I wonder if I am the only one who does this. Every year, I am full of great ideas about all of the things I am going to improve and change in my classes. I read books on pedagogy over the summer and make notes of the ideas I like. For the last three summers, I have read the book by Robyn Jackson, "Never Work Harder Than Your Students." It is the best instructional book I have ever read for educators. Maybe it just embodies the principles I aspire to, but I have taken more information from that book and, as of late, Jackson's other book, "Increasing Rigor," than any other pedagogical source. So, in September, full of great advice and ideas, I begin to shape my classes. And then life takes over. And some of my ideas are lost in the shuffle of lesson plans and grading and meetings and classes. But each year I get a little better. And each year my class does shift a little more. The biggest change is my move towards a student-centered environment. My wish is to be a facilitator, not a lecturer. I like project and inquiry based learning. I like students taking initiative to have control over their learning. I like differentiating instruction. So I'm implementing them in my classroom. And every year it gets better. And every year I get a little closer to being the master teacher I wish to be.
Right now, we are trying to roll out project based learning in our school. How are we doing it? I spent the summer studying schools which have successfully implemented the projects. Though none of them were exactly like ours in demographics, I know our students will benefit and grow from this implementation. Eventually we would like to copy the Bergen County Technical School model. They have project Wednesdays. On Wednesday, the school runs a half day. The other two hours are "project time." Students have certain projects they must complete according to their career major, and some they can elect to participate in. Though we like this model very much, we wanted to get our feet wet before committing to this plan. We have PLT groups which meet once a month. The PLTs are made up of teachers from each discipline along with career majors, guidance counsellors, CST, and aides. Each PLT group is responsible for creating two projects this year, one the first half of the year, the other in the second. We plan to roll out the first projects in the second half of the year. Right now we need to convince all of the teachers that these projects are worthy of the class time it takes to implement them. One teacher asked me recently, "but how will we get through the standards if we waste time on projects?" I was trying to convince her that it isn't a project in addition to the standards, but a project through which to teach many standards. In other words, we begin with standards and create a project which is both rigorous and relevant. It is also cross-curricular and can address the standards of many disciplines at once. A link to our wiki for PBL can be found here: PLB
Literacy and Technology Specialist, English Teacher, Learner, Integrationist.