Published Online: September 7, 2011

Checking In: What Are Teachers Most Excited About This Year?

As students sharpen fresh pencils and prepare to take on new challenges, teachers are also gearing up for some exciting school-year changes ahead. We asked teachers in the Center for Teaching Quality’s Teacher Leaders Network to tell us what they’re most looking forward to in the 2011-12 year.

Anna, middle school ELA/social studies and resource, California
I’ve been out of my own classroom for the past two years—and in many other classrooms instead as a peer coach, mentor, and co-teacher. This year I’ll spend half my time in my classroom and half supporting other teachers on campus. Having a classroom of kids that I get to be with every day is exhilarating (and what I missed most in my former position). I look forward to the challenges of this new hybrid role.

Kenneth, high school social studies, Maryland
For my regular government classes, we’ll no longer have a state test, so I want to do a lot more exploring using student interests and prior knowledge as the basis of instruction. For my AP government classes, I’m thinking about having the students help build the course. I may set it up so that they are all contributing to online resources, giving them access to more content and in greater detail.

Megan, UCF educator in residence, Florida
I’ve left my elementary school classroom for a year to work at the University of Central Florida as their educator in residence, a role that aims to connect teacher-preparation programs with public school classrooms. I'm teaching one class, working with interns, and taking part in a Bluetooth real-time coaching pilot. The best part is that I’m allowed the creative freedom to develop a variety of programs that will help university students transition to teaching full time.

Anne Marie, high school drama, Massachusetts
This summer I spent six weeks teaching in Uganda. The Ugandan people know how to solve their own problems, but the government and outside organizations rarely listen. I realized a similar issue exists for my urban high school drama students, who have great ideas and opinions that are often overlooked. I’ve never taught social justice theater before, but I’m eager to see what students do without a textbook or script. I think it will be a great way for them to problem-solve for their communities and make their voices heard.

Zachary, teacher outreach manager, Colorado
I’m stepping out of the classroom for a one-year position as teacher outreach manager for our district/union initiative. I’m glad to participate in the conversation about teacher effectiveness on a different level, while also representing teachers. While visiting schools for the assignment, I hope to use downtime to observe music teachers and engage in self-reflection, in an effort to improve my own practice as a music teacher.

Katy, K-12 intensive reading, Florida
This year I’ll again be a primary intensive-reading teacher. That in itself is exciting, as I love working with early readers who need a little extra push. In addition, I’ll be conducting my doctoral study, exploring the role of teacher knowledge in the teaching of at-risk learners. The research will include videotaping teachers and unpacking their thoughts on their instruction and students' learning. I look forward to learning from my colleagues and improving my practice while working to finish my degree.

Ernie, middle school social studies, Nevada
After teaching middle school electives for the past 10 years, I'm moving back to the core and teaching 7th grade U.S. history. When I left core (as a science teacher), we used only a syllabus to guide us—no standards. The profession has certainly changed since then! This will definitely be a learning-curve year.

Claudia, high school English, Oklahoma
In addition to teaching my regular 150 high school students, this year I’m working with a local university’s master’s of curriculum and instruction program and teaching an English education course at another university. I'm looking for ways to connect my high school English students with my pre-service university students. I think we'll work in a Goodreads group and share book talks; I may also have the university students interview the high schoolers.

Rob, middle school language arts, Florida
Working primarily with middle school students throughout my career, I quickly learned how positively they respond to choices. I let them choose writing prompts, books, and occasionally even an assignment’s due date. This year I’m going to attempt a quarterly assignment that challenges 8th graders to choose any three things learned during each quarter and show how each can be applied.

David, high school social studies, California
This year I’ll be talking to my superintendent about hybrid, or "teacherpreneur," roles for our teachers on special assignment, as well as with the state teachers’ association about our progress on a teacher-led policy think tank. As part of the Center for Teaching Quality’s New Millennium Initiative, I’m excited about reconnecting with other Bay Area members and recruiting new teachers around the launch of our new report.

Beth, middle school math and special education, Illinois
I took a leadership class this summer that focused on parent partnership, so my goal for the school year is to create strong relationships with my students’ parents. I plan to start the year by meeting them in their homes before classes start.

Tiffany, elementary gifted teacher, Florida
I’ll be working as a new teacher mentor this year as part of the Empowering Effective Teachers (EET) initiative in Hillsborough County. Providing support to our new teachers will allow them to teach with confidence and in turn support student achievement. I’m enthusiastic about this role, especially the opportunity to embark on two years of learning about the great things happening in our classrooms.

Cossondra, middle school math and special education, Michigan
This year my school will have a new principal, who has background working with extremely high-risk students. I’m optimistic about the direction our new leadership could take us in curriculum alignment and assessment. This principal is supportive of teacher leadership and is actively seeking input and direction even before the year begins.

Jeanette, middle school Spanish, Iowa
While teaching introductory Spanish to teachers this summer, I tried out a second-language learning method created by Blaine Ray that focuses on storytelling. The teachers were surprised they learned so much in so little time, and I’m now energized at the prospect of trying this method with my middle school students.

Maria, middle school special education, Washington, D.C.
I’ll be working in a new international baccalaureate program this year as a special-education teacher/inclusion specialist. At our recent orientation, I was amazed by the diversity of this group, as well as by the enthusiasm, eloquence, skills, and talents of the team members. I’m thrilled to be working in an international context to prepare our students to become globally competitive in this 21st-century economy.

Mary, high school English, Virginia
This year I’ll be teaching creative writing for the first time. I’ve taught journalism in the past but never creative writing, so this will be an interesting change of pace. For a half hour each day, I plan to have the students simply write.

Paul, high school science, Florida
As a peer evaluator in Hillsborough County’s EET initiative, I look forward to the challenge of being an effective evaluator, witnessing great teaching every day, and forwarding the progress of this new era in teacher evaluation. I also look forward to a critical year in teacher activism; with so many potential changes swirling about, it’s more important than ever for teacher leaders to advocate for the profession and the real needs of education in a competitive global society.

Sean, high school social studies, Colorado
On a personal level, the staff members I work with are amazing, which makes it enjoyable to collaborate with them professionally. Last year we really dug into our data teams and have come up with other processes we want to use this year. This, and the fact that we’ll have a lot of structure, support (teachers and students), and time has made me welcome the start of this school year.

We’d love to hear what you’re enthusiastic about this school year. Leave a comment and let us know!

—Leanne Link

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