I am sure that you are as excited about the arrival of Spring as I am. Just watching the tiny plants peek out sprouts of green makes me feel a sense of new beginnings. Even though we are winding down the school year. It’s the perfect time to do some spring cleaning and self-evaluation.
What are you teaching?
You developed the perfect unit or lesson plan. In fact, you enjoy teaching the material so much that you have not changed it in a decade. Every year you display the same bulletin boards, copy the same worksheets, give the same assignments for homework and the same project to culminate the unit. The only variable is the students, who may submit the same project their brother or sister did a few years earlier. You justify that it’s working… for whom?
A good place to begin is by looking at the Common Core and the NCSS Standards. Is this content taught at your grade level? Do your lesson plans consist of the key ideas and details, the level of text complexity, and integrate and evaluate the content in diverse media formats required by the standards? Are there some students who would benefit from something different?
Sometimes you just need to let it go! I had taught for three years, accumulated a treasure of learning materials from games to posters. Each year I would create something new with the idea that it would be stored since you never know when it may be useful. One day, as I started to turn my car into the driveway of our home, I recognized colorful items heaped atop a truck bed passing me on the street. My first reaction was to jump from the car and apprehend the truck, thus retrieving my precious cargo. Instead, I looked to my husband for reassurance that those were not my classroom materials. His words, “You will never miss them.” Funny thing to this day I still cannot tell you what was on the truck. He really did me a favor. Each year was new for my students and me. I never heard a student say, “Oh, my sister did this”. Instructional content had fresh materials and was tailored to the strengths and weakness of the current class of students.
How did I do it? I started collaborating with teachers in my building, the district, and surrounding districts. We shared ideas and materials without judgment. If it didn’t meet my expectations, I just smiled and said thank you. It was the connection that was valuable. Now the community has expanded through the availability of search engines, blogs, chats, and so much more. Also, delegate the work load by dividing up the parts of the lesson. I’ll look for media resources, and someone else looks for related reading passages or creates written responses. I will prepare the lessons for Social Studies and another teacher prepares the Science lessons. Share your resources in Google Docs. Use Skype, Face Time, or Hangouts when it is difficult to meet in person. Just find a way to make it work for you.
The time to freshen out lesson plans with new techniques, find something new to replace an outdated unit not meeting the standards, and stretch ourselves through professional development and collaboration with our colleagues is here. “Start wherever you are and start small”-Rita Baily