Welcome to what I hope is a great experience for all of us: the 2017-18 school year.
Let me tell you a little bit about what I think is important in an English class, and how those values shape what we’re going to do. Just so you don’t think these values are whims or that I developed them independently of credible voices in both society and education, I’m creating a page of links that contains much of the research basis for my approach, and my twitter feed also features articles that inform the way I go about my job as your teacher.
First and most important, I think we all need to laugh. Every day. Just because we’re dealing with serious literature or serious topics in our writing, that doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves too seriously all the time. If we work together to have a positive class environment, and we communicate with each other to take the stress out of the work, then you’ll be able to look forward to coming to our class each day, and you’ll learn more effectively.
Second, your education is about YOU, not about what I tell you you should do or know. This means I will give you a lot of choices, and I will often respond to your questions with questions rather than answers. Choice and self-discovery sound like utopian ideals in education, but it can get a little annoying at times, I’m told. Nevertheless, I will persist. After all, no college professor ever asked a student, “So, what did your high school English teacher think about this book?” You’ll be a lot better off learning to trust your own thinking.
Third, how much you learn is more important than how much you already know. As you move into your future, your ability to learn new tasks and concepts is going to be a lot more important than your ability to recall obscure details from the book we’re reading right now. As a result, my approach to grading weighs how much you learn equally with the qualities of your work. You’ll get feedback on both, and obviously, the more you improve as a learner, the better the quality of your work.
Fourth, you’re a person, not a student. An English class should provide you with opportunities to engage in activities that are personally meaningful (see Value #2). At the same time, you have other classes, activities like jobs or sports or arts or service that you choose to do, families and friends. My goal is to assign work in a way that minimizes the amount of time you have to spend on English class outside of school, which only works if you make sure that you use your class time productively.
You’ll certainly have more questions about the details, like rules (I really don’t have them), policies (eeesh!) and grades (I hate them!). But we can deal with those at a later time. I hope you’re looking forward to our first class; I know I am. See you tomorrow!