Saturday, May 14, 2016

Plans for Change by Christine DePetrillo

It’s May 14th and in approximately one month, THE SCHOOL YEAR WILL BE OVER!

It’ll be my 17th year completed teaching the same grade (five) at the same school in the same room.

So, yeah. I need some change.

But not too much because I don’t really like change.

Here’s the plan. Stay in the same grade at the same school in the same room, but change up the schedule, the subjects taught, and the room configuration. For all of the 17 years I’ve been teaching, the two fifth grades in my school have always switched classes to get students ready for switching classes at the middle school and to play upon our own teaching strengths. I’ve taught Math and Writing for most of my time at this school with a side order of Social Studies.

Next year, I’ll teach ALL the subjects and keep my own homeroom all day. This has many advantages. I can have longer periods for each of the subjects because transition time doesn’t have to be factored in. If I want to extend a period to do a more in-depth study of a topic, I can because I’ll always have the same set of students. If I want to teach a topic across disciplines, I can. If I want to take a thematic approach, no problem. Project-based learning? You betcha. Time to address the emotional-social needs of students (which seem to grow in frequency and magnitude each year) will now be available because I will have a better understanding of my core students instead of trying (often unsuccessfully) to get to know twice as many students.

I’m hoping for a better connection to my class. I want to really immerse them in learning. The kind of learning where they don’t even realize that the end of the day has arrived. I feel as if this year’s students did a great deal of “clock-watching.”

Honestly? So did I.

Whether that was my fault or theirs, I'm not sure, but I don’t want that to happen next year. I’m looking for the type of teaching and learning that brings things into the 21st century and really ignites a passion for knowledge and discovery. I’m also hoping to arrange my classroom in a more comfortable, casual learning space. Something that promotes collaboration and innovation. I already plan to swap out my individual desks for larger tables in hopes to create a more laboratory, this-is-where-we-figure-stuff-out-cooperatively setting.  

And I’m obviously psyched to be teaching Reading again. The opportunity to talk about books with students as both readers AND writers excites me! I’ll also get to dive into Science, which will be great because I’m head of our school’s Roots & Shoots Team and really would love to get more outdoor learning into the mix. And the Science Fair? Ugh. It needs a facelift in the worst way. We've already made it digital, but the students really need opportunities to think more about real-world problems they can solve or inventions they can make. Something more than which flavor of gum lasts the longest. Bleck. 

With all the plans I have for next year, one hundred eighty days probably won’t be enough time to do it all, but I’ll channel the energy into making those days the best my new fifth graders ever had. I have all summer to strategize (while I’m not writing), and we’ll see how things go.

When does the school end where you live?  


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Rolynn Anderson said...

Chris, I love your enthusiasm and the principles that guide you as a teacher. I taught for 23 years and was a high school principal for 7 specialty was curriculum development...and based on what you're crafting for your students in 2017, I'd want you on my staff! You've got the passion AND the knowledge base for making next year fabulous for your kids. You're an author, so I realize your summer will be busy with writing and promoting, but I know it will be a welcome break to recharge yourself for the coming year. Happy summer!

Jannine Gallant said...

Sounds like you're going to have a lucky group of kids! I just picked Tara up from Cal 2 days ago. Freshman year at college in the record books. Except for the grades--still waiting for those to post. She looked like death warmed over after finals week. Kristen finishes her junior year of high school on June 16th. She just took her AP tests and has summeritis in a bad way. I expect little in the way of learning for the next month. (eye-roll) Maybe the school year should be a month shorter since they accomplish nothing the last few weeks anyway...

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I don't know when school will be over here in our area. My grandkids, who are still in school, live in MD and will be out the middle of June. My youngest granddaughter has been waging a campaign to move from the Maryland School of Arts back to the regular classroom. We'll see who wins there (eye roll). My son Steve has been teaching 7th language arts and social studies about as long as you've been teaching. He's one of those teachers who slams the door, runs, and jumps onto the top of his desk to quote some lines from whatever book they're reading. He puts on a theatric show. Also, before big, tension-filled exams, he does this one-wrestler routine. All the kids sit on the floor and he wrestles with himself, throwing himself on the floor as he argues big questions on the exam. "Who was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence?" He jumps to the other side of his "ring". "George Washington." Jumps back to the other side, wraps his arms around himself and tosses himself onto the floor and grunts and groans. "You big dummy, it was John Hancock!" And the wrestling match for one continues. He teaches uses the Socrates method. Even his slower classes like it, but I have a feeling it's his antics that capture their attention the most. Good luck next year. Sounds like your students will benefit from your enthusiasm.

Diane Burton said...

Chris, with your enthusiasm those kids will be so lucky to have you as their teacher. I taught elementary grades for 10 years and subbed for 3 or 4 (at this date it's hard to remember). The educating of our youth is for the enthusiastic. Too bad not all teachers are like that. I admire those who find what works for each student and helps them love learning. Best wishes for a great summer.

Anonymous said...

We all remember a favorite teacher from our youth, someone who has made a lasting impression on us, given us something to carry through our entire lives. I think you must be one of those, Chris. Good luck with your plans.

Christine DePetrillo said...

Thanks, ladies! I just spent an hour spray painting old chairs from my classroom to give them a facelift. I want the room to be as exciting as the lessons.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Sounds like a great plan for so many reasons. Teachers and teaching are so important and to have one who cares warms my heart. Good luck!

Leah St. James said...

I wish I were one of your students, Chris! Sounds like you have a fabulous year lined up!