Midterm exams. The school year is halfway over. So much I still want to do yet still, so much that I know will not get done.
So far we have read 6 novels — I am a bit behind my typical pace. Usually, I like to tackle 14 books a year but we’ve been doing more intense Project Based Learning, 21rst century, collaborative, high level projects than ever before in my class and the learning curve for both myself and my students has been steep.
However, being that it’s always good to reflect and see where you are as a teacher at times like these (because it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees in the day-to-day barrage that teaching can be), I’d have to say I am quite happy with the way the year has gone thus far. Plus, as far as tackling the standards, they are coming more quickly than ever as a result of all the PBL. Truly, my kids are just drinking the knowledge down. My best guess is that since they are being forced to apply their learning in a tangible manner, they are commensurately being forced to learn more — and learn about these things more deeply and quickly — than most of them have ever been challenged to do.
And what have I found? That my kids have stepped up. I mean I have scores of kids who had never done any sort of projects in the world of digital literacy who are now virtual maestros on computers. Really, kids are just sponges and if you give them an opportunity they will reveal talents which many other educators who do not challenge their kids in this way never get to see.
American education is changing. I see it. And that’s a good thing. And while people moan about how complicated changing our schools can be, how difficult the challenges are and blah, blah, blah, what it really boils down to is a simple willingness to adapt. For educators who are open to learning, open to growing, open to realizing that they don’t always have to be the “holder of all wisdom” in the classroom, the world of schooling is a spectacular oyster: fun, surprising, innovative, challenging and supremely beneficial to the kids.
It’s a new world out there and any teacher who is still doing things they way that they did them even as recently as 5 years ago needs to, in my opinion, think about freshening up their approach and reflecting on the types of skills which have become more valuable for the next generation of learner. Spelling used to be so important. Nowadays, I think spelling is unquestionably trumped by the need for kids to be able to discern fact from opinion. (We have Spell Check — how long before google or Microsoft comes up with Fact Check and, with a click of a mouse, will highlight all the bullshit on the internet posing as credible information? Now that’s an invention society can really use!!)
Of course I’ve stumbled thus far this year as well. It’s inevitable. But I’ve also expanded my practice and tried new things which are steeped in educational value for 21rst century students. For this, I feel good.
However, being that I am pausing to reflect I realize, I do need to step it up. More reading. More reading. More reading. Considering that I have a chest full of tools at my disposal to elevate their reading comprehension as well as their academic performance — not to mention their writing skills — I need to step on the gas to make sure I get through a bunch more of it. The first half of the year has vanished in a blink of an eye and the second half will, I am sure, do the same.
Watch out kids! If you thought we were moving at a demanding pace first semester, it’s time for Mr. Alan to step on the gas!