School has fully started for me now -- both my teaching and my doctoral class. While I always mourn the loss of loose summer days, I am a teacher because I do still love the start of school. I have a few goals for this year:
1. Deepen the collaborative work I have done with the wonderful Katie Dredger at Virginia Tech. Katie and I have used a Ning to link preservice teachers with my AP English students as they study Othello (see post here about this work) . Katie and I are going to try to link her students and my freshmen this fall in a study of poetry. I already use a Wiki for my students' poetry work -- they post their own poetry, their favorite poems by other authors, and recordings of their poetry recitations. Having this new platform to experiment collaboratively with is very exciting for me (and leads to me next goal ...).
2. Develop students' understanding of collaborative learning through new media and technology. My freshmen this year used a few different technology tools in Middle School, and I hope to build on their experiences with an emphasis on linking to others through these tools. We have started this on their blogs, as they have been excited to receive comments from each other. (Maybe you will comment on a post too!) We will use these blogs as joint repositories for our ideas about short stories, and we will talk at the end about how they are a great study guide since there are so many ideas to test your own against. We will move to the Wiki later this fall where they will put their own work out there more directly for comment, and I am excited to have Katie's students as an audience for this work. That is still for me the major roadblock for taking full advantage of the collaborative learning potential of Web 2.0: finding an audience. Students lose steam when they are only interacting with their teachers online, but it can be very hard for teachers to find strong collaborative relationships to create audiences for their students. Yes, there are students out there who end up finding their own audiences, but that is rare, to be honest, in the world of everyone as a blogger, tweeter, and vlogger.
3. Dive deeper into my study of collaboration through social media platforms. I was able to write about my Ning work last spring in my doctoral class. I hope this fall, as I am taking Research Methodologies, to move into full research of this work. Once again, Katie and I hope to work together on this, with her mentoring me as I am new to "official academic research."
4. Stay clam and in the moment. My most important goal. My children are growing, my body is waiting for me to take care of it, my bookshelves are filling with future reads, my trees will drop leaves to be raked, apples will grow that need picking and canning into applesauce ... These are the things I want most to do as I also work on my professional goals above. I have made this goal many times in the past and, to be honest, not done very well achieving it. This school year is different though, and while I am not fully sure why, I think I know a big reason.
I spent this past summer for 6+ weeks in my first "summer doctoral institute." While I learned a ton and enjoyed it in many ways, I also truly wore myself out. My eyes were bloodshot from all of the reading, my legs were stiff from all of the sitting, and my brain was too full to take in anything new. Yes, doctoral students hold these ailments as badges of honor, and certainly going through these stresses does warrant congratulations. However, I do not want to live my life that way, and I went into this doctoral program with the self-promise that it would not consume me. I had no idea how I was going to make sure it didn't (I am no better than all of the doctoral students who have cone before me, so who I am to do it differently?), and I failed at it this summer. But it was not a total failure in the bigger sense of things. Instead, I have seen clearly where I do not want to end up, and I have seen how I got there.
So, I have been doing very well ever since stepping back and doing only what I can, trusting that what needs doing will get done. My biggest achievement has been not griping at my kids every morning as I get them ready for school but instead enjoying the time I am lucky enough to have with them since we go to school together and remain together until I walk them every morning to their classrooms. That is an amazing thing I get to do, and I know it will come to an end as they get older. Better enjoy every minute of this now.
I will be back to this blog throughout the year each time I find myself failing with my fourth goal ... because I know I will fail and regroup many times. Here's to 2011-2012!