Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

If I had any casual readers before, I'm pretty sure I don't now, what with a 3-week-long holiday-inspired silence. But to anyone who stumbles across this, happy new year! 2008 was a long, hard slog, with lots of opportunities to do good important work and personal improvement. So it's time to engage in the age-old and cultures-wide tradition of reflecting on the past and looking to the future. So, without further ado...

  1. Online. a.) This blog. I often lose sight of the forest for the trees, and vice versa. It helps to have a place to write down things I'm doing, the big trends I'm working on, thoughts on policy issues in education, and suchlike. More importantly for me, it's good to have a place where I can then leave them, knowing I can come back to them later. When I revamped the blog as a tool for teaching reflection, I said that I wanted to be able to organize my thoughts and find them again later. In that regard, it's been a success, I think. I have a dedicated reader who often comments, and his input is invaluable. It's also been helpful to have that perspective in a different context. So Ray, thanks for coming back. b.) Online and blended courses. It's a truism of our age that the internet is a powerful learning tool. It's also true that we're still inventing ways to use it effectively. But we have a good idea of what today's online courses should look like. This year I took a course on online instruction methods. I learded a lot about where the online classroom and the real classroom intersect and where they diverge. I'm more excited than ever about the possibilities that teaching online offers, and have started outlining what a blended coruse might look like in Spanish. In the process, of course, I get another good hard look at my course design methodology in the real world, always a good thing. c.) NetTrekker. In short, the answer to the question, "How do I organize the Internet?" One of my favorite toys of the past year, and now ranks with MSU's Rich Internet Applications as "the most flexible, user-driven education tools on the internet.
  2. The school community. The single most-written-about subject on this blog for the past year is school-wide positive behavior support. We have a system up and running; although it's too early to tell definitively, I think it's fair to say it's having the desired effect. Our focus is less on discipline and more on learning than it has been in years past. We're past the initial kickback, I think, and the students have realized that this isn't going away. So we hear people talking about behavior the way we're hoping for. And we the faculty and staff are making a conscious effort to internalize being positive. I'm curious to know if we're getting more positive phone calls home, more attaboys, more public celebration of success. If there's one thing I'm most proud of this project, it's raising the awareness (mine and others') of the importance of the celebration of success. It's still a question a lot of us are trying to answer, but we're asking the question more often than ever before.
  3. Professional development. I already mentioned the "online courses" class, and I'd be remiss if I don't mention here the immense amount of SW-PBS training I've gotten from Peg Bird. She's been immensely helpfu in implementing SW-PBS and thus in changing the culture of our school. In addition to these, the MiWLA conference is always a great pleasure to attend, to see what other people are doing in their classrooms and to keep tabs on what the national trends are. This year I went to a workshop on how to test out of your first two years of high school world languages, which has more or less literally redefined how I think about world language course production and what we should expect students to be able to do with language after two years of HS courses. I also attended sessions on webquests (which always seem like they could be a a vital part of any truly student-based education system) and video in class.
  4. In the classroom. My expectations for both my students and myself have increased dramatically this year, and I think that my means of meeting expectations grew, as well. My thoughts about what makes for a good Spanish class have clarified and been supported both by research and by experience, so the plan is to what I'm doing, only more of it and better.
  1. In the classroom. I'm looking to do a better job of "selling" Spanish to my students. Even the students who like Spanish class just like Spanish class; a lot of them don't really like Spanish. So my objective for this year is to help my students be excited about learning Spanish.
  2. School community. Our school has a newly-formed PTA. More parent involvement would be a great thing for our (or indeed any) school. Now, I and the other teachers need to figure out how to work with this important group; after all, they're our employers.
  3. Online. Two goals: 1.) Increase blog readership. It's nice to talk to myself using big words and neat fonts. And the organization afforded to me by this blog helps me nail down some thoughts. But feedback would be good, too. It's a decent model for teaching, actually: I want to move away from a model where the one doing the talking is seen as the center of the action, to a participatory format. 2.) Use more online tools, and use them better. As stated before, the Internet is THE go-to source for authentic communication tools--reading assignments, Spanish-language videos, etc. Used correctly, the Internet is also a powerful tool for building community. Now that I know right, I can do right.
Happy 2009 to all! May we all teach lots, learn more, have some fun, and, with any luck, read a good book.


Ray said...

Happy 2009 to you as well. I very much enjoy reading your reflections and thoughts about educational issues and occasionally reply. I hope you continue to share your thoughts, knowledge, and reflections with us. I have been spending a little time reading Jim Collins' book, "Good to Great" and his research has pointed out that it is getting the right people on the bus that will make companies go from good to great and sustain that level over time. You are the kind of teacher we need on our bus. Keep be a leader in our field in our school. I see us one day becoming the kind of place all parents want to send their child and teachers like you will help to get us there. "Education is a tool."

102095 said...

I'm the Marketing Manager for netTrekker, so of course, I can't help but LOVE what was said about netTrekker. I'd love to know if we could use what you said as a "testimonial" about netTrekker. Feel free to email me directly!

c.) NetTrekker. In short, the answer to the question, "How do I organize the Internet?" One of my favorite toys of the past year, and now ranks with MSU's Rich Internet Applications as "the most flexible, user-driven education tools on the internet.