Summer (Can’t) Breeze (By)

My apologies to Seals and Crofts for that title, but there’s a larger point here.

As a teacher, I’ve always had trouble with the summer.  I have generally figured that those 9 or 10 weeks were more or less mine — to read, sleep in, catch up on movies and TV shows, spend time with family, and generally recharge my batteries.  And the thought of doing anything related to my classroom before I absolutely had to — not counting the summer school class I taught, of course — was absolutely anathema to me.

When I would try to force myself to work on stuff for the upcoming school year, it was like wading through an ocean of peanut butter.  The thoughts weren’t well formulated, the process was agonizingly slow, and my mind was just not focused on the task at hand.  After all, why sweat over something that is almost two months away when the Giants are beating the Dodgers on TV, my son wants to build a Lego project, and the latest Ace Collins book just arrived from Amazon?

This summer is going to be different.  I’ll still get plenty of sleep (including naps), and I will not short-change my family time.  But my Google Keep list is already full of things I plan on doing to make next year better than this one has been.

Some of the professional objectives I have are:

  • Plan out all my units for both Civics and US History
  • Make a playlist of all the walk-in and walk-out music I will be using for both classes, and to save it on YouTube
  • Participating in all the Twitter chats I couldn’t consistently do during the school year
  • Make a list of pledges to my students to be given out on Day 1 of the new semester (watch this space for more of those)
  • Do some experiments with EdPuzzle and FliGrid
  • Incorporate hyperdocs into every unit (and use ones I made up this year with my colleague)
  • Watch “The Vietnam War” series and try to implement it into the corresponding unit of study

My dear PLN, hold me to this: This summer will be the offseason for Mike the Teacher-Athlete. The day after graduation, at sunrise, I will be up, sucking down some much-needed coffee, and attacking this list with gusto.

Okay, maybe I’ll wait until the Monday after graduation.  But no later!!

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My One Word

When I first heard about the “One Word” theme on Twitter, I have to admit that I dismissed it as kind of a pointless exercise.  After all, who could possibly encapsulate their entire year into one word, no matter how ambitions or appropriate it was?

But then I figured, why not?  After all, most of my PLN doesn’t have time for long explanations of what I want to do as a teacher.  (I know, you’re reading one right now, but this is considerably more than 280 characters long, and besides, if you’re reading this, you are part of my PLN and care about my progress as an educator to some degree.)

So, I settled on a hyphenated word.  I want to be…a door-opener.

What I want is to create opportunities for kids to succeed.  Not always in terms of superior classroom performance — but maybe.  Not always in terms of winning a business competition — but maybe.  Not always in terms of writing an essay that wins them a trip to New York City — but maybe.

I want kids to see me showing them there are opportunities to grow intellectually.  

I want them to see that improvement in the course of a year is vastly more important than a 4.0 GPA, no matter what a single test or a college may say.

I want them to see that success is, as John Wooden put it, “peace of mind which is a direct result of…knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

I want them to know that a single missing assignment doesn’t mean the end of their grade, nor does it mean they can’t learn anything from the material they missed the first time.

I want them to be able to come through my open door to ask for help, and to know they will get it when they need it — even if it’s at the last minute.

I don’t want them to have another experience with a teacher who gives no quarter, who slams doors on growth, who demands constant perfection, who doesn’t forgive, who is overly stringent with kids with the justification of “This is how it’s going to be in college.”

Some teachers have said, in my hearing, that they shut off chances for students to learn because “They have to learn responsibility.”  Bull.  Most of my students know they have to be on time for a theater rehearsal, or that they have to make sure their little sister is fed while Mom and Dad are at work, or that they have to get to work on time to keep their after school jobs.  Or that they have to lift their weights, or run their sprints, or practice their scales, in order to succeed.

To be the kind of teacher that I’ve just described is to be a door-slammer.  Well, I’ve had the door slammed in my face as a student.  I’m sure you have too, at some point.  It didn’t feel right, because it wasn’t right.

I resolve, this year, to open — and prop open — doors for my students until there is literally no time left for the door to be open.

Gonna go make some doorstops in the workshop now…wanna come with?

Hello, one and all!

I’m venturing into the world of blogging!  Those of you who know me well know that I am already on Twitter quite a bit and that I post to a football blog a few times a month, but I decided to develop my own blog based on my profession.

I’ve been a teacher since 2002, when I stepped into a classroom for the first time as an  instructor at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA.  I hadn’t taken any teaching prep courses before that summer, but I knew from the very first time I delivered a lecture that I was home. I’ve been at Skyline part-time/adjunct since that summer.  I have also been full-time at Los Altos High School (my alma mater) since the fall of 2004, and my career has been spent balancing those two venues since then.

What will follow in the next 12 months will be an experiment:  how to express the victories, struggles, and other events that go with a public education career.  I will be discussing my own experiences and will do my best to keep people anonymous when I do mention them at all.

I also intend to ask for feedback from you, dear readers, rather than simply rant about what happens to me in the classroom.  I do not want my blog to be simply self-aggrandizement, or one more person who blogs just to show off to his peers.  And I absolutely want to make this a conversation as much as I can, not just a monologue (monoblogue?).

So, off we go.  Climb aboard, there’s room for everyone!