This is a call to arms
I've been debating for awhile about whether to create a blog fer reals or whether to continue lurking and consuming other people's work. I always had excuses not to. Not enough time. Nothing valuable to say. No one would pay attention. Blah, blah, blah. However, after much cajoling from people I've never met in person, I've decided to take the plunge.
I'm a brand-new teacher, having just started my second year of teaching high school Spanish while continuing to earn my credential. This is my second act, and I'm living proof that you're never too old to learn.
Last year, my theme was "survival". This year, it's "reinvention". Even during the first weeks and months of my whirlwind inaugural year, I was determined to do things better, to do things differently. I kept extensive notes and scribbled on lesson plans to guide and inform my future self. I collected binders full of worksheets that bored my students and me to exasperation. I assigned workbook pages as homework. I can still hear last year's students groaning.
My grand plan was to survive that first year and take advantage of summer vacation to really learn how to teach. After a few weeks of decompressing, I began to collect research on the Internet. I truly don't remember the first blog post I read or how I stumbled upon this amazing community of innovators I found online, but the door opened.
The catalyst that hooked me was Matt Miller's Ditch That Textbook blog and book of the same name. It's ironic, because I spent over 20 years as a college textbook editor for a major publishing company, working hard to ensure that the very best materials wound up in the classrooms of our nation's best and brightest (or at least those who merely hoped to escape Spanish class with a passing grade). I started to follow Matt on Twitter. I followed his followers. Some of them even started following me. I ordered books from Amazon, both physical copies and Kindle versions. I subscribed to blogs. I downloaded podcasts. I built Google Classrooms for the new school year. I began to learn and grow.
Those binders of worksheets? This year they collect dust on my bookshelf. Workbook pages as homework? This year I've all but ditched homework entirely (in the traditional sense), almost unheard of in secondary education language circles.
Not content with keeping this treasure trove of new ideas to myself, I engaged my high school colleagues with thoughts of shaking things up. These are experienced educators, seasoned at their craft, but some of them have been willing to come along for the ride. I introduced them to Flipgrid and Seesaw. We collaborate on student projects that incorporate digital learning tools, which allow our students to express themselves in exciting and creative ways.
My journey has been brief but thrilling. It's only been a few short months since I started my reinvention campaign, and six weeks into the new school year I have noticed a profound difference in my students compared with last year's: they are actually learning more, and they are learning at a faster pace. Their learning has become stickier. They are more engaged. They have become empowered to try new things and new ways of demonstrating their learning. This isn't to say that I have found a magic elixir or a cure-all that has elevated 100% of my students to a higher level. But having changed my approach to teaching, I can feel the changes in my overall classroom climate.
I don't have any set goals for this blog and website, other than to express my gratitude for those who have inspired me. I hope to keep the conversations going and the learning meaningful. Maybe one day I'll even inspire others. And to the extent that I can tie my educational experiences to the independent music that has inspired me in other ways, it's a win-win.
Independent musicians and forward-thinking educators are a lot alike. They work hard at their craft. They explore new ideas and new ways of doing things. They aren't satisfied with the status quo. Some toil in obscurity, save for a handful of dedicated acolytes eager to spread their message. For me, combining these two passions was the motivation to start this blog. I felt I did have something valuable to say, and the idea of sharing some of my favorite music was the kicker that propelled me to action.
Thanks for hanging out. To kick things off musically, here is "A Call To Arms" by the amazing indie rock band The Winter Sounds. Enjoy!