Change of seasons; season of changes

I go back to work in two more days.  That is to say, I go back to working in the school building during prescribed hours.  I don’t think I’ve stopped working for more than a few waking hours at a stretch during the entire summer (not even on days I resolved to Take A Break).  I can’t seem to help it; my brain goes there.  Teaching is what I love to think about.

I’m excited to go back.  I’m itching to go back.  I considered calling the building to see if the groundskeeper would let me in a few days early, but that seemed excessive, so I’m still working from home: reading, planning, creating documents, designing posters…

I know not every teacher feels like this.  I know I may not always feel like this.  This will be my second year of classroom teaching, which makes it the first time I get to come back from summer vacation since I was a student myself.  The novelty might wear off.  The annual chance to start fresh might start to blend with all the other years.

But right now, I’m pumped.  Psyched.  Enthusiastic beyond all reason.  Here’s why.

The chance to improve my practice

I’ve learned some things and picked up some ideas over the summer that are going to change my practice significantly, and I’m excited to put my new tactics to work.

For example, I’ve decided to organize my units around what Doug Buehl calls “essential questions”.  Since my English grammar and literature have been merged into one course, I have the freedom to make my class about the Great Conversations.  My first year was about helping my students recover, or discover, basic reading and writing habits- call it Worksheet Rehab.  This year is going to be about helping them listen into and join the exchange of ideas across time and space that is reading and writing.

As a teacher in a Christian school, I’m also excited about the direct extension to Biblical integration and application.  Lots of teachers struggle with the requirement for explicit Biblical integration, especially when they’re looking at nitpicky grammatical bits like complex compound predicates or whatever.  Framing our class activity around an Essential Question is going to make the Biblical integration both natural and easy.  We’ll interrogate the Bible on the same topic we’re interrogating our other texts: “What does the writer say about this topic?  What did it mean to the original audience?  Why did the author choose to say it like that?”

The chance to collaborate with colleagues

I miss my colleagues.  I’ve been learning and planning all summer, and I’m full to the brim of things I want to share with them.

I’m excited to work with the other English teachers, from preschool on up.  I have stacks and stacks of new books I want to share with them, which is pretty much my favorite thing to do in the whole wide world.  I also have learned a lot about how to help our students grow.  And I know that they are eager to figure out how to do what’s best for our students’ growth.

I’m excited to work across departments, too.  Between Dave Stuart‘s awesome session at ILA and Buehl’s book on disciplinary (cross-curricular) literacy, I’m armed with some simple tools I’m convinced will help our whole school develop the English abilities of our students.  I want to see the awesome things that will happen as the science and math and history departments embrace the challenge.

Books are coming

That phrase should probably be in a meme with a guy from Game of Thrones.

Our new curriculum, based on trade books, is coming in (any day now we all hope).  I can’t wait.  It’s going to be like Christmas morning.  Boxes and boxes and boxes of beautiful new books just waiting to be unwrapped, loved, shared, recommended, and passed on?

Is it Thursday yet???

Things just keep getting better and better

In short, I’m fired up because my school has embraced the chance to make positive changes.  We’re doing what decades of research say is best for our kids.  And when that’s true, I can put up with the bugs and the cats and the heat and the lizards and all the other discomforts that come from teaching in a developing nation.  Our kids are going to be presented with excellent learning opportunities this year.  And I can’t wait to see it happen.