Wow. Four weeks slipped by before I even realized I hadn't updated this page on our personalization journey in class. I know it isn't much of an excuse to an audience of teachers, but I just had too much going on: hosting focus groups, planning a professional development session, and unfortunately, we lost a student last week. It has been one of those all-too-familiar spells where teaching is all consuming and getting through the day-to-day takes every spare second. In fact, last weekend, I put in about 14 hours trying to prep my next unit and catch up on grading.
That said, my hours paid off for you as well. Unit 4 of my College Board aligned units is posted and free! Unit 5 is still in early access, but it'll be available Dec 1.
But for right now, let's talk about what has been going on in AP Language...
Personalization Tip #5
Change is scary. Be persistent.
My experience with personalized learning has been years of trial and error. Were you to look back on my posts, you would see many versions and variations of what I use and have used. From the outside, it may appear as though I kept "throwing out the baby with the bathwater," but in fact, each variation has informed the next and played some role in defining what I currently use.
Today, I am known in my building for personalization strategies and standards referenced grading. However, I would say I am far from an expert. I've just tried the most things.
I mention this not to brag, but to explain that the process of creating a personalized classroom is time consuming. Over the course of that time, one will face a lot of questions, and sometimes, these questions can appear as people trying to put you off the move.
In fact, I had a conversation with an administrator this week. We were talking about reassuring teachers that they would be supported in giving out rational consequences, and I mentioned that many teachers don't feel supported when it comes down to a tough decision. The administrator was perplexed as to why anyone would feel they wouldn't be supported, and said, "I might ask a few questions, but..." I told him that there is a misconceptions that when people ask tough questions, they are trying to set you off or change your practice.
Personalization - or really, any venture from traditional education - elicits a host of these tough questions. At first, I too felt threatened by questions from administrators and parents. I also wrongfully assumed that these questions were meant to discourage me.
What I found is that the longer I kept at it, the easier these questions were to answer. Not only did I have evidence from past classes to support my choices, but I had spent more time thinking about the practices myself. In other words, the more I had to answer questions, the more I understood the teaching practices themselves. (Seems kind of backward, right?)
The bottom line is this: don't let questions put you off trying something new. As much as we assume negative intent with parents and administrators sometimes, it really is unfounded. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team, and best practices speak for themselves. Yes, there will be the stray challenge, but the more you reflect and refine your method, the better you'll feel about responding to obstacles and inquiry.
We can all agree that American education is in disrepair, or as some would say, broken. We can all also agree that change is difficult and intimidating. But change is the only way to see any real reform, and that change happens one classroom at a time.