New York City teachers report to school tomorrow, and I can feel the wave of seeing colleagues and preparing for the first day. I have my Japanese whyteboard markers ready to go, and I just bought a 72-pack of Dixon Ticonderoga pencils (in my opinion, the best standard pencil on the market). But the big question still lingers: How do I incorporate what I experienced this summer into my own classroom? I’ve had this question stewing on my back burner since I got home, and I’ve been waiting to articulate some intentions. I guess you could say I was slow cooking this stuff in my head. Here are some thoughts:
KenKen Program: It was always my intention to start a KenKen club after school, and I plan on doing so. One big takeaway from my time in Miyamoto sensei’s class was his use of one puzzle at a time as well as a timer. I will keep a point system as he does and post the rankings. I’m very curious to see how the students respond to this.
Great Lessons/Problems/Puzzles: I will always consider the fact that there is no substitute for a great question, problem, or lesson. Sometimes all it takes is 1 and you can spend 45 minutes on it. With a great problem or puzzle, the management often takes care of itself.
Say Less: This may sound silly, but I will try to say less this year. If Miyamoto sensei can say next to nothing, I’m sure I can trim down what I have to say significantly. I think this comes from being extremely confident in your ability, your material/lesson, and your class systems.
Super Challenging Puzzles: I will use puzzles that are intentionally much harder than the students are used to. I won’t help them or give them hints. I will really let them struggle, and I will be tough on them to keep trying.
Competition: I will have a quantified reward system where students can compete as opposed to just prizes and rewards for good work. As I have gotten older, my sense of competition has faded. I’m much more into cooperation rather than competition. But I have seen in many places, especially Miyamoto sensei’s class, that young people thrive on friendly competition. I’m sure I can teach some good sportsmanship in the process.
Patience and decorum: Every student in Miyamoto sensei’s class displayed extremely good patience and decorum. If a student had their hand raised and Miyamoto sensei was turned around, the student waited until he saw them. No questions asked. Despite the fractured and impatient world we live in, I still see these values as very teachable. It will take strong conviction, but my experience this summer has greatly strengthened that. I have started a ‘How to be a good student‘ document that I am considering giving out this year, and I would love any and all feedback. It is intentionally direct and somewhat harsh, but I believe this is necessary to get the point across. Feel free to comment directly on the document.
Buy-In and Excellence: All in all, the reason the students give 110% and raise their performance in Miyamoto sensei’s class is they buy into Miyamoto sensei himself. They believe in him, his problems, his process, his classroom. They believe they will be excellent under his tutelage. This buy-in is one of the biggest keys to an effective classroom. I know the students believe in me and School of One, so it is just a matter of me taking it to the next level.
There was so much that happened this summer that I’m sure I’ll have more revelations and connections to this summer as the year goes on. Thanks to everyone for reading. I hope it was as rewarding for you as it was for me. For all the teachers out there, apply to Fund for Teachers and make your professional development dreams come true!