So, it is probably cliche to write about an open house at the start of a school year and the new beginnings it brings, but I have to admit I am feeling especially excited for the start of this year. Several changes have taken place for me personally and professionally; changes to my philosophical approach to education and my physical teaching environment. It also helped that I had an amazing summer filled with the perfect amounts of vacation, travel, and leisure, but also balanced with just the right amount of professional development. Perhaps in a future post, I can draw connects with our family trip to Big Sky, Montana.
What can students expect to be different in my classes this year? And, what am I super-excited about?
Physical Location. We expanded with a small addition to the high school, and I was fortunate enough to get one of the new classroom spaces. The room was designed as a 21st Century learning space, with moveable furniture, windows that open to the commons area with seating arrangements that both promote group study and collaboration, and also provide quite chillax opportunities.
Room Name. This new class space is NOT going to be Mikla’s Room. It doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the kids and to the school. This idea I picked up from reading Joy Kirr’s book, Shift This. In it she encourages teachers to make their classes, including the physical space more empowering for students. Part of that is shifting the focus of room ownership. Right now I am referring to this classroom as Room 218. Maybe that will change as the year unfolds. I want it to be natural and I want it to be something that the kids will feel the ownership of. One parent who walked in to check out the new room called it the “Fishbowl” because of all the interior windows. I kind of like it. We’ll see if the kids like it too.
Innovation. My personal professional development plan since last spring has been centered around the idea of innovation in education. It started while reading George Curous’s book, Innovator’s Mindset, which hooked me and encouraged me to enroll into A.J Juliani’s online Innovative Teaching Academy, and taking part in a cohort called Digital Learning Leaders at TIES (Technology and Information Education Services). Milaca High School has been a 1:1 iPad school for the past 5 or 6 years. In that time, I have spent part of my day as a technology integrationist. The staff here is incredibly proficient at using an iPad with kids in the classroom, however, I we have stagnated. We have nailed the consuming part of technology, not it is time to allow for creation, and innovation. My goal this year is to work my way out of being a “technology integration specialist” and become an “innovation integration coach.” Technology will still play a huge role in that, but technology and teaching should just go together. You shouldn’t need to separate them. We need to progress to the next stages of preparing our students for college and career by sparking independent curiosity in learning.
Personalized Professional Development. The goal for each of us teachers should be to continue to learn and grow along with all of our students. Students and Teachers each have their individual strengths and areas in need of further growth. I have yet to meet a person who has reached their learning and curiosity levels. Planning for growth needs to be a personal endeavor. I realize I need that for myself. I need to keep chasing curiosity. I need to keep learning. I know there are many others, both teachers and students, that feel the same way. I want to be able to help them take risks and step outside their zones of comfort to find the things that make them curious. Students need the chance for PD as much as teachers.
Open House is a chance for new beginnings. It is a chance to begin and renew relationships . It is a chance to step out of our comfort zone, put our best foot forward and begin to #ChaseCuriosity in our learning journey. Wishing everyone the best in the 2017-2018 school year.