The Next 5 Years
In planning this final writing, I am reminded of certain anecdotes, quotes that I have heard from many resources.
1. Michael Jordan used to choose one part of his game to work on during the offseason. (Told to me by a colleague many years ago.)
2. My grandfather (a contractor) used to tell his crew “If we don’t work when it is too hot, if we don’t work when it is too cold, or when it is raining, or when it is snowing……when are we going to work??!!”
3. An American asked an ambassador from China “What do you think about the results of the French Revolution?” The ambassador from China responded “It is much too soon to tell.”
4. I hold tremendous power/responsibility for what happens in my classroom. The roles of a teacher are all-consuming and ever-changing and expanding.
5. If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.
6. Excellence and success differ. The highly successful basketball coach, John Wooden, never talked to his players about winning. He instead stressed the importance of doing the things necessary to win. He would stress fundamentals. He instilled in his players the relentless pursuit of working on the aspects of the game which would produce winning but he did not focus on winning itself
My short term goals are to increase student engagement, increase the feedback I get from students and the rate at which I get that feedback. This is so I can make quick adjustments in my teaching practices. My long term goal is to increase student retention (Making it Stick) of material through a variety of methods, most notably through alternate forms of assessment. This year I have been having students make short videos on a variety of topics in a number of different formats. As a department chair, I want to help each teacher in my department have access to new technology which will actually make an impact in their classroom, not just use technology for the sake of technology.
In terms of change, I believe that the amount of technology students hold in their hand/have immediate access to will significantly change the way I will teach over the next five years. The use of calculators has changed the way mathematics has been taught, as computing devices have become more advanced. Although some national exams still require students to do part of the exam without calculators (AP Calculus), the role of calculators, smart phones, iPads, chromebooks, and laptops will continue to change the way math is being taught. Online graphing programs currently make many methods obsolete that we used to teach. The personal relationship that a teacher has with his/her students will not change. The interaction between teachers and students is crucial to a student becoming invested in the material being taught. The human element necessary for effective teaching will not change.
The diversity measure of my network includes the colleagues in my department, a teacher friend in California, a math teacher in Naperville (who is in charge of technology for his whole department), an English teacher I have known for 23 years (who I meet with 2-3 times/year), the AP in charge of department, and a friend who is the dean of the engineering department at a local university. I share best practices with colleagues on a regular basis and the people in my department are very open to trying new methods and taking risks.
In terms of being courageous and abandoning the past, I feel I reflect on my practices every day. I often get ideas on my walk to school, talking with a colleague during lunch, or watching an instructional video. This MSU three course sequence has challenged me on a regular basis to try new things – keep what does work, abandon what does not. I am most interested in changing what I do EVERY day, EVERY class period, in order to make concepts stick with the students. I was haunted by the article we read last summer about the rate at which students lose the ability to recall key concepts even a few months after an exam. I was very pleased recently when I asked my students to give me feedback on how they felt about making videos this year. Without any hesitation, they wrote responses on how effective it was to have them do videos – how it forced them to really think through a specific problem in order to present it.
I have realized this year, being involved in this program, that I thoroughly enjoy changing the way I teach, being creative, taking risks, learning from my colleagues, and being willing to try new things on a regular basis. Keeping what I know works but always being willing to dispense of what does not.