I cannot believe that it is August. And that August, as far as summer goes, is so SHORT! In my district, teachers go back on the 14th, and students return on the 17th, which is a jarring reality check after having the entire months of June and July off.
Recently, I was having a talk with Laura Sexton, who I not only consider to be a mentor, but a really close friend. As we were chatting, it came up that I didn’t know if I could reuse last year’s syllabus, or if I needed to make a new one. Another key component to this story is that last year’s syllabus is good. It’s pretty, I still love how it looks, it has almost all of the info that I need, can be resized/moved around/adapted easily, and only needs a couple of modest changes. I mused aloud if changing the color would be enough to make it “new” or “different.”
What Laura said to me next really hit me, and has stuck with me as I’m preparing this year’s back-to-school resources: “I think it’s a sickness that we can’t be satisfied and reuse.” Now, at first glance, that might seem like a harsh thing to say, but Laura and I have a great relationship and if you could see our looooooooooong history of GIFs, freak outs (mostly mine), encouragement, and real talk, you’d see it like I see it – as truth.
It’s a sickness to never be satisfied. I don’t know if truer words have ever been spoken about the plight I feel (and a lot of us feel) as a teacher. I am never content with things I’ve made in the past, always trying to redo them completely or make them better, and in the words of another amazing mentor, I’m trying to “sacrifice the good on the altar of the perfect.” (Thanks for those other heart words, Sara-Elizabeth!)
I’ve got a lot going on this year – teaching a new (to me – sort of) class, taking on grad school, being a part of the #langchat team, plus my personal stuff like “seeing my husband, ever,” “making sure there’s food to eat,” “pretending like my house is clean sometimes,” and my multitudinous church-related commitments.
So with Laura’s advice in my head and heart, I modified last year’s syllabus. I didn’t change anything major. I resized a few boxes. I changed the font sizes and deleted a few topics we might not get to. I added in that contingent about translators. I FINALLY remembered to add my sliding grading scale. I ditched the parent/student signatures because of the hassle that became last year. I took what would have been hours of work and got to allocate that time to things that I really need to do. And somehow, I’m not just okay with that decision – I’m happy with it. I still do love my syllabus. It covers everything I want. It looks good printed in black and white, and is only two pages. I think that’s a total win (and I will share it with you soon, I promise.)
What else am I planning to reuse this back-to-school season?
- My back to school resources, like student info sheets, getting-to-know-you activities, and maybe the syllabus scavenger hunt (or maybe I’ll ditch that like I’m ditching French names.) I actually bought and made editable copies of these activities, so if you’re interested, I got those here (made for English classes but mostly applicable for WL!)
- My proficiency activities from last year – crepe talk, movie descriptions, and analogy making are all still good and relevant. Maybe I’ll add in a few things here this year, but I won’t be starting from scratch.
- My first few days of French 1 – although I’ll change their order around, these activities really seem to work for me each year and my students seem to really like them.
That leaves me time for those things where I might need to “reinvent the wheel” (for good, I promise):
- My AP Syllabus that needs submitted to the college board (more on that later)
- Short-, medium-, and long-term planning for AP (ditto)
- Making Meredith’s file folder selfies work for me/my students
- Deciding on a go-to rubric (maybe) before school starts
I encourage you to find ways this back-to-school season (and all year, really) that same = enough. Because with all that’s going on this year, same = enough and enough = amazing.