I began my 2015-16 school year in earnest, wanting to improve upon my mistakes from the 2014-15 school year, of which there were many. I had spent the summer reading books like Drive by Daniel Pink, Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom by A. J. Juliani, and Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess and I was ready to try a lot of new ideas. Here’s what happened in August 2015.

What I started:

  • free-for-all group seating
  • a teacher-led brief synopsis of compliance versus engagement in the classroom setting
  • a personal pitch to the students so they could begin to understand my “why” (see feature image)
  • a placemat activity based on what the classroom should look like, feel like, and sound like according to the students
  • a learning styles quiz and learning profile card about the students by the students
  • a brief introduction to Haiku Learning, our new learning management system
  • soliciting student feedback via exit tickets (see image, below)

What I stopped:

  • assigned row seating
  • a half hour discussion of my classroom “rules”
  • a 15-minute discussion of the biology course and grade bin weights
  • a handout for the students to tell me a bit about themselves
  • filling every moment of every period with “to do” items, there was a lot of what educators on Twitter are now calling “White Space

I stopped being in 100% control and started sharing my vision for teaching and learning with my students instead. The compliance didn’t necessarily go away, not at first, but the engagement definitely improved a lot. If I had August 2015 to do all over again I’d do the same things in a heart beat. No regrets!