Monday, July 18, 2005

Supply List

I thought it might be helpful to list the supplies required for my classes online. Eighth or ninth grade, it matters not, the supplies are the same. If I may suggest, has some pretty spiffy prices on the items below. I would imagine their in-store prices would be similarly spiffy.

The List
  • 1 Mead Composition Notebook (the black and white kind with the cardboard cover, though other colors are acceptable)
  • Enthusiasm
  • 1 1-inch Binder
  • Dedication
  • At least 12 #2 Pencils
  • Sense of Humor
  • 1 package of college-ruled loose leaf paper (at least 150 sheets)
  • Willingness to try
  • 1 5-pack of binder dividers to keep things organized

Gaining Focus

Another week of NeXt Generation Teacher training started today. Last week's training was facilitated by the folks at the Institute for Research and Reform in Education. They certainly did a great job at giving all of us new insights and techniques to incorporate into our classrooms.

I can't wait to get into the classroom again and meet all of my new students. One of the great parts about being back from summer vacation a few weeks early is the opportunity to meet and and work with the my new colleagues. Being part of a small community of dedicated educators is something that simply motivates me to be a better teacher. When everyone around me is so excited to be doing what they're doing, it motivates me to do even more to make certain each day is my best. It is daunting, and at the same time, exhilarating.

My focus for the upcoming year will be on writing, on helping my students become the expressive, genuine, talented writers I know they are inside.

I was out mowing the lawn this afternoon and took the time to think and focus on any and all of the possibilities that lie in the year ahead. The potential for life and world-changing work from my students is unlimited. Coupled with my interest in improving their writing is my interest in helping them to see their roles and power as thoughtful, productive participants in our society.

At university, my professors referred to it as "Realizing the Democratic Ideal." I was swamped with finals and my senior thesis at the time, so I don't think I really took a close look at the phrase nor the time to think about all it implies. As a teacher, now, with my own classroom and responsibilities to my students, that phrase has returned to the front of my thinking. It's what I think this year needs to be about.

Monday, July 11, 2005

An Early Start

Three weeks of early-morning training sessions began today. I was at Phoenix at 7:45 this morning to begin my training as a NeXt Generation Teacher.

As nerdy as it may seem, I'm excited to be part of the NeXt Generation program. To be a part of the first wave of the program is even more exciting.

I'll admit, I was a bit out of my element at first. Today's session focused on following up on training everyone but I had attended during the second semester of last year. So, each time they were referring to what they had discussed during their last meeting, I was listening to everything I could in order to catch up. I was the kid in class who desperately wanted to contribute, but who had to learn the language first.

About a third of the way through the day, I was up to speed on the whole process and able to be a part of the discussions. What it boils down to is a way to look at teaching in hopes that a class includes a focus in three distinct and important areas: engagement, alignment and rigor.

Is an observed class engaging a large percent of its students at a given moment, and are those students focused on what they should be learning or just on appearing to be listening?

Has the teacher made certain that the materials and tests are actually based on what the state and county say students should be learning? OR Are lessons aligned with state standards?

And lastly-

Is the material being covered at a level that is appropriately challenging to the students.

No matter how much you know about education, it should be fairly clear that these are all areas that are difficult to really say with any certainty whether they are being observed in a classroom. Of, if they are, to what extent.

What I took away from today's session, though, is the idea that evaluating these factors will hopefully lead to those teachers doing the evaluating make sure they focus on EAR when they design their lessons.

Again, so much of this stuff feels like "duh" stuff, as in, "Duh, shouldn't we already know this?"

I did not raise my hand and say that. It would have been disrespectful and rude.

Changing the Subject

I got my classroom assignment today. I'll be teaching 8th Grade Language Arts. Well, to start the year, I'll have 3 sections of 8th grade and 3 sections of 9th grade. My focus is to be on improving our writing scores. I can't wait! What an amazing year we're going to have.

I was talking with Dr. Shelley today and she showed me an article that ran in the New York Times about the school Phoenix is modeled after. Click here to read it. It's an amazing story we should definitely find inspiration in.

It's so funny to talk to people about Phoenix and tell them I'm working there and see the looks on their faces or hear their remarks of pity. They act as though I've been sent to detention. They just don't know, yet, that I'm working at what will be the most successful school in the county when the school year is done. Both Mr. Cantees and Dr. Shelley have made the comment that, "If we can just get the students in the building, they will be sold on coming to Phoenix." It's true.

Though this year will have it's challenges - I would be foolish and ignorant not to acknowledge that fact - it's successes will far outweigh any failures.

I can't wait.

Friday, July 08, 2005

First Posting

So Excited!
That's how I'm feeling about the upcoming school year. I can't wait to get things started at Phoenix. From out meetings working on the School Improvement Plan two weeks ago, I have no doubt we're gearing up for a tremendous year of success.

One of the best things that came out of the SIP meeting was also one of the first things we wrote, the school's mission statement. I'm a firm believer in the idea that you can't get where you're going without a map and a compass to guide you. This mission statement will act as our map and compass.
"What is the mission statement?" you ask? Well, let me tell you.

"Recognizing the individuality of each student, Phoenix Academy will meet the needs of every student, everyday."

That's what we're about. That's what we're going to do. It's going to be a tremendous year. I can't wait meet all of the new students!