SBTL, swim, chem, baseball, I talk with my hands
It’s been five months since my last post, “First Semester Recap.” Over that time, a lifecycle of events has spirited through me. I chaperoned a student trip to Guatemala. I retreated to the snowy northern US for family connection and healing. I experienced major family milestones that I doubted would happen. I swam almost daily, setting a new PR for my 100-yard freestyle. And I experienced a major shift in my professional life.
When I arrived at my current school, I made a pact to reboot my focus on my teaching role. I eschewed responsibilities that took me away from my teaching. I dedicated my work to finally becoming the teacher I wanted to be because I knew I had fallen short. Almost seven years later, I am out in front of a major organizational shift in the teaching culture made possible by the work I piloted. My focus is now dominated by thoughts of SBTL: Standards-Based Teaching and Learning.
SBTL is a more expansive way of thinking about what I have been crafting these past few years and labeled as SBG (Standards-based Grading). Looking back, the “grading” part was my gateway into larger conversations about how educators can operate in the classroom. Thinking of this as a “grading system” misses the main idea: HOW we structure our classes is where the transformation occurs, and the grading is the residue.
And what happened to me? How did I go from an “admin-adverse” old goat to an actual admin leading other teachers down a different path? I found the most perfect souls with whom I connect and who believed in me and the power of change for all students, and we charted a path. It’s as if the essence of Chemteacher has been unleashed. I am constantly challenged, supported, and collaborated [sic], and I look forward to the next day. I will write a separate post on the structure and challenges of the plan, but I love that I am part of something bigger than just my classroom that could impact all the students.
So what does this have to do with sophomores, the title of the post? After my last post, some students found my writing and asked me about it. “I have screenshot the post, so you can’t change it, and I have shared it with everyone.” If I were in their position, I might feel the same: an old teacher complaining about students and posting online. What was missing from the post was this: I LOVE MY SOPHOMORES because they challenge me to be better. When I am frustrated, that calls me to be better. I write these blog posts for myself, a sort of diary, and it is incredibly challenging to work at this school. Yet there is no other place I want to work as they are the most inquisitive, passionate, demanding, hilarious, and capable students I have ever met. It takes all my efforts and planning to meet this challenge, and I am grateful for them daily. They have spurred me to do this work without knowing. They inspire me to be the best version of my teaching self possible.
I love my sophomores: thank you for this year.
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