Sunday, September 4, 2011

First Week of School!

2011-12 is off to a great start! This first week of school, my fourth at CFS, has been a very different one for two reasons. First, I've spent it almost entirely in the Middle School in preparation for my first year as an advisor (more on that in a moment). Second, my daughter just entered the Lower School as a first-grader! Hopefully I won't be jinxing anything by saying this, but M's first week of Lower School has been absolutely incredible. She has literally been bouncing up and down from the time she gets out of bed until lights-out at night. She has been slightly indignant that I hadn't revealed every detail of the Lower School to her ("WHAT??? We get to do WOODWORKING in River class???"), and she is quite anxious to start music class with me next week. I must say, that creates a bit of anxiety for me, as well. For better or worse, I will be her music teacher twice a week for the next four years and beyond!

Ever since I started teaching in the Middle School, I have wanted to be an advisor. Advisee groups are the heart and soul of the CFS MS. Much more than a homeroom or source of academic advice, each advisee group serves as a year-long (or, in many cases, 2-, 3-, or 4-year long) mixed-age family for each student in the school. Made up of 8-12 students in the 5th-8th grades, groups have long meetings twice a week, take care of their advisor's classroom each day, and can check in with their advisor any time. Advisors serve as each advisee's advocate in the MS and a first point of contact for parents and teachers. Advisee groups perform service projects together, participate together in special events (such as the famous "Egg Drop" competition on Science Day), and go on two Advisee Outings each year.

Generally, part-time staff in the MS are not advisors because advising is practically a full-time job in itself! However, my situation is a bit unusual in that I am a full-time faculty member at CFS, and my schedule is already compatible with the advisor schedule with only a little tweaking. So this first week of school, for the first time I have been an Orientation Group leader in the Middle School, instead of splitting my time visiting both units. OG's are temporary groups until everyone goes through the advisor selection process over the next two weeks. I've had a great experience with my OG so far and it will be difficult letting them go! I also REALLY miss my Lower Schoolers and can't wait to see them all next week. Teaching kids all the way from age 6 to 13+ is, for me, a favorite aspect of my awesome job, and I feel out of balance when I'm only in one unit all week.

Regular classes start after Labor Day in both units. I have lots to look forward to this year besides my advisee group! Here are a few highlights:

  • I'll be going all-out with technology integration this year in the Lower School. I have acquired four iPads and one iPod touch (soon to be two) that I will be using as a regular part of my composition-based curriculum along with my interactive whiteboard, student MacBook, and donated older iMac (thanks Dad!). I'll be updating regularly on the blog and can't wait to share the results of our projects.
  • I have a new resolution this year to never have a Lower School music class without singing! I'm already pretty good at this–I can probably count last year's 1st- and 2nd-grade classes without singing on one hand–but I tend to slip in the 3rd and 4th grade as we spend more time on recorders and other instruments. One of my major goals as a music teacher is to obliterate the statement "I can't sing," and I think this is a very important step.
  • I'll be teaching my "Musician's Workshop" elective for the second time this Fall in the Middle School. I loved this class last Fall, but I also feel that I learned a lot of things from last year's kids that I will be able to use to create an even better experience for young musicians this year. My top goal in this class is to do a better job with differentiation, so that my beginner composers learn as much as my experienced musicians. I hope that, over time, student musicians will see this as a repeatable class they can use each year to build their skills and create exciting new projects.
  • One last resolution... I will keep my blog current throughout the year instead of posting occasional gigantic updates. I won't go so far as to commit to a specific number of updates, and I won't overwhelm parents with daily updates, but I WILL post more consistently.

Here's to an exciting new year! Happy Labor Day!