Someone asked me at the staff year-end party* to rate the school year on a 0-10 scale. I replied pretty quickly this year was a 6 or 7. The previous year was a 5, and the one before that was a 2 or 3 [father died in April, many students had serious trust issues]. So I guess we are on the upswing!
* That's right, we have a rockin' year-end off-campus staff party. I know you're jealous but I am not sorry.
However, the school year began with a shitflood. That is not a metaphor. I blogged about it carefully a few days afterward: the street's underground sewer pipe got clogged and burst into my basement with several inches of sewage on the 3rd day of school. I had to take a personal day on Friday to start getting that resolved, but the stench lingered for several weeks and resolving the damage distracted me for much of the month. Looking back, I'm impressed by how well I kept up with blogging in September! That's when I tried the 20 blogs in 30 days #flipblogs gimmick. Like all the others, it fizzled and failed.
October is when a couple major things occurred: I got notified that I would be a keynote speaker at FlipTech LatinAmerica (originally scheduled for July, but then moved to September) AND finally got a site for the FlipTech New England conference. In this blog post I can finally vent my persisting frustration with the administration of Newton Public Schools about scheduling this event. One person in particular was a thorn in my side -- she wouldn't reply to phone calls and emails, and she seemed resistant to the concept of flipping but didn't explain her reservations. Ooooh, I wish I could in good conscience type her name right here but that feels like a bad idea and it wouldn't help anyway. Instead, I got the idea to use my daughter's middle school in Waltham and that plan came together in less than a week after over 2 months of trying to get Newton's approval. Yay!? I remain disappointed though that Newton Public Schools, which used to be a national leader in pedagogical practices ... is hardly even a trend-follower nowadays. Barely treading water, and perhaps slowly drowning. That is a metaphor.
Meanwhile, at school I was piloting a new civics curriculum! Oh, that whole thing deserves its own blog post or two. I haven't taken the time to properly reflect on that effort yet, but:
- I like my early focus on Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau as 3 points of a triangle about attitudes toward government. Those cencepts reverberated successfully throughout the year.
- I totally WASTED a lot of time on the particulars of the Election Scrapbook project, where students followed a Senate, House, or Governor race from early-October to Election Day. Lots of ways that could be better..
- ... however that experience did provide a significant benefit: I figured out a really good way to "flip the directions" of a major project, and to check students' understanding before they begin.
- My attempt to flip the basics of local elections was not so successful. I tried to cram too much into a single lesson. Oops! Good reminder about an important flipping lesson.
However, October 2019 is also when I got to finally see Hamilton and I really raised my game on Instagram, so the month was not a total loss....
A perusal of my November blog posts reminded me about this ridiculousness:
That month at school, I mostly recycled the Declaration of Independence / Road to Revolution unit that I had done as a history teacher. Ugh, unfortunately that approach needs revisiting as well. It's like instead of embedding a Civics unit in the middle of a History course, I did the reverse: suddenly switching from a Government class to a US History course, with similar results. Another WASTED couple weeks.
At school, I revised my usual Declaration of Independence summative assessment to something different: rewrite the document during a 45-minute class period as if you were a ________ complaining to __________. Each of my 4 sections got a different scenario, like "zoo animals to their zookeeper" or "renters to a landlord". This was sort of an act of desperation to fit the calendar, but I loooooove the responses I got. Instead of a weeklong project as I used to assign, I got great individual results from everybody in just 1 school day. Well, not exactly everybody because a handful of students did not show real understanding of the document's 5 parts before that assessment. And predictably they struggled on it (even with modifications, as appropriate for students on IEPs).
Sample response below: