Friday, January 2, 2009

Reflection: 2008

2008 was a good year for me as a teacher. The following are things I can look back at and be proud of:

1. Getting a Masters Degree from Towson University. The program was not a perfect program, but it did allow me a lot of autonomy of what I wanted my projects and my readings to be, and, thus, I learned a lot. I really enjoyed completing my final project, which was a re-writing of the 9th grade English curriculum at my school. I've used it a lot. I've also established at least one relationship with a professor who I think I will stay in touch with for as long as I'm in the area. The Masters has given me a nice little raise, a raise of nearly $600/month that goes a long way in explaining why I've spent a lot of the last seven years broke when my friends (who all have Masters degrees) seem fine. A house seems in the realm of possibility now when it never really did before.

2. Completing the NEA/Folger Teaching Shakespeare Institute over the summer: This year, I finally found something useful to do with my summers. Summers have always been an annoyance to me, a 2-month time with no paycheck (no, there's no option in BCPSS to have your pay spread across 12 months, so you have to set up a separate account at the bank, and, well, I still think that kind of sucks) where I didn't have much to do except wait tables and wait around for school to start. This year, I applied for a NEA grant to attend a Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Library. It was four weeks of intense Shakespeare study with 24 educators from around the country. The four weeks was envigorating and eye-opening, and I am using a lot of the ideas I learned in my classroom all the time.

3. Continuing to work on teaching freshmen and juniors: When the school year started, I found myself teaching 9th and 11th graders again. It's the schedule I requested, and the second year in a row teaching the same schedule. I would prefer less than four of any one class (130 essays all at once is a burden), but the schedule couldn't be better otherwise - I love the bright eyes of the 9th graders and the rigor of the 11th grade class.

4. Renewing certification: In the fall, I also completed a couple of terrible certification courses, a complete nadir in my pursuits of higher education. Coppin State University should be embarrassed to be associated with these classes. However, I'm glad I took the classes, as now, I believe, I am set and certified for at least the next six years or so.

5. Starting National Board Certification: I also decided to take on the challenge of National Board Certification. Only two teachers in Baltimore City attained the certification this year, including one of my good friends. In my department, there are three total National Board certificate holders; in the past, two mentors I have taught with also held the certificate and pushed me to do the same. Currently, three of us are pursuing it in our department. Perhaps, two years from now, you will see my name on that list. It's a pretty intense and rigorous process (taping, writing, testing) and haven't dove in with as much as I've wanted to so far, but I will soon.

6. Leading baseball team to third round of playoffs: I work very hard on my coaching - the planning, the preparation, the management. I really love it. This year was our most successful year in my five years as coach at least in terms of winning, as we actually beat a county team, a team with a great baseball facility and some real solid talent. We still have lots of hurdles to get over, but it was a good year.

7. Starting up the BMoreTeach Blog: I go through a lot of stages with blogging, and a lot of questioning about why I do it. I do know that I love writing and using writing as a tool to figure things out, and that, hopefully, will never change. I've been at it since April 2000, when I was in college. This year, I finally discovered that a lot of my students are probably reading, and I finally decided to separate my professional and my personal blogs partially for that reason. I know the administration at my school knows about BMoreTeach, and I've often wondered what they think about it - but I've never used it as a tool to grouse about the management at my school, nor about anything else I think is unprofessional. I'm not sure what my goals are for it, but, ideally, I'd like to create something along the lines of what Dana Huff has - a tool for my own teaching reflection, plus a resource for other teachers. I also want to add the element of allowing people, even non-educators, to get a window into the world of teaching in a city. Hopefully I've started that this year with this blog.

8. Integrating Technology into my Classroom: TSI was a lot about technology, and I finally buckled down and bought myself both a laptop and an LCD Projector for my classroom this year. I've loved using them, and am trying to do other things, especially student blogging. It's hard in a school without much resources in terms of technology, but I'm doing my best.

9. Continuing to attend conferences: If memory serves, I attended three professional conferences this year. Two were for coaching - the Cherry Hill Baseball Coaching Conference in Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic Baseball Coaching Conference in Bethesda. I also attended IB MYP Training this year in Baltimore. I couldn't afford NCTE this year, but am definitely going to be there next year.

10. Quitting my 2nd job: It's definitely made my professional career a stronger priority, given me more time to do the things I want to do with my teaching - returning papers quicker, planning more cohesively, and reflecting more.


Jackie said...

There's a teacher who keeps a blog called Eduholic at Teacher magazine, and he blogged a lot about his experience with the national cert process-- I think he also wrote a story for the WaPo magazine about it, full of interesting details and warnings. I think he did not pass the first time, but resubmitted some sections and then passed? Definitely worth a read.

Sounds like you had a great professional year, despite a few lowlights. I'm trying to focus on finding good professional development opportunities for myself this upcoming calendar year-- have you ever been to NCTE?

Anonymous said...

Your blogging is close to a perfect 10 in terms of what makes reading a blog compelling. It is a gift to the Baltimore community as is your teaching. I hope my 2 year old son might one day have you as a teacher.

Gabrielle said...

Wow - you've had a busy year! I'm starting to teach Persepolis in Jan in French. The story is amazing and the film fantastic. I know my students will be very interested. The subject though is daunting; I'll have to do my research.

Great blog - thanks!