Happy New Year

We’ve now been back in school for two weeks, and my tenth year as an English teacher is under way.  I can honestly say that I have never been more excited about the start of the year.

Over the summer, I gave some thought to what’s got me so pumped this time around.  I’m co-teaching with a social studies colleague who also just happens to be a neighbor and a good friend.  We’ve got a cool new learning space to share in which I’ve been able to begin trying out ideas gleaned from research into designing flexible spaces for learning.  Our district is moving forward with the early phases of a 1:1 initiative, so every one of my students will have access to a Chromebook and a connection to the world when they’re in my class.  All of this stuff is great, and I can’t wait to see how the year unfolds.

But the truth is, once I got to thinking about it, I discovered that those things aren’t the root of my excitement.

This is:  More than ever before, what I believe and what I do are aligning.  Never before have I felt there were fewer barriers to doing exactly what my kids need.

It is an incredible gift.  I feel supported, challenged, protected.  I am connected to colleagues and friends to whom I can turn for support and new ideas.  It is also an enormous responsibility.  There is very little room for excuses.  We’ve got the room we need to do our best work every day.  How far can we run this year?

That said, lest readers be tempted to think that I am riding the high of the first weeks in a bubble of utopian naivete, let me also lay out a couple of the brain- and heart-puzzles currently in progress:

Puzzle #1:  Co-teaching is tough, yo.  I consider my social studies partner-in-crime to be a close friend, but over the past month I have (somewhat jokingly) likened this period of our professional relationship to the first year of marriage.   No matter how long  or how close your relationship, when you share living space (and classroom space is very much living space), the dance steps change.  Re-learning how to operate within that relationship, sorting out how to communicate effectively, and navigating the logistics of our classroom mash-up have proven to be interesting challenges.  I’m so glad my friend is along for this ride with me.

Puzzle #2:  Our school’s recently-adopted grading manifesto and our ongoing learning about assessment prompt me to rethink nearly every move I make.  That level of reflection and questioning is a good thing!  I believe that our instructional practice is moving in a direction to better serve our students.  However, I get the jibblies any time I approach the gradebook.

I’m thankful for the puzzles.  They keep me on my toes and challenge me to give complacency a wide berth.  And even on a holiday weekend, they motivate me to look forward to Monday.

Happy New Year, everybody 🙂

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