Friday, August 7, 2009

99-cent highlighters and other "Back to School" thoughts. . .

So I finally stopped ignoring all of the ads for back-to-school supplies and took the plunge. What brought me out of my summer dream, into reality? 99-cent highlighters at Office Depot. Well, you just can't pass up a deal like that. It would be, I don't know, un-American somehow. But the land of highlighters is also a sea of notebooks, pencils, locker accoutrements, TI-83 calculators, and all that other stuff that just shouts "this is the end of summer! School is once again upon us!"

Wow--year 5. I truly can't fathom that this will be my 5th year teaching. Although I kind of miss the frenetic excitement of my first year, I'm feeling a deeper, more mature kind of anticipation for this school year.

One of the joys of being teachers is that each year we have the opportunity to keep improving--teaching truly is a craft that we hone and polish with each passing year. For the second time, I can teach curriculum I've taught before and improve it. Along with my colleagues, I spent my first three years building a curriculum that would be meaningful and effective. Through a good amount of trial and error, I've finally emerged with a curriculum skeleton I am really satisfied with. It's similar to the way you learn to play a piece of music. First, you have to sight-read it, and all you're trying to do is get the notes right. As you practice more, you can begin to capture the nuances of the dynamics, play with the tempo and the pedals, and bring real feeling to the piece. This year is all about nuances--what can I bring to the curriculum that will help students engage more in the material, understand it better, grow even more in their skills? What metaphors, visuals, activities, projects, technology, and other teaching tools can I use to make the material come alive?

These are the questions that spin in my head as I take one last road trip, enjoy my final weekday hikes in Rock Creek park, wake up at 9am, read the paper in Starbucks on a Wednesday afternoon. Lazy days will soon give way to schedules, grades, hormones, lunch duties, and best of all, a fresh new class of fascinating, compassionate, intelligent, vivacious 6th graders.

I'm ready. Almost.

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