7 Questions to ask yourself as you prepare for a new school year.
July is winding down and many teachers I know are beginning to think about the upcoming school year.
Some are wondering what type of class they will have while others are still wondering what they will be teaching. There is the excitement of the possibility mixed with a hint of reservation about the unknown.
The possibilities for the new year are exciting much like the possibilities of a much anticipated holiday or trip. What will one see? What adventures are in store? Who will one meet along the way? How will it all turn out?
However, it’s not too soon that the practicalities of what needs to happen often begin to crowd out the excitement of the possibilities.
Units. Assessment. Paperwork. Planning. Paperwork. Units. Paperwork.
The possible, much like the holiday, is soon just a memory that is recalled briefly in the telling to a friend.
From the Back of the Classroom
I still remember the excitement and anticipation I felt for the upcoming school year. A Do Over where I could use what I had learned and an opportunity to do it differently.
I would often stand at the back of the classroom, envisioning what the year would be like.
As you stand at the back of the classroom, what are the possibilities that you envision that excite you and give you energy? What vision do you have for the school year? How can you make that vision a reality?
You will start with relationships. I know you will because you understand that relationships are more important than grades, marks, content, data, or paperwork. I know you will begin your vision with the relationships you want to develop with students, parents, families, colleagues and other teachers in your network. They are the lifeline of teaching.
7 Questions to Ponder to fuel the Possible
1. How will you celebrate? Whether it’s student development, big occasions, small successes or just the fact that today was a great day, how will you celebrate? How will you celebrate each child and their progress in an authentic manner? Relationships are foundational to learning and celebrating with others helps to foster these relationships. Success is a given in a classroom that celebrates the individual development of all students.
2. How will connections be fostered? Connections are vital to us as people — to family, friends, peers, and others around the world. Networks are increasingly more important to be able to make informed decisions and adapt to change. Building connections is important and each type of connection — digital, face-to-face — requires a slightly different skill set. This includes connections in the classroom, the school, the community, the world around and to our own inner-person. How will these be nurtured and developed through the year?
Literacy of this sort requires a different vision for students and learning. It sees students as active participants in a networked and connected world who are as much producers and creators as consumers. How will this guide the learning in the classroom? The types of materials and resources that are used? The message of connections that are shared?
4. How will students become independent learners? It’s important to help students develop as learners, to develop skills for asking questions, seeking information, deciding if information is or is not valid and to expand their skills of collaboration and presentation. Content is still important. The delivery of the content needs to meet the needs of students as does the options for students demonstrating what they are learning and their knowledge and understanding. What strategies will be used in the classroom? How will students develop skills to be independent learners and creators? What options will students have?
5. How will the technology be integrated into the learning? Technology changes. It’s not about particular technology but how it is used to support learning and development. Technologies will change, new software will be developed, and new tools will become “hot” but to avoid the constant app hopping and bandwagons it’s important to have a foundational understanding of the role technology has in learning; to begin with pedagogy. How will you develop your skills? Each day is a PD day for teachers who are learners. You can choose how you will approach this but it must be addressed. How will pedagogy inform your technology integration?
6. How will the classroom and learning environment reflect the people who are there every day? How do you envision this space? What about the students? Do you ask? The design of the classroom should include input from students, understanding of the affect design has on learning, and the purpose of what is in the classroom. Is what is in the classroom essential for learning? Does the classroom support the learning needs of all the students present? Desks in a row might still be the default in some classrooms but increasingly the need to develop responsive classroom designs is seeing the adoption of a variety of learning spaces within the classroom and looking beyond the classroom to include the entire school and the school grounds. How will you approach this? What will inform your design decisions?
7. What are the Big Ideas that will guide the year? As an administrator, it was important to have Big Ideas for the upcoming year — those ideas that could guide all of us and remind us of why we were there. As a teacher, it was the same thing. Often, these are based on the curricula, guiding the learning and reminding us of the need to see beyond the content. As part of UbD planning, the Big Ideas guide inquiry and provide reminders of the world beyond the school. They also remind us of the importance of having a sound grounding and understanding of curricula so that we aren’t afraid to pursue the possible paths because we are confident of being able to reach the end goal. As I have written about, Listicles and books provide ideas but they don’t make those ideas an integral part of learning, you do. You help weave together the various parts, guiding and teaching as necessary. How will you approach these Big Ideas? How will students be included?
I wonder ….
As you stand at the back of the classroom
- What do you envision for each student in your classroom? Can you picture it in your own mind?
- What supports and learning will you need? Do you have a plan for your own learning?
- What excites you about the upcoming year? How can you remind yourself of this when you most need it during the year?
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this. You can connect with me at @kwhobbes on Twitter.