Driving home today, I had a quirky thought about what to do with my next notebook.
This came about because I got a compliment today on my Extra Large Moleskine calendar notebook that I'm not really using as a calendar, but instead, as an expensive composition notebook.
I forget what my co-worker said, but she complimented the look of my black notebook with the elastic strap holding it shut.
Did she say it was sophisticated?
I can't remember.
I'm definitely not someone you would consider 'sophisticated.'
I had the idea to transform my next notebook, which will probably be an inexpensive composition notebook, into something a bit more functional, something that mimics the Moleskine-style notebook.
I'll staple a strip of elastic to the back cover so I can keep the notebook shut, and I'll tape card stock on the back cover to create a pocket to keep important papers.
But that's not why I'm writing. At this point, I assume you'll think I'm obsessed with the idea of the teacher notebook.
You're not far off.
Once I finish one notebook, I'm quickly off to the next one. It feels like I've accomplished something when I write on the last page of any notebook. Then, I stack it on top of my other notebooks in my cabinet and move on to the next.
If this is what you do, too, we need to stop this.
As an elective teacher, I switch classes every nine to ten weeks. I teach four different quarters. This is nice because it gives me a chance to refresh with each quarter. If I didn't like how I'm running the show, I get to hit the reset button.
Because of this, I get to teach similar concepts multiple times a year. What I realize is, I don't usually teach a concept the same way twice. I'm always mixing it up.
Sometimes I mix it up so much, I forget that I've done some amazing things in the past.
I mix it up so much, that it almost feels like I'm reinventing the wheel. Constantly.
This can be exhausting, and this quarter I finally looked at myself and said, "Stop doing this!"
It was time to reach for my past notebooks. I needed to look through all my archives to see what I had done in the past that I really liked, or take what didn't work quite well, and revamp it.
Our reflections, lessons, notes in those notebooks are much like the stories/novels a writer creates. The best advice a writer will give after they finish a story or novel is to put it away for the time being.
Then, after a certain length of time, the writer will look over the work again, with fresh eyes, and begin to edit it.
I needed to look through my old notebooks with fresh eyes.
Some of the those good ideas might not have been executed very well the first time, or some of those good ideas were great ideas, and then we forgot about them...and didn't do them the next year...
Let's not do this again.
This quarter, I sat down with my stack of notebooks, and although I didn't go through them with a fine-toothed comb, I flipped through them and waited to see if something caught my eye.
Something did: The Writing Marathon. And I used it this week.
My goal this quarter is to work smarter, not harder, with my planning. One of the best tools I have is myself. I've been through countless PD seddions. We all have. Some of the ideas handed out during those meetings are actually quite beneficial...but then we forget about them, don't have time to implement them at that moment, put them away for a rainy day. It's the same when it comes to ideas discovered on Twitter during edchats and the like.
Although I'll always continue to change things up when it comes to teaching journalism, there are some tried-and-true pages in those notebooks that I have that I need to make sure I revisit.
I may even rewrite some of those ideas into my latest notebook.
Those notebooks are a treasure chest of great ideas, and also, memories of reflection: that worked great, that was terrible, remember when I did that because it was such a trend in education?
I hope to go back through them again before the quarter is over and find another juicy tidbit of teaching excellence that I can dust off and reuse.
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy, but sometimes...we can be our own best resource.
Who is The Vade Mecum
Evan Williams is a middle school journalism teacher in Indiana. He advises the student publications: yearbook, magazine, video announcements, broadcast and online news. To find success in the classroom, he uses blended learning with the help of Canvas and Google Apps for Education.