Monday, August 26, 2013

New Year, New Curriculum, New Policies...New Adventure!

I'll spare the fairly typical gushy feelings that most (all?) educators get about this time of year...if you're a teacher you understand and don't need me adding my two-cents...that said, I do love this time of year and find the work time and collaboration time that takes place during the lead-up to the school year to be some of the most creative and fruitful. I already have a "want to do" list about a mile long. Some of it will be shelved for next year, but some will take place right away!

New Curriculum
This past year Minnesota officially adopted their new social studies standards. In doing so they banded them to specific grade levels - American Studies to 7th grade and Global studies to 8th. After teaching US History to 8th graders for the past six years I'd be lying if I said that I was not pretty bummed to be giving it up. Part of the reason is do to my love of history and teaching it to students, but another part of it is because I'm still coming around to the idea of teaching geography Global Studies. 

The more I plan with peers and examine the curriculum the more I warm to it...but it's not quite the same level of passion (not yet!). That being said, more than ever I am passionate about teaching. Period. Beyond that, the three other teachers in my department are outstanding educators and the 8th grade staff I work with is second-to-none. Ultimately I had a say in choosing to stay with 8th grade and teach Global Studies instead of US History in 7th, and I know I made the right call. Heck, I even totally remade my class website for the occasion! Although, not sure how much use it'll get as I plan on diving in head-first with Schoology this year (more on that later...)...

Teaching Global Studies will be a new and fresh challenge. More than ever it is important that our students have competency about the world around them, and Global Studies will be the perfect vehicle to help them obtain that knowledge. My fear of teaching it is in part due to my previous experience with Geography classes...I shudder at the thought of 30 students mindlessly coloring maps and memorizing countries and capitals. There's so much more the the class (and the world!) than rote memorization. But, I digress...

New Policies
One of the things that I'm most stoked about for this upcoming school year is to be one of eight teachers in the district piloting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy! About three years ago after hearing about the potential of such a policy I began pushing for it along with a few others. Three years, one committee, and dozens of meetings later and we've got the green light! We're naming the pilot "Project Phoenix " the phoenix name was a bit off the cuff, but at the same time we like to think of education as a whole as rising from the ashes of an old, out-dated, and ineffective model into something much more individualized and better suited for the challenges of the 21st Century.

As this is a pilot program, the few members of the school board that are very averse to this policy change will want to see and know that it works and that it benefits students. So, in addition to piloting the policy (and earning my Master's) I'll be doing an action research project on the policy in my classroom to try and determine the policy's impact...a key piece of the data will be a student survey (if you're feeling up to it, you can view the draft questions here - I'd love feedback). I'm looking forward to seeing what's to come and the effect on our students.

Anyway...not much insight here, just sharing some thoughts. My hope is to update my blog more regularly throughout the year with reflections on teaching Global Studies, Project Phoenix, and my goals for the year (more on that later)...until then, my mind is reeling with ideas and I can't wait to get started this year!

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