Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy First Day of School!

Today is the first day of school. This summer has been ridiculously short, and although it just seems as if I was posting Alice Cooper's anthem to the end of school, already we're back again. The past eight weeks have been fast and full.

My son graduated from high school. Pam came home from Iraq. I've done a ton of professional development for school. Had a little time with the family in Ocean City and enjoyed spending the Fourth of July on the beach with a million (that might be an exaggeration) of my fellow Americans. Did I mention Pam was home? (A lot of time spent chillin' with her). Although I haven't done my "What I read this Summer" post yet, I have plowed through some books, and I managed to get some writing done as well.

And the highlight of my summer? I went to RWA in Orlando.

The positive residual effects of my busy summer are still making waves in my life like ripples in a pond. I'm starting school today with a positive attitude. I'm excited to meet my new students, and I'm excited about new opportunities as a teacher. My classroom is shiny and welcoming. I've even put up a new bulletin board. (I hate doing bulletin boards and rarely change them, so this is a milestone.)

My lovely new bulletin board sports several pictures of gorillas and chimps. In large letters running vertically down the left side, it says APE. APE is the acronym I use to help students start thinking more analytically.

A = Assertion
P = Proof
E = Evaluation

When students discuss what they've read or seen on the news or how they believe life to be in general, they lob opinions into the discussion like grenades. (Adults do this too, by the way. Where do you think the kids learned it?) Rather than let those grenades confuse my class, I will teach the lobbers to APE their opinions. You've made an assertion, so where is your evidence? Find the piece of text or the fact that supports your assertion. Then, connect that evidence to your assertion with good commentary.

I will model the process for you.

My assertion: This school year will be my most rewarding to date.

My proof: Last night at Open House, I had approximately 100 parents and students come in and visit with me. I have sign-in sheets and email addresses as hard evidence.

My evaluation: When two-thirds of your students' parents make the effort to walk through the doors of the school to shake your hand, you know you have parents who are engaged. When parents are engaged in their child's education, the child is more engaged. Engaged students create dynamic classrooms. Dynamic classrooms are fun places to be.

Happy First Day of School! It's gonna be a great year!

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