And thus endeth the 2016-2017 school year.
Last night, our seniors walked the stage in celebration of completing degree requirements. Adorned in purple robes, filled with hope and expectancy, they turned their tassels and walked out into the real world. It was a beautiful moment.
While backstage lining up, I noticed one of my Student Council members, Natalie, kind of zoned out. She caught my eye, smiled and said, "I'm having a moment of deep reflection."
I'm taking her cue, and having "moment of deep reflection" about this school year. I want to look at the highs and lows of the year, in chronological order.
I set up my coffeehouse classroom, and had an open house at our You Matter district conference. Then I get a chance to share the concept with a few teachers on my own campus. They like the smell.
I begin requesting a wi-fi boost for my room because, well, it's like dial-up in the nineties down there.
Students come to class. They love the room, but some are skeptical. I think they assumed it was a prank to lull them into a false sense of security, then BAM! Rows of desks out of no where. They set goals, written on Starbucks cups that will be brought back at the end of the semester. They sign other goals on the poster boards on the back wall. They like the smell, too.
I introduce two unique concepts to my classes. All classes do Coffee Talks- student led discussions about current events related to the content we are learning. It's a shaky start, but by the end of the month, great things are happening. The second initiative is "Perfect World Projects" in sociology. Students choose a group, and start developing their culture based on concepts we learned in class. They can migrate if they feel they are not a good fit with their group.
The world is great. Students have really bought into the classroom concept. No one is sleeping in class despite the dim lighting. Coffee talks are great, but we have already discussed dress code twice in our Debate class. I've had some district administrators visit to see the design and concepts. I am introduced to the idea of student voice, and begin researching. I get to join our district's Dream Team- a sort of think-tank for innovation.
No wi-fi yet.
Debate team gets busy planning a tournament to host while competing in tournaments. My weekends disappear.
I am in love with student voice. I am seeing the power and potential for empowerment that is inherent in letting students talk and dream of solutions.
Students love the room be the culture we are creating together. They are bringing friends by before school and between classes. My goal of engaging my students at a 90% rate is accomplished. Students LOVE learning when they have control. I start to really believe that for teachers content is secondary- how students handle the content they find online is our primary responsibility.
But my students still have very little wi-fi to find that content, I create the hashtag #wififorchad in the suggestion of a fellow teacher. Other teachers wonder why I complain because it means students rarely have their phones out.
At a district Social Emotional Learning meeting, my campus is discussing our Anti-Bullying campaign. One teacher suggests it should be a district initiative, we pass it on to one of the district admins, who suggests I present it to the whole meeting. A big new undertaking starts at the district level.
Classes are rocking. Freshmen & Sophomores are often taking the lead in classes, even though they are with Juniors and Seniors. We begin a sociology project to design the perfect classroom. Students build models and design curriculum. They will present to teachers and administrators.
I start getting ready to take the practice test I have to pass to take my principal certification.
It it is not fun.
We take class field trips to the cafeteria to get wi-fi.
We have a coffee day to celebrate goal accomplishment it progress. It's a powerful moment.
Students present WILD classroom concepts. I learn sometimes limitations on projects are good. Other times, no limits nets awesome ideas.
I say goodbye to my sociology classes.
I pass that pre-certification test and sign up for my actual test.
I feel I am being pushy with the wifi, so I give it a rest.
Anti-bullying planning goes really well, we start to identify possible programs and Dude.BeNice takes the lead.
New classes start, we set goals. I sort psychology students into houses for group work based on a personality quiz. Students deny they are Freuds, I respond by saying that subconsciously, they really are.
I go to to take my principal test. The system crashes. I call to reschedule. The system crashes. I finally get rescheduled. I quickly take the test, in case it crashes. It doesn't, and I pass.
Take that ETS.
We host our debate tournament. That was a LOT of work. Learned a lot.
I apply for my first assistant principal job.
Psychology houses were a terrible idea.
Ok, they were a good idea that I executed horribly.
My debate kids have gotten so comfortable with coffee talk that they are like a family. A family that argues ALL. THE. TIME. We do positive coffee talks where you have to say nice things about each other. All classes start doing this in some way.
We take a psychology field trip to local schools for a child development research paper. Kids actually enjoy doing research when they see it's relevance.
I interview for the AP position. I don't get it. I get great feedback, but it's still a tough loss to take.
Senioritis strikes my Psychology classes. I try to work in ways to keep students connected.
Wifi boosts start showing up all over campus! I feel I have some small part to play in this, but I play it cool.
It is is tough to keep students interested in work in my psychology classes. This is the worst case of senioritis I have seen. Kids are still engaged, but I'm losing ground.
Debate students finish required content, so we start doing TED Talks. Begin exploring other "passion project" ideas.
My group in Dream Team has focused on student empowerment and develop the concept of an ambassador program with student developed community projects. The night we present, my group looks at me and says, " You present." We get held back by the superintendent and told to get this going for next year.
I apply for a couple more AP positions.
Still no AP job. Still hurts some.
Students in Debate class prepare presentations on school or community improvement ideas because THEY requested a chance to practice presentations they might give to the city council or school board.
THEY. ARE. AWESOME.
Psychology students get to abnormal psychology and engagement goes way up. I constantly warn them to not self diagnose. Or diagnose each other. Or family members. Or me.
So they get to diagnose Batman villains. Win for all.
My application to present about classroom design and student voice at Region 12 in Waco gets accepted. I begin writing a book on my CREATE Culture concept.
I say goodbye to my debate team seniors that started the program with me four years ago. It is bittersweet because they are so important to the identity of our team. And they are amazing people who I respect greatly. But they have such promising futures.
I also step down as a Student Council sponsor.
A little ethernet cord dangles from my ceiling. Still no wifi. I'm just laughing about it now.
And learning humility.
As the year ends, I see a lot of successes in my room. I have grown as an educator and learned more about dealing with adversity than I was expecting. In all, I think this has been my best year in the classroom. Yet I end the year struggling with some unexpected disappointments. I had hoped to be an administrator next year, but that looks to not be the case. So I am refocusing on how to improve upon my teaching and educational culture.
I choose to always seek growth and improvement. I still want to be an administrator, but I also look at the ways that I will be able to impact students next year, in my class, my debate team, and the two district teams I serve with.
It is always about the students.
Thus endeth my "moment of deep reflection. "
I teach Psychology, Sociology, World History Honors and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team, sponsor the TED Ed Club, and I am the Lead Innovator for LEADS CSISD (A student leadership empowerment program for 5th-8th graders). I am an aspiring administrator.