Summer Update 2016

Every year of teaching is a new opportunity to test things out and to continue moving forward.   Summer is the critical time to reflect on the previous year and to plan ahead at my own leisurely pace.  After making a great deal of changes last year, it’s clear that many things worked well and many things failed for one reason or another.  Below are some of the main components of my teaching and how they’ll be changing or not for the coming year.

1.  This blog.  I was inspired to create this blog as I was going through the Leading Edge certification process.  One of the main focuses of the program included finding ways to expand teaching beyond the walls of my own classroom.  This blog serves as both an opportunity to self-reflect on my practices and to share my experiences with a broad audience.  My intention going forward is to keep updating this blog with activities, lessons, and musings from my time in the classroom.

2.  Blended/Student-Centered Learning.  Last year I completely jumped into this new classroom structure and had to work through the learning curve of figuring out what worked for me and what did not.  Even with the hiccups, I don’t think I could ever go back to the teacher-centered teaching model in my classroom.  I will continue to tweak my structure but overall the pros and positive feedback from the students far outweigh the cons.  This summer I have revisited several of the assignments from last year and retooled them to be more effective in a blended classroom environment.

3.   STEM Elective.  Now that I am returning to teaching full time, I will now be teaching a STEM elective to our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.  I will certainly have more posts about how this class works out throughout the year.  This will be a student-directed course where students can take the time they need to demonstrate mastery in a variety of STEM skills.  The final project will be for students to find a problem and solve it, demonstrating their problem and solution using the skills they have learned.

4.  Elementary STEM.  This will be my second year being a STEM teacher to the K-5 students at my school.   Last year was the introduction to the program and was a lot of figuring out what I had to offer to the teachers.  As a result, most of my lessons were used in all K-5 classes, which means that I won’t be able to repeat the same activities again next year.  This year I would like to do a little more separation and prepare activities targeted at grade level groups (K and 1, 2 and 3, 4 and 5) so that I hopefully can meet the needs and standards of those students better and can end up repeating activities on a shorter cycle.  One change this year is that I will also be overseeing the lunchtime makerspace program and will be able to connect the activities offered at lunch to the activities I am doing with the classes.

5.  My classroom.  The STEM Lab at SRTMS used to be the campus library.  It was converted into a STEM Lab three years ago when the fiction section was removed and the floor was tiled.  This summer the transformation was made complete and all the remaining non-fiction bookshelves were removed.  This gives me significantly more space in the room where I will be able to set up workstations and other useful spaces.  I haven’t seen the room all summer so I’m sure it will be a surprise when I finally visit it next week.

Overall, not too many drastic changes for the coming year.  To quote Monty Python when faced by a dilemma “Adopt, adapt, and improve”.  This past year was the adopt year so now I look forward to moving forward into the adapt and improve phases of my teaching.