Spring Break 2014: A Recap of the 2013-14 School Year . . . So Far

Wow! It has been since July 2013 since I posted on here. That’s no good, but it is because I have been crazy busy! This year has been full of good stuff so far, and I wanted to take a moment during the 2014 Spring Break to give you a brief recap of what’s been going on so far in the 2013-14 school year.

First, let’s look at English III, which is my American Literature class. Last year I felt like I was kind of just floundering. I was struggling from day to day to keep my head above water. I experimented with different styles and methods. I never felt like I found that perfect combination that worked for me. So this year, I tried something new. I went against my initial inclination to avoid using the textbook, and fully adopted the textbook as my guiding source for the class. As much as I hate to admit it, I love it! The class has gone so much more smoothly, and I like to think the rigor has been positively impacted. The textbook goes in chronological order, which is exactly what I wanted as the class is supposed to be a survey course. So far, we’ve taken a few diversions to go a little more in-depth with an author (Edgar Allan Poe, for example) and read Edith Wharton’s “Ethan From,” as well as a few other short stories outside of the textbook. I’m especially pleased with the time using the textbook has saved me. Instead of worrying what I’m going to do each day, I just keep going through the text, which frees up my time to develop projects over special sections of the course. Some of the projects have turned out great! And, of course, some didn’t go as well as I would have hoped. We did take a break and write a argumentative paper, which was designed to prepare the students for the research project they will be taking part in after Spring Break 2014. First, though, we will be tackling my favorite novel of all time — “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I can’t wait!

Now, let’s consider my freshman communication courses, Media and Public Relations and A/V Production Fundamentals. I adopted a textbook. I’ve developed new projects. The rigor of the course has increased, and I feel like I am covering more information and, hopefully, learning more. I also adopted a textbook for one of my other communication classes, 21st Century Journalism. This class focused on reporting, law and ethics, and journalism history. It went well. Just like the freshman courses, it was only a semester-long class, so for the second semester I turned it into Special Projects In Journalism. The first task I gave my students was to sell advertising for a 24-page basketball tournament program. They didn’t fill all the ad slots, but we made a nice profit and produced a quality program. I was very pleased! Then, I turned them loose on selling advertising for our yearbook. This is a big deal because it was the first year in the school’s history that the yearbook had permission to sell advertising. They have crushed it! They have filled 10 pages with advertising! I’m blown away!

Speaking of yearbook, which I call Varsity Journalism because I want my students to look at student journalism as something equally important as sports, the student editors also embarked on something new. They decided to do a chronological book, which means we tackle every season as it comes (Fall, Winter, Spring) instead of doing a traditional treatment to events (all the sports in one section, academics in another, et cetera, et cetera). It is turning out great, and I can’t wait to see the final product this summer. Also, in terms of how I teach the class, I kept with my athletic theme and create a Boot Camp to get everyone who is newer to staff all trained up and ready to go. This didn’t go as well as I would have hoped. Some students didn’t feel like they needed to be brushing up on this information, but for the green staff members, it helped quite a bit. I’m still sorting through how to effectively give grades in this class, since the final product is what really matters. I feel like this will be an ever-evolving process, so I’m not too worried. The staff has been under some strange tension nearly all year. This is something I’m investigating and will take steps to remedy for next year.

Also, this year I became the CTE Coordinator for the building (see this blog post to learn more about what CTE really is). I’ve enjoyed it, despite the sometimes frustrating nature of the work. I’m learning a lot about it, and I look forward to continuing to work with it. I feel like this is an area where I can have a positive impact on the staff at my school. It’s a service role, but it provides me with sense of feeling like I’m part of team, which I prefer instead of feeling like I am working in a vacuum. Want to talk about CTE? Connect with me on Google+: https://plus.google.com/+TRVogts/posts

Though I’ve been lax in posting to this blog, I have been diligent about updating the Homework Repository (http://mrvogts-homework.blogspot.com/). I created this homework blog quite a while back as a safety net for my students. It is there for them in case they forget what the homework for the day was or just wanted to remind themselves about it. Also, it eliminates the excuse that they didn’t know about an assignment. It is posted on the blog every day, and I tweet (@toddvogts) (@mr_vogts) out a link to the post each day. I rarely post what is coming up on this blog because that isn’t the point of it. It is purely to help the students keep abreast of what is going on in the class every day. I like it, and I like to think it has served my students well.

Other than all of this, things are going well. I’m sure I’ve overlooked a thing or two, but that’s what I get for waiting so long to write a post. I am going to work on that. One thing I feel I need to do more as a teacher is reflect. I haven’t done that as much this year, which is why I haven’t posted often. Blogging on here is how I reflect, so in my never-ending quest to improve myself as a teacher, I going to make a conscious effort to reflect more, which means blog more.

Oh, and in the coming days and weeks, I will have some exciting news to share. I’m going to make the official announcement on here, so stay tuned!

Most importantly, though, have a great 2014 Spring Break!