The Doozy Year

Year four.
Holy moly.
I’ve made a chart to organize and demonstrate the evolution of my
beginning-of-year perspectives:
Year number
What I thought it would be like:
What it was really like:
Freedom Writers, inspirational Teach for America promotional videos,
puppies, rainbows, etc.
One giant, beastly (but beautiful) learning curve. Learned to respect
myself enough to require it from students. Learned 1,000 teaching methods
that don’t work (and about 10 that do). How to get what I want from students
and parents.  How to adjust when I don’t
get I want nearly all the time from administration.
That being on the leadership team as department chair would give me a
voice to change the school, thus leading to puppies and rainbows
Discover that “leadership” means “dumping grounds” to my
administration. Work and teach in a culture driven by fear. Find out what it
means to be feel powerless and valueless.
~~~Transition to new school/district~~~~
Terrible. The end of my teaching career. Death. (Still thawing out
from previous school.)
Puppies, rainbows, etc.
Mostly puppies and rainbows, but probably a few cockroaches and flash floods

Two things are going to make this year a little bit of a
doozy. For one, I am completely altering my teaching style.  For the past three years, I’ve been teaching
by the traditional daily lesson plan model because it was best for me. For the record, I’m not knocking that at all; I think new teachers should absolutely try to go by what’s best for them or they’ll die/burn out.  But now that I’m feeling more confident in my classroom management and ability to plan, my focus has shifted to thinking about what’s best for my students.  And right now I think what’s best for them is giving them the element of choice, helping them develop a sense self-reliance and responsibility, and facilitating their
learning instead of dictating it.

Under the workshop model, I’ll direct teach on Monday and Tuesday of the week, then Wednesday through Friday students will be working on completing 3-4 assignments related to that week’s teaching independently or in groups with me going around the room to check progress.  The student chooses their own seat (unless I see it’s not working for them), as well as the order and pace to complete the assignments. Phones are OK (for reference purposes). Listening to music is OK.

Sound crazy? Yeah. Don’t worry. It does to me, too. The micromanager inside me is throwing a tantrum on the floor of myself.  But I just can’t have another year of students not knowing what to do about ant-covered Cheetos or I will end up setting my own hair on fire.

The other doozy-ish item on my agenda is that this year I’ll be starting a graduate program in Creative Writing. I know, teaching, M.F.A. in Creative Writing– I’m just all about those dollar bills, y’all! I’m completely psyched to be a student again and to be in a community of writers, but I know it’s going to come with an at-times frustrating and tearful period of transition.

So why take on two huge changes in one year? Why not do either grad school OR reinventing my classroom model?  I can’t really tell you (glutton for
punishment?).  All I know is that if I hold off on either of those, either my students miss out on life or I do.

And that’s a decision I just don’t care to make.  

Let’s all grab 2013-14 by the horns.  


Dodge Teach