Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What Makes a Good Teacher Great?

It feels like the first week of summer break. Wait! The last day of school was May 24th. That was almost a month ago. Hey, it’s better than past years. I remember a time when the entire month of June was spent in a zombie-like haze, sleeping and binge watching all the shows I missed during the academic year.

Anyway, I had a couple days then took my daughter to her NASA Internship at Ames Research Facility. Yep, I’m still incredibly proud of her achievement and the opportunities she made for herself. Then I had a few days to complete a knitting goal of mine. Then I was off to a professional conference, InnEdCo. I left there with several new ideas and hopes for the fall. Any time I attend a training, professional development, or conference, if I glean just one new skill or idea, I call that a win. The people I meet there are amazing; the vendors, presenters, and fellow attendees. Once again, I learned a few new things, made great contacts and hope to maintain some of the new friendships I made.


Now I’m home again. I don’t have any concrete plans until early August when I return to school. What do you, teachers, do with your summers? There are many who make wonderful travel and vacation plans and recharge. They put education out of their minds for the actual six weeks-ish we have off. Some like to, or need to, teach summer school. I definitely recharge during this time but recharging has a different definition to me. I try to bring new methods, ideas (those great ideas I got from the conference or pd), to my teaching and improve the classroom experience for my students. 


I’ve been teaching in my school for two years now and noticed a bit of routine and complacency towards the end of this year. It’s time to try to amp my teaching up and take it to the next level. Over the last two years, my focus was on engagement and conveying the course information in new ways. I found supporting media and collaborated with my Social Studies colleague to redesign curriculum and co-teach. That was great. I tried some things that I’ll abandon but there was also much I’ll keep and build on. But, now I want to turn the focus to the students, not simply “engage” them but to hand them the keys to the bus, so to speak. To be a guiding teacher instead of the one-way delivery then check for understanding type of teacher.


A guiding teacher prepares carefully, presents a seed of content, then prompts the students to discover and dig deeper in class while guiding the process. I’ll need to really think about my existing plans and modify them to suit that kind of interaction. My students are required to take a final but I’ll find some project based or interaction based means of learning content as opposed to the alternative media I’ve been using.

Hmmm….this will be quite a bit of work but I’ll enjoy it. 

Summer’s also the time to learn new craft/art techniques. Two years ago it was Kumihimo. Want a bracelet? I have soooooooooo many. And, beads, lots of beads. Last year I rediscovered the pleasure of stranded knitting. I’m still on my mitten kick. I don’t think that will die down soon. I’m jonsin to cast on the Gates of Moria mittens once my current projects are finished. Mittens are my reward for knitting something not stranded. 


Spinning….. (chirp chirp chirp) My wheel is neglected and the fiber in The Fortress of Solitude is yet unspun. Tour de Fleece starts up soon and I’m planning on participating and hoping to get my spinning mojo back in gear (get it? Tour de Fleece/Tour de France...GEAR? Bicycle gear?).
The new technique I hope to try is a specific style of dyeing on silk. I’ve a fair amount of experience with acid dyes and a bit of experience with natural dyeing, but this would be a whole new way. I might or might not get to it, and that’s okay. It’ll still be there when it’s a good time to try it. 

The last thing I like to use my summer break for is to reevaluate my health or something personal. This is the first summer my close friends have fallen ill to some pretty horrific diseases. My heart aches for them and the complete helplessness I feel in trying to support them. There’s really nothing I can do except love them and pray for recuperation. Personally, I have pretty strong genes and there are things I can control for the genetic weak points. My dad battled obesity, heart disease, and strokes. He smoked, like so many of his generation, and continued to smoke after two multiple bypass surgeries. He also gained a lot of weight after he became inactive and settled into a desk job. I don’t and never will smoke, or vape, or intentionally inhale anything which might even remotely be harmful..nuh uh, never. I’ve noticed I can easily maintain a comfortable weight when I’m active daily but struggle to be active when overweight. Over the last year, I kept a journal and carefully observed my food behaviors. Just as an alcoholic avoids alcoholic beverages, I need to avoid refined sugar and breads. They set off very self destructive behavior in me, so I’m cutting them out. This will certainly improve my health (number 1 goal), prompt weight loss, which will make activity easier.

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