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by STEMteachersNYC Chair-Elect Mark Schober…
In early May, Frank Noschese tweeted, “It’s that time of year when you’d rather plan for September than next week.” The deep truth in Frank’s statement resonated with me. My physics courses were running well, but there was no shortage of little things nagging at me — desired adjustments to class expectations, possible improvements to lab requirements — things that couldn’t be changed at this point in the year, but if I could, would result in less work for me and more learning for my students. Exhaustion from yet more grading made me much more interested in improving my course than marking the next pile of quizzes. I was highly inspired to plan for September, but only had time to add a few sticky notes to my teaching materials.
During the school year, my curriculum binders become coated with notes I write to myself, often flagged with sticky notes, about how kids responded to various questions, what issues they had, better examples for developing a concept, real-world connections I’d like to include, improved statements of learning objectives, and so on. By the end of the year, my binder is a sunflower radiating petals of sticky notes pointing the way to an improved course for next year.
Once the school year ends, however, those sticky notes aren’t at the front my mind. The months of neglect my apartment has seen requires deep cleaning, my dog and I both need longer walks, and I finally get to see a few movies. I get out of town to touch base with family and I get a bit more sleep. The renewal of summer begins.
Summer also lets me think about teaching in more philosophical terms. I tackle some reading about learning and take field trips to indulge my curiosity in science and technology. I also gear up to be a part of summer workshops and conferences in which I am enriched by the ideas of others. It’s the contact with other teachers that improves my reference frame for going back to those sticky notes. As I hear and see what other people are doing in their classes, I’m again inspired to tackle those sticky notes to improve my courses, and I now have the time to do it.
Everyone has their own summer renewal routine, but I hope that yours includes time to reflect on the past year while preparing for the new year with an infusion of ideas from reading, workshops, and teaming up with other teachers. This summer, STEMteachersNYC is offering a range of workshops to help, from three-week Modeling Instruction workshops in middle school science, high school physics, and high school chemistry, to a one-week workshop on graphical problem solving in physics, to a one-week camp to develop curriculum and make exactly the kinds of curricular upgrades I’m talking about. Come join us and let STEMteachersNYC be part of your Summer Renewal!