Today is the last workday of my tenth year in the classroom, it sure has been a strange one. The year that began with a tornado circling overhead included a gasoline spill in my classroom, pepper spray, and a near-fight that happened on the last day of class before exams. For all of its quirks, this was also a year for growth - and it came with the accompanying growing pains (did I mention I had to deal with pepper spray?).
The Good and the Growth
One of the things I wanted to focus on this year was moving students from consumers to producers of knowledge. We had mini-lessons everyday, but students got to spend a large amount of each class period creating products and videos for a topic that they were interested in for that unit of study. Some students created Minecraft videos of the USS Indianapolis or the Mayflower while talking about their historical significance, others created videos using Google Slides and Screencastify, some students chose to create dioramas and other forms of projects, but they were all creating something.
I wouldn't call this a complete success by any stretch, I still had some students who struggled to get much accomplished and others who missed the point (I kept having to discuss about how the accuracy of their information was the most important part, not just creating something that looked cool). However, I enjoyed seeing what these students could do when given the freedom to let their imagination lead them down a path of their choosing.
One thing that I quite enjoyed this year, and I'm still kind of shocked about this, was the opportunity to lead professional development activities. I'm an introvert, but I don't have a problem standing in front of my students and talking. In the past, I've really hated doing the same for my peers. This year, however, I led a couple of workshops at my school and three professional development sessions for the county... and I liked it. Going forward, I think I'm going to digitize my materials and place them on my website for others to see and share with others.
This year was also new in that I took on several mentoring roles within the school. I was responsible for sharing Literacy Design Collaborative strategies with the Social Studies department (and they did a phenomenal job in implementing these strategies in their classroom in spite of getting stuck with me). I also had a student-teacher, Kristin Maki, in the second semester. She was a sponge, which made me even more intentional in what I did in the classroom while it was still my time. Kristin did a great job for a student-teacher and established great relationships with the students that were in our class. Some of them even started a petition to give to the administration trying to get her a job after she graduated. Lastly, I was assigned a new math teacher as a mentee. This didn't really take shape until the last month of school, but I went and observed her once and she seems to be doing a great job with her students. I'm looking forward to helping her out more next year and seeing what all she is capable of doing in the classroom.
Extracurricular activities were a big part of this school year for me. I was the teacher sponsor for Quiz Bowl and co-sponsored National Honor Society. Our Quiz Bowl team had another solid performance in the county tournament (especially when you consider we only had one returner and almost all of the students on our team are tenth graders). I really think that we have a shot to win the tournament the next two years, and I would love nothing more than to wipe the metaphorical smirk off of Gray Stone High School (the local charter school). Near the end of the year, some students approached me about an opportunity to learn coding in the classroom. I know NOTHING about coding, and I told them as such, but I wanted to give them the opportunity to learn. I threw a few projects up on Donors Choose and got them funded in a matter of a week and these students now have five Sphero robots to help them learn Java Script. The kids in this club are certainly kids after my own heart, they decided to name the group Java Lit (see what they did there?).
Seriously, pepper spray... nothing more need be said.
Finally, it seems that my colleagues know about what is going in my classroom and voted me as the Teacher of the Year. That's a high honor on its own, but what made it even more special is that fourteen years ago, I graduated from the school that I received this recognition in (and some of the faculty and staff were my teachers when I attended).
The last decade of my life has been tiring on so many different levels, but it has been rewarding on so many more. I guess we'll have to see what the next two decades have in store.