I wanted to write a post today about one thing I have not yet tried in my classroom this year. Something I want to accomplish before the year is through. That seems like such a simple thing to do
it’s not. It’s not right now. This year.
If you’d asked me this question a year ago, I could have produced a long list of things to try and accomplish. This year, I am at a loss of where to start. What’s the difference? Last year I was in my eighth year of teaching the same content (6th grade Earth science), the same standards, the same information. I reinvented and tried new things every year. More inquiry, mystery lessons, concept attainment, collaboration, making, exploring. The list was endless.
What’s changed? This year I am teaching new to me content areas (high school chemistry and engineering), and although I know and love chemistry, I feel like I am learning this year right along with my students. I know the chemistry, but I am learning the standards, the pacing, and the types of learning experiences I can create for my students. (I also often enhance the standards when I think there is an important concept missing.) I want to provide experiences for my students that are engaging and involve inquiry, but I also don’t want to overwhelm them when they are immersed in one of our large projects like our STEM Maker Fest.
So this year, I am learning. Learning what works; learning what doesn’t work. I am brainstorming ideas for next year. Periodically I get flashes of inspiration that are too late to incorporate this year but are on the list for next year. So ask me this question again in a year, and I am sure I will once again have a long list.
And instead, I’ll share with you a post about something I am trying for the first time this year on a personal learning basis.
I love to draw, doodle, paint. I really want to be a better at hand lettering. I have done a couple of sketchbooks in the past (2012 and 2013), and created a map of my “perfect” classroom. I took a watercolor painting class one summer at the rec center when I was a teenager, and I’ve enrolled in a few online classes here and there. In November, I heard about an art journaling class from Joanne Sharpe. I’d taken one of her lettering classes before, and I was intrigued. I signed up, and started journaling with the goal of a page a week. Each month we have a theme word and a specific “style” for the journal. January the theme was “spark”, and we learned to use watercolor markers. February’s theme was “passion”, and we learned whimsical calligraphy. March was “hope” and art marks. (I haven’t started April yet.)
I got behind at the end of February, and then March ran away from me. The awesome thing about spring break is it gives you a chance to slow down, to reflect, to create, to make. I have spent a lot of time making and drawing and painting in my art journal this week. I love how the March pages turned out.
Do you know what I love about this online class? Everyone is sharing and learning. As I look at the artwork from my classmates, I can see that we are all in different places in terms of talent, style, and experiences. But everyone shares with each other and encourages one another. Plus, this class has no grades, no deadlines, and only a suggested timeline. If you get behind, you catch up when you can. There is no stress. It’s all about the joy of learning.
Actually, maybe I do have a couple of ideas I’d like to try before the school year is through. One I hinted towards the other day. Learning for the love of learning. Not because of grades, or tests, or rankings. Learning because we get better at something we love or are interested in.
The other? I had the idea couple years ago to incorporate exploration journals or something like the art journal into the science classroom. I still wonder what that might look like. A sketchbook? A scrapbook? A field journal? A treasured notebook of chemistry (or another science) found in the normality of the everyday? Maybe there is a way to incorporate the non graded joy of learning with an science “art” journal. Hmm. Now I have an idea. Maybe I do have something to try before the year is through!