I love fall! I love the excitement of a new season for the Eagles, the drive for a playoff push for my Phillies (when it actually happens), the excitement around campus, the start of a new school year and the promise of hope each year for my beloved Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. I love the start of fall so much that I get excited when the first episodes of the Big Ticket (a show all about local high school football in my area) and College GameDay resume each season, and this season was no different. Even with a lack of marquee matchups, I was pumped to get to watch College GameDay yesterday as I was doing work around the house and they prepared for “Week Zero” of the NCAA college football season. I laughed at the notion of a week zero, but then I realized, that’s kind of like my first week of professional development each year–it’s not really week 1 because the big games haven’t started yet (aka, teaching students), but I’m still back in school and back in work–so it’s my own Week Zero. Here are a few of my takeaways from my first week back in the classroom this year.
- What I Liked This Past Week: I can’t tell you how nice it was to be back in my classroom at the start of this school year! I loved my role as TOSA the past two years, but I hated my office! The only office space available for me was in a shared space with no external windows–as a guy that loves natural lighting, I struggled. Getting into my own room, listening to my music, setting up my space and doing it all with nothing but natural light was good for my soul!
- What I Learned: One thing I realized this week was that I spent far too much time isolated and preparing during this week of PD in the past. Before I took my break from teaching I was always hyper-focused on being ready for the first week of school. Every free moment I had was spent hanging bulletin boards, making copies & preparing for every possible situation that might arise. This year, however, I spent more time than ever talking and reconnecting with colleagues. True, my bulletin boards may not be totally complete for the first day of school, but I am in a much better mental place at the start of this year and I got some amazing ideas and plans while talking with my colleagues.
- What I’ll Try: I’ve been thinking a lot about grading and assessment the past few years and this past summer I read Going Gradeless by Elise Burns & Dave Frangiosa. Ironically enough, one of our PD sessions this past week centered around this very same theme and how, as a middle school, we can start moving the needle so that our grades truly reflect student learning. While most of our discussions were theoretical, two very concrete steps to improving our assessment/grading were floated; using weighted categories in our grade books, and looking for specific steps to move away from a average-based system.
- What I Wonder: Finally, as I ended Week Zero I couldn’t help but think about some of the big questions still facing me this school year–none bigger than “can I do it?” I’m so excited to head back to the classroom but there is certainly that little part of me that wonders what it’s going to be like teaching in a mask and and if I still have “it.”