On Friday, which was yesterday, I officially embarked on my 18th year as an educator. It was a good day. Aside from the usual knuckle-headed behavior from a few 9th grade boys, the students seem interested in and willing to learn, albeit anxious, which may explain to some extent the knuckle-headed behavior from a few 9th grade boys.
Speaking of anxiety, it never ceases to amaze me that, despite all my years being associated with school - as a teacher and as a former student – the first-day jitters always seem to plague me, and in some years, days and even weeks prior to the first day. The one difference this year and last was that the usual first-day jitters was compounded by my dad’s health issues, thus ramping up the anxiety factor.
Now that the first day is behind me, I feel that I can begin the work with my students in earnest. One of my primary goals for the school year is developing my knowledge of and expertise in proficiency based grading. I made an attempt about three years ago, but, was only moderately successful. I had not set up my grade book correctly, and, needed to have had more hands-on information about how and what to assess. Now that I have obtained those pieces of information that were missing for me, I have dedicated myself to undertaking once again proficiency-based grading.
My second primary goal is teaching for communication. The focus of my classes is getting students to speak more regularly and more often. As much as I enjoy grammar, I realize that no amount of grammatical training is going to teach students how to speak, and to develop their skill and comfort level in doing the same. The presenter of a workshop I attended several years ago said, ” Grammar and verbs are the glue which hold the language together.” Those words have remained with me since that time. But, like most things, I went with that which was, at least for me, easier and less messy to assess. But, I realize that if I am going to help students to become more proficient in their functional language skills, I need to create learning opportunities which may be messier for me, but which will get them doing more of the work, and get them doing more of the work which helps them to show what they know and are able to do.
My third primary goal, which is related to the second, is using more alternative assessment, in the form of project-based learning, and rubrics, to assess reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I admit: I have a love-hate relationship with projects. I have long-viewed them as examples of less-rigorous learning, compared to an oral presentation, or, memorizing and reciting a poem. However, projects, when well-designed, clearly presented and carefully assessed, can help students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do with the language. So, I am going to strive to add a project-based assessment as the culminating assessment for most of the units I teach.
To gain a better understanding of my students, I created, using Google Docs, two online surveys: One for parents/guardians, and one for the students themselves. I am looking forward to reading the responses. Love action research, and collecting data.
I am excited about the new year. It’s holding lots of possibilities. Besides, I have my Twosies back, and, that’s a very nice thing.