optimism than ever before. The influence and inspiration of the multitude of Connected Educators keeps me from standing still. This will be a year in which my teaching evolves drastically, and I’m not planning to play it safe. How will I innovate?
- More backchanneling. I’ve got my class hashtags posted to my LMS pages and on the wall of my classroom. I’m asking all of my students to participate via Twitter, so I’ve had to write up clear expectations and guidelines. I’m looking forward to expanding my use of this powerful tool.
- Elephants never forget! (And they have excellent executive function.) I’m rolling out Evernote for resource-sharing to all of my students in all four sections. I’ve already created the class Notebooks and invited the students. It will be aggravating for a couple of days as students move in and out of sections, but once it all settles down, this looks like it will be easy to manage. I’m especially excited to use the shared Notebook with my AP English Language and Composition students since they’ll be reading a lot of nonfiction articles and essays in Term 2. On my iPad I can save articles I like to Pocket and then move them over to Evernote. The formatting looks great, my students will always have access to them, and we can save trees.
- New BYOT mindset and policies. I rewrote my class policy on handheld devices. Students may assume that cellphone use in class is permitted (quizzes and tests are an exception). I’ve laminated some yellow and red warning cards to use in a new classroom management system I’ve cooked up to keep students’ use of technology on track. I mentioned my new policy to my comrades in the English department at our first meeting, and I already have a colleague who is going to join with me in this new approach.
- I love Roland Barthes’ book S/Z (pronounced “Ess Zed”), so I’m using “L/Z” as my abbreviation for “lecture zero.” I barely lecture at all as it is, but this year I’ll replace the tiny amount of lecturing that I used to do with online video. I’m using Adobe Voice to create movies to replace shorter lectures and Doodlecast Pro to convert more complex PowerPoints into online video. The links to the videos get posted to the class LMS pages directly, so I probably won’t even need to use my YouTube channel.
- My sophomores already have blogs due to the big Summer Blogging Project I led. Their blog URLs are posted to our class LMS page now, and they’ll have weekly blogging assignments from me all year. The freshmen will remain blog free until Term 3 (after Spring Break), but I may have them contribute posts to this blog. (Perhaps I need to add a page specifically for that purpose. Hmm.)
Obviously innovation isn’t just about technology, and I want to use the once-a-week lab periods (block periods, for non-GS readers) more creatively. I wavered back-and-forth in recent weeks about whether or not to do Twenty Percent Time with my students this year (a.k.a. Genius Hour), but I’m just not well enough versed in the movement to make it fly this year. I don’t yet know how well it works in an AP setting; external exams are a heavy onus. Instead of using 40 out of 75 minutes of class for Twenty Percent Time, I’ll try to program creative lessons that have students working on their own or in small groups to produce something that speaks to the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Creating). When I’m not tough on myself, I often revert to lesson plans that I’ve been using for years, so this year I need to force myself to generate new plans for these lab periods.
I realize that if one of my colleagues at GS is reading this post, they might say, “Hey! I’m going to be the most innovative teacher this year! Who do you think you are, anyway, punk?” And that’s fine by me. If half-a-dozen other teachers set this same goal, and I turn out to be only the seventh most innovative teacher at the school this year, that’s a win for the students. Bring it on!