Having spent the year working on my teaching practice, I now have the moment to reflect. Throughout the year, I worked with a mentor teacher to focus on improving my means and substance of feedback, the methods I use to clarify purpose to my students, and new ways (for me) to motivate and engage my students (including the use of technology in the classroom and game-design principles), based on congnitive science findings which explain how and why we’re naturally motivated. Over the year my classroom and my role in it has changed significantly.
In the next 5 blog posts or so, I’m going to reflect on my areas of focus for this professional development experience: I’ll explore the things I’ve done, particularly in the design and implementation of my courses, I’ll examine what improvements, progress, or changes I have seen work or not work, and I will look ahead and consider changes I’ll make for next year.
For those of you who don’t know, I teach both Art studio courses (9-12) and a year-long Cultural Studies course (9th) at an independent boarding school called the Lawrenceville School in central New Jersey. The 2011-2012 school year will be my fifth year teaching (here or anywhere). Our students are co-ed and range from 9-12 grades. They come from a variety of backgrounds; there is no typical Lawrenceville student.
Having gone through this school as a student myself, now ten years ago, I’m struck by the diversity of our student body. While I remember there being an effort toward diversity while I was a student, I now see the fruits of our admissions department’s labor. Our kids come from everywhere, and represent so many different cultural backgrounds. If there’s anything that ties them all together, it’s their potential to do well in a rigorous residential learning environment. And as every good side has a bad, they also have the great potential to be shaped by whatever culture dominates the landscape of Lawrenceville presently. In some ways, it builds their character; in other ways, it strips them of their unique perspective, their genuine curiosity, their passion for life and learning, their inherent creativity.
So, with the good comes the bad. Hopefully I will touch upon this element as I make my way through this series of blog posts.