I know that many schools around the country are already in session. Michigan, where Ben and I live, requires all public schools to start after Labor Day. So for us, the real school year starts tomorrow. I’m very excited to dive into this school year, but one thing is making me more excited than the rest. I’ve dubbed this year, “My Year Going Rogue.” As you may already know, Ben and I are currently writing a book for Eye on Education, and I thought that this school year would make an excellent second book. This however, would be counting my chickens before they hatch. I’m not sure how this year going rogue is going to turn out. However, if you follow this yearlong blog series, you’ll learn how it goes. And who knows, if it goes well, perhaps it can become that book.
When I started teaching I had the luxury of starting in a brand new school. The curriculum was tentatively set at best. The freedom was nearly endless, and I was surrounded by a fantastic team. We were creative and teaching seemed exciting. I’m sure some of this is the aura of hindsight, but we had fun teaching. With a change in administration and a bigger emphasis on standardized testing, teaching became more stressful and less fun. I decided last year, around April, that this school year I was going rogue.
The first thing I did was apply for the Challenge 20/20 program put on each year by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) for any one interested, regardless of association with NAIS. This program connects schools across the globe to try and solve global issues with local solutions. This year my class was selected to learn about maritime safety and pollution, and we’re working with schools from Vietnam and Virginia. We’re excited. Step 1 in going rogue, check.
The next experience I wanted to create for my class was writing and publishing a book. I intended to complete this project with only my class, but something happened over the summer. My school is setup so that we work closely with our grade level team. There are four classes in each team. Over the summer, my three partner teachers all quit. This presented me with a fantastic opportunity. I suggested this publishing idea to my new team teachers, and they jumped at it. Our students are going to research, read, and write traditional literature to start the school year (it’s a Common Core State Standard). Specifically our children are going to write legends in the same style as Kathy-Jo Wargin with perhaps a modern, urban twist. We are going to use Amazon’s on-demand publishing called CreateSpace to produce a 5th grade legends anthology, so look for it on Amazon around the 2012 holidays.
The third project I planned experienced the same boost as my book publishing plan. The other new teachers are fully on board with this one too. Our school has transitioned to using the Common Core as our only set of standards. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have a new addition of our math curriculum (which will remain nameless). Furthermore, we didn’t feel that the level of rigor was sufficient to meet the Common Core. We’re still going to use our material as a reference, but much of the heavy lifting will be done by the teachers. I needed some sort of framework to hang this new math curriculum on. I decided that my kids are going to create a webpage, probably a wiki, for them to post all necessary information on 5th grade math Common Core State Standards. They are going to produce story problems and video story problems ala Ben Rimes the Tech Savvy Educator. They are going to create a glossary with all of the necessary terms — rich with examples. They are going to create tutorials on many of the Common Core concepts. This webpage, with an address to be named later, is going to be a one-stop-shop for all things 5th grade math Common Core.
These three ideas are the starting point for my year going rogue. I’m sure these ideas will change and grow. I’m even more sure that I’ll come up with some totally new ideas. I’m as excited, if not more, than I was back when the school opened. Only this time, I have the skills necessary to accomplish all that I dream up. Check back throughout the year to see how our year is going. I welcome your feedback and suggestions as we undertake this journey together.