"I only know one truth. It’s time for 2017 to end."
Okay, so maybe Luke Skywalker didn't say these words exactly, but the sentiment still (sort of) works. This is going to be my final blog post of the year. 2017 has been quite the ride. I appreciate the two months you have spent on this journey with me. I hope to make 2018 even better with content that is even more in-depth, thought provoking, and humorous. A quick bit of business before we get started. I’ve had a number of people reach out to me (six, to be exact) to tell me that the comments section has not worked for them (that they have not been able to post a comment). I have identified the issue, and I believe I have fixed it. SO, if you would care to test out the new system by adding a comment to this or any other post, I would greatly appreciate it. I’ll even randomly send a holiday gift card from Starbucks to one lucky commenter. I also want to be sensitive to the people who have somehow managed to avoid seeing the latest Star Wars movie (The Last Jedi) in the three weeks since it’s come out…this post doesn’t contain spoilers, per se, but it does include a few references, so read at your own risk.
Okay, on to the final post of 2017...
New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday. I just love it. I love the sense of reflection it creates in our culture and I love the fresh start and the endless possibilities a new year brings. It’s like how any human with a soul feels when the title scroll flies by at the beginning of every Star Wars movie. What I don’t love are clichéd, end-of-year articles and news segments that are about as self-indulgent and lazy as a scene featuring an oiled-up, shirtless Kylo Ren.
Buuuut, now that I’m a content creator, I do see the value in creating something for the avid readers while not punishing anyone who’s spending time on a yacht in the Mediterranean or skiing down a Diamond Head trail in the Swiss Alps (I imagine my readers are mostly comprised of sexy British spies from the 60’s).
So, as 2017 dwindles down to its final hours, I thought I’d grab some body oil, take off Adam Driver’s shirt, and quickly reflect on where I hope to find myself this time next year. So strap in and prepare yourselves for another clichéd, self-indulgent, and shirtless year-end post. As always, please feel free to respond to my goals (or share your own goals) in the comments section below—I promise, I’ve fixed the issue:
1) FLEXIBLE SEATING – I have a pretty small room and three different classes (9th grade English, credit recovery, and 12th grade AP Literature). I’ve managed to figure out most of the logistics behind getting the furniture I want/need and how I could #FosterSuccessWithoutDesks, in nearly every one of my classes—with the lone exception being my AP Lit class. In 2018, I need to figure out how to create an environment that allows for flexible seating while also providing students with a space that is conducive to taking timed tests and writing timed essays (y’know, the stuff of an educator’s dreams, he said with an unhealthy amount of sarcasm). Maybe I'll need to move my AP students to the library (or another room) on timed test/essay days. Like an Imperial Star Destroyer tracking a Rebel ship through light speed, I just don’t understand how it’s possible (#YET). But I do plan on figuring it out (flexible seating, that is…and then maybe even the lightspeed tracking thing) and fully implementing it in 2018.
2) PARENT ENGAGEMENT – Renowned educator, Dennis Littky once wrote that, “Parents are the student’s first and most important teachers…” (The Big Picture, 2004). Jedi master Yoda once said, “The greatest teacher, failure is” (The Last Jedi, 2017). I’ve managed to embody more of Yoda’s words than Littky’s as I have tried and largely failed at getting my families more involved in my classrooms (particularly with my freshman). I have found ways (through platforms like school email, Google Classroom, Class Dojo, and Remind) to communicate consistently and effectively with parents, however, I have not been able to break through the barrier of physically getting parents into my classroom for things beyond parent-teacher conferences. I hope that in 2018, I can create a system for my parents that will not only allow them to take part in my class, but also perhaps reward their participation in class-wide learning.
3) STUDENT TEACHER – For years, it has been a goal of mine to work with a student teacher and I’m finally fulfilling that goal in January of 2018. Like Luke Skywalker did with his padawan, Ben Solo, I cannot wait to fully impart my knowledge and views on education into the mind of a young and impressionable educator. Hopefully, the resulting relationship won’t also end with a duel outside of a martian salt mine [laughs nervously].
4) LEADERSHIP – I’m sure you’ve recognized by now that each goal for 2018 has had a Star Wars reference/theme to it (particularly, Episode VIII)…but I’ve gotta say, with this leadership goal, I can’t think of a single parallel I can make with Star Wars. Just kidding. I CAN THINK OF ABOUT A MILLION PARALLELS!! For me, the biggest parallel comes from the moment when a disillusioned Luke tells idealistic Rey, “The legacy of the Jedi is failure, hypocrisy, hubris.” These qualities are ultimately the downfall for all kinds of leaders (not just Jedi). As I continue to develop my leadership skills in 2018, I hope I can be a force for change (see what I did there?) without alienating/isolating myself from the people I work with. In 2018, I want to grow as a leader while avoiding the same trappings of the many attempted-leaders who have come and failed before me—both Jedi and non-Jedi.
5) AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT – Not that this really has to do with my teaching, but I want to engage more with my audience on my blog and on my social media accounts. I have yet to truly figure out how to create more of a two-way (or twenty-way, even…why not?) conversation through any of these platforms. So far, it’s been mostly me transmitting my opinions into the void and hoping they will impact at least a handful of people (like my opinions are a some kind of surprise Jedi hologram originating from a remote island on an even more remote planet). But the problem with “sit and get” engagement is that there is very little bounce-back—very little engagement. The whole purpose of creating this blog was to foster a conversation between educators and non-educators about a topic we are all familiar with. I’m going to play with a few formats in 2018 to see if I can crack this. Together, we can rule this galax…uh…educational reform.
So there you have them: my top 5 goals for 2018. Do you think I’m overreaching? Do you think I’m setting the bar too low? I’d love any insight or feedback you may have on my goals. Or, if you have personal or professional goals of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments section below!
Thank you again for reading this blog, subscribing to my email list, and for following my social media accounts. You have all made these last two months so profoundly special for me. When I created this blog, I never once suspected that it would come to mean so much to me so quickly—and I have a lot of you (with your kind and supportive words) to thank for that. I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve. I hope your 2018 is filled with endless promise and possibilities and that all of your goals are achieved. Until then, I’ll be signing off from the blog until January 4th.
See you around, kid.
For daily visual updates, you can swing by my Instagram account (@teachmemrwest).