The Same…But Different

In his post yesterday, Jay mentioned how he is struggling to find the groove this year. And last week, Rebekah shared her eagerness to move out of survival mode toward outgrowing her best work. I hear that, Jay and Rebekah. On the one hand, my classes have finished our launch units, and students seem familiar with procedures like notebook time, where to find resources on Google Classroom, and how to use some of our new classroom tools like NoRedInk. I’m gathering data about students’ knowledge and progress. This makes me feel proud and successful. On the other hand, I remember past years of teaching, compare them to this one– my sixteenth–and feel like I’m coasting on cruise control rather than focusing enough to find just the right gear for each stretch of road. This makes me feel guilty. Where is my creativity? Reinvention? Lessons and assessments tailor-made for just these students? Is there a “why” for everything we do that’s more robust than, “it worked before”?

When I dig a little deeper into these questions, I know that I’m leaning on what’s familiar because things are changing and growing outside of my classroom. I have a new administrative responsibility and a continuing personal commitment that need my time and attention, and I’m really grateful that I can set some boundaries to allow for new and different personal growth. But I want to keep growing as a classroom teacher, too. How can I make a familiar prep fresh? How can I reinvigorate a routine? My answers to these questions will inspire my beat this year at Moving Writers

In my senior IB class, difference begins with more attention to AUDIENCE. My students’ first essays, written in the style of our spring exams and sprung from on-demand drafts, were…word salads (the kind you find at the end of a busy Friday night at the Ponderosa buffet). I really struggled to understand how the confident and intriguing ideas of students’ drafts morphed into overstuffed, incomprehensible paragraphs. And then I realized that we had never talked about who students were writing for. We had looked at exam samples and talked all about the rubric, but we had never identified an audience. So students imagined one who, judging by the paragraphs I tried to read, was a panel of sour-faced stereotypical professor-types sitting atop a two-story desk and peering down their noses at my writers. 

Our current assignment in IB is still pretty traditional: we are writing sentence outlines to practice organization and developing an argument, BUT we talked about a potential audience (younger students who want to see and understand what IB thinking “looks like”), and this small choice is setting me down a path of imagining more authentic audiences for future assignments. Those small shifts to more definite audiences might lead to big changes in both the writing students do and the approach I take toward now-familiar texts and techniques.

I’m not reinventing the wheel (or even changing the tires), but it feels like I’m starting to find new ways to reach familiar destinations. Soon, I hope to find real-world applications for ninth graders’ NoRedInk grammar practices and assessments for IB that aren’t just practice versions of the tests they will take in the spring. I hope you’ll join me this year as I seek to make what has been the same just a little bit different, and I invite you to share your new twists on the “tried-and-trues,” too. Please reach out in the comments below or via Twitter @MsJochman.

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