After twelve years teaching, you would think that I would have known completely redesigning my class would be a bit of work. I am used to changing one or two things each year, a little tweaking to what I had always been doing, but since having kids, I have been on a push to be the teacher I want my kids to have and I thought doing a little bit here and there wasn’t enough.
But trying everything all at once isn’t working either. I had a big plan to organize my class around big questions and use various projects (sorry, I think the word product makes my kids sound like math problems) as a way for kids to express the answers they have found through our explorations. Sounds good, right?
First week and I’m already off course. The first question is “How do you know who to trust” and I find that I am still looking for a project before really thinking about what I want kids to demonstrate with it. I picked a novel based on a desire to start reading right away and what I had in stock, rather than really thinking through what I wanted students to learn from that book. While I did a lesson on theme today and had them write on the big question, I don’t think I ever explained to them that it was the BIG QUESTION and not just a journal entry.
So I had to backtrack, and in backtracking, I realized that experienced teachers, if they have been paying attention, never veer too far from the course anyway. See, the novels I picked all had to do with the big question…I had been thinking about it. What do I want them to learn? Theme! I want students to pay attention to the details an author uses to get his or her point across. The three novels I chose each expressed the theme of trust differently. As for the project, a little tweaking and it fit the bill. Exactly. It even allowed for a little differentiation.
Sure, I may not have taken the time to sit down and write out all my whys, but I knew my job and I knew what I wanted to do. Those twelve years of teaching, mostly middle school by the way, served me well. They wired my brain to think about teaching even when I’m not thinking about teaching. Maybe it isn’t a big change I need so much, but just a little tweaking myself.