OK, this is difficult to do. It’s like re-introducing yourself to someone you’ve already met several times, or speaking to a family member whose birthday/engagement/anniversary you’ve forgotten. But, in a fashion that characterizes much of my life lately, I am just going to start and rip the band-aid off rather than toying with it.
I am writing again.
Between several of the projects that are all coming due now, some graduate classes I have undertaken, and the mud puddle plodding I do with my kids, it’s been difficult to find not only the time, but also the mental acuity to dedicate to writing. And as I think back over the course of the last few years, there have been only two or three of these type hiatuses (shouldn’t that be hiati?) since I began taking my professional development into my own hands. I was due for a sabbatical from writing.
But, so much has occurred in my own little section of the world and I am feeling the need to reconnect to my network. The writing class that I hatched in my mind is now a reality. We are creating a class that is mandatory, taken by all students from 6th through 8th grade, that is solely focused on writing to learn and the practicing of critical thinking through the use of writing. My scope is limited, but I don’t see too many schools having the faith in their staff to do this, and trust me, when you see the topics that the teachers want to explore it truly brings the need for trust to the forefront:
- From “Food Wars:”
- What is the impact of food availability, production and consumption on an individual, a locality, and a society?
- Why are there chemicals and packaging in my food? What are the effects of these on my body and the environment?
- How are foods marketed?
- From “Mental Fitness”
- What is mental fitness?
- How do I learn?
- Am I mentally fit?
- From “America and Beyond”
- Is increased life expectancy a blessing or a curse?
- What are your thoughts on physician-assisted suicide?
- How has technology affected your generation compared to previous generations?
All questions that I have broached or attempted to broach with students in various ways throughout the last few years, except that was in the confines of a social studies classroom with a predetermined curriculum that I had to follow. This class is devoted to using these questions as framework to help our students critically write and read. I can’t tell you how jealous I am that our students have this opportunity. I thought I’d never say this, but I want to be in middle school again.
- Remix: Students need to regularly remix their learning to own the ideas.
Learners need to be freed to take the TIME required for in-depth rather
than shallow studies in problem-based, project-based constructionist
and constructivist learning activities.
Learning opportunities, challenges, and assessments must be
differentiated to meet the needs as well as interests of a diverse
array of learners.
I am feeling like the work I have talked about doing over the last few years is very close to showing some life. This class is a stab at what our students might benefit most from. As you can probably tell, a majority of my energy has been spent trying to convince and cajole the stakeholders into making this class become a reality. To their credit, the teachers involved have taken a huge leap of faith and risked splintering their department, as we are using English/Language Arts teachers to teach this class. They have created the ideas for the units and are truly beginning to grasp how this class can be successful.
It’s going to be a long summer…
Image Credit: “Rebirth,” from *Solar ikon*’s photostream