What I Did on my Summer “Vacation”

holiday washed awaySchool starts on Friday with a day-long department conference, and classes begin on Monday.  I’m tempted to say things like “Where did the summer go?”, but I’d been putting it on.

The summer didn’t seem short.  (Some Montrealers will retort, “Summer only began last Friday,” but I have nothing against cool, rainy summers, so I feel satisfied with what I got.)  It was filled with events, mostly revolving around the death of a beloved elderly cat, the acquisition of two new kittens, and the relentless health problems of said kittens, most of which we hope will abate now that the kittens have been plugged with all sorts of drugs.

In June, I committed to a project called the Professional Development Meme, in which I listed three professional goals to accomplish over the summer, and agreed to blog about them once the summer was done.  So here, again, are my goals, with commentary on whether/how they were achieved:

I did read the book, and I enjoyed it a lot.  Willingham is a cognitive scientist, and his thoughts on learning either reinforced many things I’ve learned, or suggested new perspectives.  He asks questions like, “Why Do Students Remember Everything That’s on Television and Forget Everything I Say?” (Chapter 3) and “Why is it so Hard for Students to Understand Abstract Ideas?” (Chapter 4).  The book is very readable, and whether or not you agree with all his ideas, it’s a pleasure to sink into them and his lively storytelling voice.

As for the book club discussion, I’m afraid I fell short there.  I made an effort at the beginning, but then my cat died, and so I didn’t feel up for chatting about “differentiated instruction” and “21st-century skills.”  I found the tenor of much of the (sparse) discussion in my group very jargonistic; I was always delighted to hear real stories about people’s experiences and thoughtful reflections on Willingham’s ideas, but I found many of the comments so dense and dry that I couldn’t invest the little energy I had in wrestling with them.  I intended to check out the other groups’ discussions (there were 4 groups in all), but by the time I had recovered from my grief enough to make the effort, the book club had finished.

So that was a bit of a bust, but I’m glad I read the book, and I met a couple of interesting teachers through the book club.

I left some preparations to the last minute, and the kitty illnesses have taken a bite out of these last two weeks, so I’m a bit behind.  My plan for the blog project is half-baked but workable.  I’ve put together an evaluation grid, a list of suggested topics, and an outline of due dates for posts and comments.  I need to create a handout of guidelines, and Scheduling still hasn’t called me back to confirm I can use a computer lab for the blog introduction class.  However, if all goes well this week, I should be able to get the blog assignment up and running.

  • Develop a new course! Preparation for College English – I’ll be teaching it for the first time, and so must spend the summer refreshing my TESL skills.
  • This one I’m a bit concerned about.  I have a textbook.  I’ve put together a tentative course schedule.  I taught ESL for years, so theoretically, I have a bag of tricks just waiting to be opened again.  However, I’m finding it hard to get my plan off the ground.  I’m worried that it’s going to be a very dull course if I don’t find some inspiration that has so far eluded me.  In particular, I need to put together a plan for keeping lessons both content-heavy and fun.  Suggestions welcome.  (Maybe once I lay my hands on some actual students it will get the wheels turning…)

    If you have any advice to offer me about how to spice up my courses or get more out of book club discussions, I welcome your suggestions!  And I’d also love to hear about your summer vacation and whether you accomplished all you desired.

    Image by Chris Windras


    professional development meme 2009

    I’ve been tagged by Tracy Rosen; thanks Tracy! This meme recently appeared on Clif’s Notes.


    Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2009 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

    The Rules:

    NOTE: You do NOT have to wait to be tagged to participate in this meme.

    *Pick 1-3 professional development goals and commit to achieving them this summer.
    * For the purposes of this activity the end of summer will be Labor Day (09/07/09).
    * Post the above directions along with your 1-3 goals on your blog.
    * Title your post Professional Development Meme 2009 and link back/trackback to http://clifmims.com/blog/archives/2447.
    * Use the following tag/ keyword/ category on your post: pdmeme09.
    * Tag 5-8 others to participate in the meme.
    * Achieve your goals and “develop professionally.”
    * Commit to sharing your results on your blog during early or mid-September.

    My Goals

  • Read the book Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham and participate in the book club conversation around it over at Dangerously Irrelevant.
  • Develop a plan for introducing blogging into my Travel Literature course this fall.
  • Develop a new course! Preparation for College English – I’ll be teaching it for the first time, and so must spend the summer refreshing my TESL skills. In particular, I need to put together a plan for keeping lessons both content-heavy and fun. Suggestions welcome.
  • My Tags

    Maggie McDonnell

    Prone to Laughter

    When In Cairo

    Line 46

    Mister Teacher

    Clay Burell

    Mr Teacher

    So You Want To Teach?