It’s August, and even though school doesn’t officially start for two more weeks, most teachers I know are getting back into the classroom, dusting off binders & computers (literally) and thinking about the upcoming year.
No matter how many years I’ve been teaching, there is something exciting about the beginning of the school year: new students, new supplies, often new curriculum, and new possibilities. This year, I decided to re-do the color scheme in my 5th grade classroom. Before it was rainbow colors everywhere, and I was ready for something more serene. I defended this decision to my husband by saying that I spend more time there than I do at home during the school year, so it should be a space that makes me happy. (Luckily I could back it up with “extra” money I earned this summer!) But there is more going on here than just aesthetics, I find. This re-doing of the classroom is causing me to re-evaluate and revamp the way I teach.
This summer, I’ve been reading favorite blogs, sifting through professional books, attending workshops, and having deep conversations with colleagues in an attempt to constantly do what is best for my learners. I am blessed to work in a district that embraces a Culture of Thinking and is training us in project-based learning. My principal gives us books like Mindset by Carol Dweck. I am collaborating with teachers in other buildings on a project for the beginning of the year. All of this pushes me to be a better teacher and a deeper thinker about learning. My expectations are higher not only for my students, but for myself as well.
One of the changes I’ve decided to make this year is in writing instruction. In the past, I have had my students blog for the Two Writing Teachers classroom Slice of Life challenge in March, but this year I am making the commitment to have them blog all year long. While this may not sound like a big deal, allow me to elaborate: this will be in addition to writer’s notebooks and writing workshop. Having fifty 5th graders blog multiple times weekly means that I will be spending hours reviewing posts and approving them for publication, as well as managing the comments that I am requiring of students. Their comments will have to go beyond the typical 5th grade “awesome,” or “cool,” but will have to reflect back to the writing process and the content.
This is a huge undertaking that is born out of reflection and the desire to do what I know is best for my students. I know that having an authentic audience and getting consistent feedback inspires and motivates my learners. Our district Ed Tech Specialist just gave me a link to a site called Quadblogging that allows us to connect with other classrooms for a collaborative blogging experience. I’m still contemplating this leap..I think I’ll get to know my learners first, and we will decide together if Quadblogging is right for us. This is new thinking for me as well: in the past I would have made the decision, but now I want feedback from my students; we are a team in our learning. I will update our progress in future posts!
As these final days of summer draw to a close, I look around my “new”classroom, and I find myself truly excited for the learning that will happen here. I’m wondering how other educators are embracing the changes that inevitably come with a new school year. Please share in the comments section what changes you’re making to your classroom and teaching this year. As for me, I simply can’t wait to meet my new students and begin again.
Beth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006. She is blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner teaches all of their math and science. This enables them to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.