As someone who has lived my entire professional life by an academic calendar, I am always reminded of author Gretchen Rubin’s writings on “September is the other January,” as it brings new beginnings and a fresh start. For the past week, as students were adjusting to earlier wake-up times, gathering school supplies, and reconnecting with classmates, faculty members were designing classroom spaces and engaging with colleagues in planning for the new school year.
As a brand new teacher in my first pre-service week, I felt confident in my knowledge of my content field and that my college, graduate school, and student teaching experiences had prepared me to infuse my students with my love of history. A few days into my first year, I realized I didn’t know quite as much as I thought I did and that I had a great deal to learn about applying my learning to a classroom setting. Every summer, I read, took classes, and attended workshops to support my work in the classroom. It wasn’t until I began teaching at Ellis fourteen years ago that this learning ceased to be a totally independent and often solitary experience, as I had joined a community that valued collaboration and reflection.
As educators, we know the importance of establishing classroom learning communities for students—they need to feel valued and respected, they gain insight from listening to others’ opinions and perspectives, and they develop skills in working with their peers to solve problems. As a faculty, we experience these same benefits as we work together to ensure that our program and pedagogy results in continued student success—academically, socially and emotionally.
This year, we have developed shared goals and identified three areas of focus in our program: to create a Changemakers Curriculum centered around our interdisciplinary studies, to consider the purpose and outcomes of our assessments and academic awards, and to review the effectiveness of our schedule across content areas. We will spend this school year in small groups immersed in research, data analysis, evaluation, and reflection.
Our goals are to ensure that these components of our program and practice continue to reflect our mission, increase student learning and enhance our students’ Middle School experience. We look forward to sharing our progress with you in these areas and gathering input from all of our constituencies at certain points in this process.