Saturday, August 13, 2016

10 Things I'm Looking Forward to This School Year

I’m going to change my words, change my mind. (Definitely required before I can ask my students to do it!) Instead of thinking of all the things I didn’t get to this summer (reading Beloved, exploring student blogging options...), I’m going to think of all the things I did get to, and all of the things I’m looking forward to when classes start on Thursday:

  1. Recommending to students some of the great books I read this summer, like Challenger Deep, The Hot Zone, and Alexander Hamilton.
  2. Getting to know a new group of 10th graders in Honors English. (I’ve gotten to know a couple of them a little already from seeing their “Read” and “To-Read” shelves and their reviews of summer reading on
  3. Having the same group of students in AP Language that I had last year in Honors English 10. This is the first time in many years that I’ve had the same group of students the following year—it’s exciting to rethink how to start the year when I don’t have to train students in class procedures and learning expectations!
  4. Focusing my first 10th grade unit even better on the big ideas and benchmarks involved in the essential question “How does a personal narrative hook and hold readers?” (See this blog for my summer inspiration.)
  5. Having my own classroom! (There are things I’ve loved about many years of sharing classrooms with people—from the passing conversations between periods to not having the responsibility of set-up, upkeep, clean-up—but there are also inconveniences. Focusing right now on having full control of wall space, desk arrangement, bookshelves….)
  6. Using a writer’s notebook more (see this blog).
  7. Teaching AP Language the second time—last year was an adventure, and this year I’m already realizing I can be so much more focused, knowing experientially what’s coming. (For instance, re-reading the required summer reading David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, knowing even better things to call attention to in our initial discussion of it—like the use of footnotes and graphs.)
  8. Having a weekly lunch date with a colleague.
  9. Remembering that thinking is not a spectator sport, and when I forget, using a great line from a book I read (half of, so far): “To check if you are nurturing initiative versus developing dependence, ask yourself, ‘Who is doing the thinking here?’ as you interact with students. If you find yourself doing much of the thinking, acknowledge it by saying something like, ‘I’m sorry, It feels to me that I am doing most of the thinking here, and that means I’m the one learning. I want you to be learning. Let me step back and give you a chance to tell me what you are thinking/planning/feeling.’” (Ron Richhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools, 85-86)
  10. Maybe, possibly, actually using the Google Classrooms I set up last year--since I just did it for distributing questions for department discussions to all the secondary teachers, and it was a really fast and easy way to pass out a Google Doc and get answers back from everyone!
Endless summer is really not as exciting as it might seem. I know. When I first took time off from teaching to stay home with my small children for a few years, I was terribly excited about all the great literature I would catch up on reading--from Cervantes to The Jungle. But when I had no audience waiting for me in 2 motivation utterly evaporated. So I'm glad I'll have an audience in a couple more days. A little nervous. (I always am.) But thankful. My students are my reason to learn and grow. So I can help them learn and grow.

What are 10 things you are looking forward to this school year? We all have our regrets at the end of summer vacation. But change your words, change your mind! (Then teach your students to do the same!)

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