Monday, August 11, 2008

The Start of Year #4

Amazingly, the 2008-2009 school year will be my fourth in teaching. It will also be my first year with tenure. I cannot believe how much time has passed between when I started and now. But, this is not a post to reflect on what has come before. Instead, I'd like to focus on things I would like to improve for the new school year. I'm going to break down my goals by class. Then, I will revisit them in June and evaluate myself to demonstrate how I did.

Goals for English 1 CP
Overall, I really enjoy teaching this class. I've only had it for two years, but my lesson plans have taken great strides and I enjoy working with the ninth graders very much. I find them willing and energetic, which makes for a fun environment. On the whole, I'm pleased with what I've achieved so far, but here is a list of things I'd like to improve upon in the immediate future.

1). Improve Poetry instruction by making it more meaningful and accessible.
2). Engage students in more meaningful discussions relating readings to their modern lives.
3). Teach The Odyssey in a more cohesive, understandable fashion.
4). Introduce some research element to the Comparative Mythology unit.
5). Spend more time discussing modern myths.
6). Flesh out the lessons on my two favorite stories, "The Most Dangerous Game," and "The Birds," and try to really help the students to understand the moods of the stories.

Goals for English 3 CP
This will be my fourth year with this particular course, so I am very familiar with the texts by this point in time. I think that the plans for the texts during the beginning of the year are quite strong, but there are some gaps in lessons that occur later.

1). Read sections of The Prince during MacBeth and use them to analyze the characters of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth.
2). Find a better way to teach vocabulary.
3). Create more interesting lessons around The Canterbury Tales and The Decameron.
4). Find a research paper topic that is interesting and challenging.
5). Find a year-long project idea that encourages reflection without being overly confusing or cumbersome.

Goals for SRA English
This class has met with great success. Of all of the students who have regularly attended this class, all of them have passed the New Jersey state Language Arts requirements for graduation. Something I am doing must be working. However, there is always room for improvement.

1). Differentiate assignments better based upon a particular student's needs.
2). Stay organized with all of the paperwork needed to run this class.
3). Continue to positively reinforce all student work.

General Goals

1). Create better methods to teach and evaluate vocabulary skills.
2). Encourage students to become more proficient at answering open-ended questions.
3). Do not leave so much work for the end of each marking period or for the end of the school year.

Problems With Technology

I ran into two unforeseen problems in the maintenance of my blogs. One of these problems I have solved, the other I have not.

When I first established this blog, I set up a free file sharing account at a website known as MediaMax. Using the MediaMax free service, I would be able to upload my school documents and link to them from this site for others to download. This enabled me to provide easy access to the array of PDF files and the podcast that reside within my various posts. However, within the last few months, MediaMax changed nearly everything about its philosophy. The website changed its name to The Linkup and switched over to a completely paid system. Given the fact that I was using the free service, all of my files were removed. This left me a with a bunch of dead links on my blog, not where I wanted to be after putting in a lot of time and research to set up the links properly.

I did not want to pay for the new service on The Linkup, as that totally went against my philosophy on using freely provided services (hence the reliance on Google for this whole endeavor). I had to find something different. I uploaded all of the files (except the podcast) to my Google Documents page, but I could not successfully link to them from my blog. I eventually settled on a free file sharing service called, and all of the files are now accessible to all interested parties.

The other technology problem is still, sadly, without a solution. A short time after establishing this blog, I set up a second one for use with my classes. On it, I would detail my class assignments and post handouts for each day. About two months after setting it up, however, Dumont High School's administration announced an edict stating that teachers will not be allowed to maintain web sites outside of district control. I had to stop updating the site. All of the previously entered text is still posted for posterity, but I lost my method of sharing my day's activities for students and parents to read outside of school. I understand Dumont High School's concern for student safety in the public domain, especially in the days of internet predators and hackers. But, I still don't know how to replace this service. I think the school is struggling with this, as well, as the administrators are still searching for an in-house equivalent to the options teachers have for creating content on the world wide web.

The most important message of this post is that using technology is not a simple matter of tapping some buttons and watching magic happen. There are many different concerns and problems, some of them within our control, some of them unforeseen. Trying to get out in front of a new movement in education will obviously have some early-adopter problems. I was happy and lucky to solve one of them (although I currently have no contingency if changes, as well), but I am still searching for a solution to the second one. I will post if there are any new developments.

Intentional Neglect

I've left this blog alone for quite awhile. This was done intentionally. Initially, I established this site to use as a reflection of my teaching experiences, and as a tenure requirement at Dumont High School. When I left it in January, the blog was in its final form for submission to the tenure review committee. I did not wish to change anything for until the tenure process had been completed.

Now that I have earned my tenure, it is time to start updating this site again. I am proud of what has already been documented in these posts, and I look forward to the new reflections that I will create in the time to come.