Same Is The New Different

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Sep
  • 13
  • 2006

My internet service provider (Earthlink) blocked sites from one specific Web hosting company (Lunarpages). It just so happens that this site, along with a few others I work on, is hosted by that one company so I couldn’t get on to this site from home for the past week. That should explain my absence.

Apart from some comments I had to delete from the classroom, the site has kept up appearances even though I’ve been gone, finding some new readers and commenters along the way. You can’t imagine my joy at seeing this site practically breathing despite no new content or involvement from your humble narrator.

The New Different

This year’s experiment is oddly phrased: the new thing I’m doing this year is the same thing.

For the past 5 years or so, I’ve made a conscious effort to experiment with something new every year. Portfolios, journals, Daily Oral Language, agendas, calendars, Total Quality Learning, people hunt, begin with a poem, group presentations, the list goes on.

The years before that I also experimented, but mostly because I don’t write plans down and I could never quite remember what I’d done the year before. It was experimenting by default, not by design.

This year, I’m doing exactly what I did last year. No kidding. Almost to the day, it’s the same homework and activities. It’s nowhere near as boring as you might think. My imperfect memory either keeps me from going over exactly what we hit last year or not able to acknowledge the similarities. In fact, it’s kind of relieving not to worry about the plan for tomorrow or next week. I have the next month taken care of and I never plan that way, thinking of my class as more organic than planning ahead allows for.

Things still flow organically, but all the literature sits in neat stacks behind my sliding whiteboards, ready to fall into students’ hands and binders. I can already see that some of what I put into place last year is happening this year: students are thinking more critically; they are all wondering what the heck is going on in my class; they are frustrated, but to the point where they go back and read; they are challenged and starting to reconsider their preconceived notions.

It’s not flawless, by any stretch. I never want to paint that picture. There are students who are disengaged and haven’t done any homework. There are other students who are participating but probably haven’t actually read the texts I’ve assigned. I need to do a better job scaffolding for students who need it, teaching how to deconstruct difficult text. It’s rigorous for some, but a joke for others.

Still, apart from figuring out some additional activities to break up the days of 45-minute “discussion” periods, I’m not sure I’ll change much and I’m already thinking that this is the way I’ll begin English 3 and English 4 in the future.

Someone please take me up on this: what about you? What’s your new different this year?


1. Debzanne says:

[9/23/2006 - 1:04 am]

You may have already read that I’m actually writing down lesson plans this year. And then going back to the plans at the end of the day to make notes. I’m excited about the potential of not redoing everything next year.

I’m also doing a lot of the things good teachers do on the side of teaching. I’m talking about what “good notes” are almost every day. I’m hammering reading strategies, as laid out by the anthology, and talking about what “good readers” do. I’m keeping my kids organized by always hole-punching things before passing them back. The tabs in the binder this year are better chosen, so I’m telling the kids which section each paper goes into. They’re things on the side, but I’m really proud I’m doing them.

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[3/14/2008 - 4:33 am]

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