This has been a winter of transition for me in teaching. By my accounting, it's the third such transition in my career. It seems that every five or six years, I encounter a new perspective that prompts me to not just question my approach but to dramatically and quickly change it.
In 2004, the change came as the result of a workshop led by Joseph Ginotti, a University of Pennsylvania professor who exposed me to the idea of Focus Correction Areas in the assessment of student work. It was a liberating notion, and it led to an overnight change in how I assessed student writing. I wish I had more ability to work with the Penn Literacy Network.
Around 2010 my district hired Kelly Gallagher to visit Central Bucks, and he energized me to re-consider the purpose of teaching news in the classroom. He made it clear that talking current events wasn't a waste of time, but instead a crucial piece of helping students master your content.
And then this winter a friend introduced me to the concept of anchor assignments, which I'm an earnest novice in using in my classroom. But the suggestion came just at the time that I was hitting a ceiling of effectiveness. As the fall semester of 2013-14 was ending, it was becoming more obvious that I was talking too much, and that if I talked less and listened more I might just teach more stuff.
It's been a bit interesting to watch the culture shift in my classroom. Perhaps the neatest change I'm seeing is in what my students are starting to do when they feel like they're temporarily done with a particular task or activity. I'm seeing more initiative on their part. I'm also seeing how tough it is to transform a culture in which the kids really do come to class expecting "the show" and how they are resistant when the aren't getting the 60-minute-long lecture occasionally punctuated by the off-topic sidebars that, frankly, kids enjoy.