As I walked through the school this week, I saw many of my colleagues getting their classrooms ready for when students return next week. Many were "ripping apart" their rooms and finding new configurations of furniture layout. Teachers do this every year, making the room fresh and finding better ways for it to work. One could argue that after so many years of teaching, shouldn't we have this figured out by now? After all, a room is a room, much of the furniture has remained unchanged over the years, and there's only so much you can do with the space. It's a lot of work to move all of this stuff around each year in the sweltering summer heat. Wouldn't it just be easier to use the same layout as last year?
The same teachers were taking time out of designing their rooms to also meet and discuss the changes in their instruction for the new year. They shared with me their excitement of new lessons they were going to be implementing, new discoveries they had had over summer, and how their summer professional reading has influenced some of the changes they were making.
This happens every year. It's a reboot. It's a restart. It's planting an entirely new garden with new soil and "curriculum crop". These outstanding teachers know that it would be ridiculous to offer the "same old thing" to a new group of students. This is truly "walking the walk" rather than "talking the talk" in modeling what life-long learning is all about. Upgrades and revisions are absolutely necessary in order for the learning to reach new levels, for both students and teachers.
In preparing for this post, I looked back at what I published around this time a year ago (i.e., the beginning of my district's school year here in North America). You can find two posts ---"What Did You Upgrade Over the Summer" and "Follow-up for Safety" --- that consider what changes have happened with technology over the summer months and how schools may need to adjust or prepare for these changes. Last year, I pondered the effect that the increase of iPod Touches would have on school infrastructures, and I also reported on the increase in use of social networks with my younger students. This year I'm curious to see how many new "Netbooks" show up at our doors and what effect they will have on policies and daily practice and I will once again survey my students for what changes have happened with their online activity. This year I will add a "Parent Media Survey," put out by Common Sense Media who offer free resources for schools to implement a "parent media education program" (definitely check this great resource out). Without a doubt, I'm sure the new surveys will illustrate many changes that have happened in use of technology since last year and that information will have great influence on my curriculum.
In fact, if past experience has taught me anything, it will be an entirely new "playing field." I have many lessons already mapped out and my "Targeted Performance Indicators and Mastery Objectives" have remained consistent, but I need to also allow for flexibility and reconfiguration of lessons based on the new needs and experiences of students coming back into the classroom. For instance, when I discovered at the beginning of last year that many of my 1st grade students were now engaging in online chat room experiences, I needed to dramatically change a portion of my Internet Safety lessons for them.
I can't just reuse the lessons from last year. Students have changed, tools have changed... heck, even many of the old links have changed. Each year, I pretty much have to start over from scratch and rebuild my curriculum. It's a bit like becoming a brand new teacher every year. Reboot. Restart. Rewrite much of what I thought I knew. It's a bit scary, like tightrope walking without a net. But it's also incredibly exciting as I look out and see all the new possibilities coming through the front door of the school on day one. Where will we go this year? What new discoveries will we make? What will the students be able to do that they couldn't do last year? What will I learn?
I can't wait.