The 20% Project was an incredible experience, hopefully for my students as much as it was for me! I am so happy this project happened in my elective class; it allowed me to really hone some of my tools of instruction (reflection blogging, Problem Based Learning, to name a few), and allowed me to see my students in new ways.
Making it Matter
One reason I struggle in my instruction of Economics is that I have a very hard time making it relevant, especially when teaching microeconomics (the only Econ I teach, unless you count my online Financial Literacy course). In Comm Media, I've been able (I hope) to show students why it matters in every example. We did close readings in ads, tv, movies... yay, Common Core!... and related media to the everyday experiences of the students. In such a class, it was very easy to bring in whatever fad the internet created, since we could talk about it in direct relation to the course. (Dove Real Beauty? Perfect! Dumb cat videos on youtube? Excellent! Last night's results of *insert reality competition show here*? Fantastic!) The same happened in Humanities--we looked at themes that were not only fun and different from a typical honors level class, but also had relevance to real life or even just got them thinking.
I received very few papers on paper this year. My Comm Media class meets in a computer lab, so it was very easy for every assignment/note taking activity/do now/whatever to happen in Google Docs. I didn't
I also run a completely online course, but this is a what went right post, so I'll say that it makes me so happy when kids comment on things I share or assignments they have to do that the thing/assignment was helpful and/or really made them think.
I've done a lot of connecting this year. Connecting with teachers outside my district through social media, but also sharing a lot of what I've read or learned. I used to be afraid of sharing resources I found on Twitter; so many people are afraid of social media or don't like it or think it takes too much time to be useful. With that said, so many people have mentioned that the resources I've shared this year have been helpful or funny or whatever, and there's been talk about getting me a stipend for the tech stuff I do (some of it in jest, some of it serious). It's been a great way to make a niche for myself.
I've also embraced a new attitude and say hello and/or smile at everyone in the hallways, especially in the mornings. My schedule has left me with more time (teaching 5 classes, even with four preps, is way easier than teaching 6) and thus I've been way less overwhelmed with preparing and grading. I think this has been especially important as I teach this online class--I have an entire grade of students that "go" to the school in which I consider my home base but don't really have many face-to-face contact with them. So, smiling at everyone makes me have a happier day and also (hopefully) let's them know that even though it seems like I do nothing but give them work, I do care about them and want them to do well. At least, I hope that's how it's being perceived!