As I was scrolling back through blog posts today looking for something to trigger some end of the year reflections, I stumbled upon a post I had forgotten that I’d written. It’s a list of three things I had hoped to accomplish by June.
I wrote about the new blended learning class I would be teaching and hoped that I’d have a sense of accomplishment of taking on lots of good work and doing it well. At the year’s end, I do have that feeling, especially with regard to the blended learning class. One of the highlights of the year for me was a presentation by members of the class at the NCAIS Innovate conference.
That sense of accomplishment didn’t come easily though. Teaching high schoolers was a challenge that I found didn’t result in the kind of emotional payout I’ve come to expect as a teacher, at least up front. I’m not sure whether it’s a developmental thing with middle v. high schoolers, but I felt like I often had to bring the energy to the room, rather than feeding off the students’ energy. There were also times when I was convinced that the class was a total train wreck and felt overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of all the new (no textbook, blended learning, fist time teaching high schoolers, no quizzes or tests, thematic approach to history) I’d taken on. In some of those darker moments, I was grateful for the encouragement of Sam Morris and the memory of a conversation I’d had with one of my favorite college professors. Several years after I graduated, we were reminiscing about a Health Care Policy class I had taken my senior year. He talked about how inadequate he felt teaching the course and all the changes he would have made if he could do it over again. I was stunned because, while it was true that he worked us a bit hard, it was one of my favorite classes. His total love for the subject and us covered a multitude of perceived faults mostly unnoticed by us.
Secondly, I wrote that I’d find some of that kind of work that would contribute to the community while also being energy-giving for me. This year I served on the Faculty Evaluation and Review Committee. The work of the committee was to look at redesigning the way we do faculty evaluation. It was a fascinating look at the inner workings of administration and the thought processes behind some of the systems at our school. These conversations were sometimes frustrating, but I felt like, as the year progressed, I had valuable contributions to add.
I also was able to develop and run a local foods cooking club. It was a chance to get to reconnect with some students that I’d taught as sixth graders who were now in seventh and eighth grade. I wished that the growing season had lined up a little better with the timeline of the club, but I loved creating experiences for and with the students.
The last hope was more personal. I wanted to strengthen ties with friends of those who were still in the area and find ways to connect with new people. This became even more challenging than I’d expected when yet another set of friends moved away in March with another two sets due to move away soon. On a hopeful note, there’s a nascent supper club that I think will take hold and a few people who’ve recently moved back to the area. I’m also looking forward to traveling this summer and getting to spend time with several of the folks who’ve moved away.
Some things I hadn’t anticipated…
I wrote a lot this year. Often prompted by folks on twitter or things that happened in my classroom I wrote blog posts, articles, a book chapter, and a poem or two. In all that writing, my classroom blog did get a bit neglected, but I tried to at least update it with pictures, even if I didn’t have time to write long posts. While writing hasn’t gotten any easier, I’m incredibly grateful to those who exhort me to write and offer feedback when I do.
I traveled a lot this year. I presented at conferences in Charlotte, Orlando, DC, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. In some ways that amount of travel during a school year was taxing, but it was also exciting and rejuvenating.
Mentors moved on or became unavailable in ways I hadn’t expected. However, one of those unexpected changes gave me pause to think more deeply about where I was professionally and in some way influenced my decision to move to a new position next year.
I’ve already got my planner ready for 2011-2012 🙂 but, first, summer… 8)