I started this post in May. I worked on it a bit in June. Then I abandoned it, lonely on my computer, until I stumbled on it this morning. So I finished it off (just a little proofreading) and I share it now, even though we are far from the end of the year, and I don’t know if it will resonate with anyone here in the middle of the crazy beginning of the year season.
Thinking about making and history at the end of the year.
I get it. I really do. My feet are tired too. And I am happy to say the end is in sight. The grades are almost done. The classroom is closer to clean, and my checklist for the end of the year now fits on one page.
It is already the next page I am looking forward to. I am thinking about making I will do this summer, things I want to try for myself, things I need to make to make my life easier, fun projects I have been putting off, and most of all, ideas I have for the classroom next year. I don’t know which ones will work. I don’t know really until I try them in the classroom, but I have ideas I will try myself, and then maybe with students. I have modifications I want to make to existing projects. What can make it better? How can it be more them and less me? What are the fundamental skills for research, history, and life that I can help my 8th grade girls find next year?
I think about these changes and improvements, and I can see at least one way in which making in the classroom brings me to my best place as an educator. When we make together, or even alone, we revise, rethink, and revisit almost all the time, and we have to go back to the fundamental questions of what we are doing. Why does this work the way it does? What can we do to make it better? What do we know now that we did not know before we engaged in this process? I think more about lesson planning as making now, and it helps me do it more effectively. I also think more about assessment construction as a making process too. If this document exercise is something I am making for my students to bring out their skills and knowledge, to let them show themselves what they can do, then I can think through what I construct differently, and I hope they can get more out of it when they engage with the voices from the past and my instructions.
So what am I thinking about for next year? I have a long list, including a re-imagined writing assignment to go with the innovation of the telegraph (we build the telegraph machines, then imagine the historical experience), a different way to look at architecture (we will continue to explore 3d printing of 18th century Williamsburg buildings, but we will also take a look at more modern architecture later in the year), and perhaps a more open ended set of questions for the research project at the end of the year. I also am looking forward to the projects that have become part of the yearly fabric of my class: the silhouettes, the monuments, and National History Day.
Maybe when I get there, next year will spring some new idea on me and my class. I look forward to it.