My reflective mode is in full force: the seniors finished May 18th, the underclassmen on May 31. School starts again for teachers on August 15th and for students on August 22nd, and it's time to use what happened last year to energize and focus this year.
Being a PLC leader for the first time last year helped me understand more thoroughly what each teacher in the Language Arts PLC needs to nourish the rich garden soil of education that encourages strong roots and healthy growth in each one of our students. We worked hard to piece together a suggested plan to help those who need more get more--and I'd argue every single student always needs more: more time, more challenge, more encouragement, more interaction--and knowing that our PLC will not stop advocating for our students until there is the perfect place for each and every pupil who walks the halls of Storm Lake High School makes me proud to work with our teachers and makes me hopeful for the future of our students. Each student matters. All students should be able to get the courses they need to help them reach the goals they've set for themselves during and after high school.
Knowing I need to be more technologically savvy, I asked to participate in a series of professional development sessions emphasizing technology integration into the classroom. So far my plan is to share information about what is available, and then let the students figure out how to use these tools to accomplish tasks. One small way students problem solved last year included using Google docs instead of a flashdrive. Diigo.com is another tool that some students have used to help them keep track of resources--one student even kept her phone contacts on the site as her back-up plan. Evernote.com also allows students to organize their lives or notes or to do lists or whatever they'd like to keep track of online while syncing with their smart phones. Livebinder.com is a way to organize information somewhat like symbaloo, yet different. I'm sure more great resources will emerge. I also have a Smart board, which is new to me, so I can't wait to experiment with that resource as well.
One of my favorite changes for the 2011-2012 year is the proposed Tornado Time the high school will be implementing one day a week during SSR time (and eventually we hope to make it more than once a week). It seems in some ways to be an extension of the AVID program the school has adopted. The goal is that each and every student is consciously connected to a resource, mentor, and advocate, a.k.a. the adviser. I am lucky because my advisees are freshmen, and this start will be new in all ways for those in Room 67.
Because of a group of creative, interested students, Wednesdays after school last year opened the opportunity for a Writing Club. Usually twelve to fifteen students attended, and the chemistry, ideas, and connections were something others have to attend in order to understand. The protocol is simple: Any student can come to room 67 from 3:45-5:00 prepared to write, to listen to what others have to share, and to respect all in the room. We usually do an individual freewrite/story starter, a group share, a partner or small group writing, a group share, and voila, time is up. We have loads of fun--even if the subject is heavy. Every week new surprises arose, and for those who liked this outlet, it seemed worth their while. I hope it maintains its success.
Most importantly, new class lists are ready to be printed and I can't wait to see who will be filling the seats in my classroom. It's always exciting getting to know students I haven't known before. I hope that all, including me, will gain much from the classes. Cheers to a new year! I can hardly wait.