We’re back in full swing and it feels great to hear the buzz of students and see the excitement on their faces. Each school year brings an opportunity for students and staff alike to hit the restart button and get a fresh chance at building healthy habits, forging lasting relationships, and being a better student, teacher, learner. Over the last few days, I’ve had conversations with students and teachers about their goals and what makes this year one of redefinition.
Consider the student whose middle school experience was characterized by average achievement, boredom, struggle to get along with peers, and the angst and anxiety of dealing with her parents’ separation. Enter ninth grade: “I don’t know that many kids here, but it’s okay; I didn’t have many friends in my old school anyway. Everyone in high school has been so nice and there are actually kids who will look at me and help me find a classroom. The teachers have been nice too. No one has even yelled at kids…not yet. I don’t think I have a teacher who would yell, well I don’t know yet. And I can take art…and dance in the same year. I LOVE to dance and everyone in dance seems so friendly and they all love dance too.” How can you help this student make the most of her reinvention? What supports will she need?
Consider the student who is in her third year, but has credits enough to be only a sophomore. She’s been in three schools and assigned to home teaching in only two years. While there’s no doubt some of those school placements have come as the result of poor decisions on her part, others are the result of the family moving to a new area. In just two years, the family has had to move three times – pack up all your belongings, move into a new room, new neighborhood; make new friends; get along with new teachers. “Friends” in most of those neighborhoods only wanted to be friends (or enemies) because she isn’t afraid to stand up for, even fight for, herself or her friends. Her family and those who are real friends know her to be creative, take initiative, and demonstrate a keen business sense. After all, she makes and sells her own jewelry and promotes local music and rap shows which draw hundreds of people – all using social media (for all the right reasons). How can we guide this student to the academic success she’s certainly capable of? How can we help her harness that initiative and intelligence to remake a junior year colleges will fight for?
Consider the veteran teacher who has always been successful, meticulously planned, and has great relationships with colleagues, students, and families. She’s feeling as though it’s getting harder and harder to relate to students raised on instant gratification, on sound-bites of information on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat – where people are, let’s face it, often ill-informed – and mean. She’s reinventing her approach too – “I’m making small groups work for me. Not only does it make sense as students come to me with varying skills and degrees of understanding, but it helps me get to know kids in smaller settings. That wouldn’t have happened in the past when I taught to the whole class the entire period.” How can we, as peers, support and encourage her to be persistent, keep learning and trying new things? How can you change some of your own practices to make a new difference?
Consider the first year teacher, fresh out of college, ready to change the world? She’s not only figuring out best practices for planning and managing a classroom, but let’s toss in BCPS One LMS, SIS, Instructional Tools, Digital Tools, Microsoft 365… “All that is a piece of cake – the technology makes sense to keep everything organized and efficient. It’s learning the curriculum and trying to gauge what will interest my students that I think about most – and I think grading will take up time later too. I’m just trying to plan the best lesson every day – and not have too much or too little planned. I figure it out more every day.” How can we help this teacher maintain her eagerness to change the world while supporting her in forming quality planning habits and instructional practices?
It’s an exciting time, for sure! While there isn’t necessarily one of us who has all the answers to the questions posed above, together we can find solutions. Here’s to fresh start and an excellent school year!