On the one hand, there've been several reminders lately of how much work I still need to do at classroom management. I'm back to the place I was at the end of last school year, bemoaning all the situations that happen where I don't do anything, or do the wrong thing too late, because I don't actually know what I should do in response to that student. It's frustrating because just a few weeks ago I had a series of days where I felt like I was totally "on my game" and able to think quickly enough to make intelligent choices in classroom management. I started to see it, really, I swear I did! Where'd it go?
On the other hand, I've been starting to really get a clear vision of what I want my classroom to be. I have all these ideas I've been working on, introducing pieces of into the classroom, and generally spending a lot of time behind-the-scenes working out the details of how and why for everything from assessment to pedagogy. It's like I've been walking around blind in a maze for the last 3 years, occasionally stumbling into the right thing, and then suddenly I left the maze and got a chance to view it from above.
On the gripping hand, however, I realize that those sorts of visions are only part one of trying to get better at this teaching thing. I'm good at big-picture vision, and dreaming up interesting ideas. I'm also good at reflection, seeing where I went wrong. The problem is, I'm not so good at translating those two things into actually doing all the nitty-gritty work right and making the right decision in the moment. 'Great idea, poor implementation.' That's me.
I used to call this "follow-through" but that's not quite it. I got follow-through: I come up with an idea, I do it, I keep fussing with it. What I don't have is "not-starting-over-again-when-the-going-gets-tough", aka persistence. As nice as all these visions for next year are, they don't help me do a good job for the next 4 months. Rather than give up on working through this tough, winter stretch and planning how I'll do it better next time around, I need to be focusing on how I can bring all these ideas and realizations into the classroom now.
To that end, I've been giving myself assignments. These are specific things that I can work on, have a finite end point, and I can use in the classroom right now. Currently, my assignments to myself include:
- Fixing presentations. Less text, more images. Less bullets, more story. Seems to be in vogue around the ednet right now.
- Organizing test questions. My big plan for next year is to introduce an assessment scheme modeled on Dan Meyer's, but adapted for my standards, content, and students. To that end, I need a reliable bank of test questions on every standard I teach, organized by substandard (WHII9a,9b,9c, etc) and tagged by difficulty (still working on that part). So, every time I write a quiz/test for the rest of the year, I'm going back and tagging questions, adding new ones, and generally trying to do this as-I-go rather than all-summer-long. It's actually making me do a lot more thinking about the questions I write, which is good, because I hate writing tests and slack off on them usually.
- Including processing/transformative assignments in class time. I wrote about this a little before, but it's become a big thing for me. Any time I plan a lesson and I think 'there's not enough time, have them do it as homework' it's a sign that it's time to reevaluate the lesson, make sure I'm keeping it simple, and make time.