Enjoy being new

The start of the school year finds me wondering what will engage my students as I also get used to a new building, school philosophy, city and culture. Towards the end of summer, my family and I said our goodbyes to the Pacific Northwest and hopped on a plane, but our destination was a new one: Beijing. New faces are everywhere and the school is simply massive. Surely I walk the long way each time I need to go somewhere.

Enjoy the exploration!

Enjoy the exploration!

Several days ago during one of the many orientation sessions, the head of school made a presentation of the theme enjoy being new. Slow down and savor the newness. As teachers, the start of the year often equates to hectic days and long nights as we race around trying to complete the mile-long to-do list. Can this be avoided? Maybe not, but at the same time savor the newness. New relationships are being made – don’t just squirrel away in a room but make the time to smile and meet coworkers and other people in and out of the building. Explore. What hidden treasures lie on the campus that can be useful later in the year? Observe. What parts of the school culture are deeply embedded in the way things work? Question. How in the world do things get done or where are the magic doors that create shortcuts to the cross-campus jaunts? And, when the students arrive, savor every minute of it. They walk in as a group of excited beings fresh off a school break. What is it that they want to talk about? What have they been up to? What hidden talents lie beneath the surface of each boy or girl?

So, I’m pretty pumped up for the new year! If anyone out there has other nuggets of advice for extra appreciation of new starts or views on the upcoming year, pleas share!

Syllabus Revision

Tick tock. The beginning of the school year is just around the corner. Unlike the September start in the Pacific Northwest, we get going the first week of August. Reading John Burk’s Syllabus Challenge led me to a makeover of my own syllabus which had been a modification of previous years. Blah. Pages of text that students quickly fed to the lurking backpack monster (this thing has been starved for a couple of months so it quickly munches up the death sentence of summer).

My goal was one page of essentials. I’m still trying to sell a shift to Standards-Based Grading but my explanation met with a good dose of trimming. Too much explanation last year led to confusion. Assessment is a starting point for conversation and I want a grading system that quickly moves away from a score to where a student is on a learning continuum. Here is the current version…