I love the feelings and challenges brought about by a new school year. For my students, it seems to be a time for them to redefine themselves in a new learning environment and consider what they would like to achieve for the year. For me, it is a time to observe students’ interactions, take note of information that they choose to share and begin assessing them as readers, writers and contributors. In many ways, we are all working on conveying and forming initial impressions. One way to create those impressions is to share personal writing. Although this can sometimes be difficult, I chose to share my “biker bar” moment on my blog and when we begin our study of memoir, I intend to share it with my students because it will add another layer to my identity as their teacher.
In addition to sharing about their personal identities, we have also been hard at work with establishing a positive and supportive tone in our classroom. To support this effort, students wrote about, and shared, their best practices on the first day; therefore, presenting themselves as successful learners to their peers, and to me, their teacher. As a way to get to know them further, I conducted surveys about their reading habits, planning and organization. I also began reading and enjoying their literacy portfolios. As far as adjustments go, aside from seating based on IEP accommodations, I believe that after just one meeting, it is too soon to sort or draw any meaningful conclusions about who they are and what they can do. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be observing and adjusting based on their learning needs.
On the subject of technology, I have decided to introduce two tools in my class this year: a website and Google Classroom. While I intend to use the website to post links and other interesting information, the primary purpose of this site is for me to post weekly homework assignments, so that both students and parents might be able to access them. At this point, I am planning on using Google Classroom as the receptacle for assignments from students. Therefore, my website is a place where students will receive assignments and Classroom is where they will submit. I look forward to monitoring and reflecting the effectiveness of these tools. As far as my school’s policy on technology goes, we encourage students to bring their own devices, including ipads, laptops and netbooks to engage in research and learning. The policy deters the use of a cell phone as an acceptable device. It has been my experience that less than ten percent of my students actually bring in their own devices when asked; therefore, I typically supply them with a school-owned device.
In light of my work this summer, I plan to include experiences that support the development of my students’ digital identities; however, I am always careful to ensure that students communicate with me face to face because as Sherry Turkle (2011) identifies in Alone Together, “We’d rather text than talk” or in our case, students would rather send an email immediately after class as opposed to asking before they leave. Therefore, my students know that I will never address questions about grades via email and they they may send an email as a last resort. However, I will always make myself available for a conference. On a more personal note, I am very careful to not “erode the boundaries between work and leisure” (Turkle 2011). I make clear that my time spent at our dinner table, the little league football field and reading to my children is important and must be uninterrupted. I have not, and do not intent to, master the art of “multitasking.”