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By Guest Writer: Arpine Ovsepyan
Back-to-school season is officially here. Thousands of students, parents, teachers, and administrators say good-bye to the carefree summer days and hello to the structure and routine of school. As you prepare for this transition, it is vital to take some time and reflect on how to make this a season of renewal and empowerment—not burnout. Too often, I see beginning and veteran teachers reach a plateau in their instructional practices because they have grown accustomed to old habits that do little to challenge them or their students. Having worked as both an educator and a mentor, one of my favorite aspects of the back-to-school season is the opportunity for renewal that presents itself as we return to the work of making a difference in the lives of our students.
Some of you may be wondering how you can experience this sense of renewal as you grapple with the pressures of designing new lesson plans and assessments based on the Common Core State Standards, deal with ever-increasing class sizes and ever-decreasing resource allocations, or prepare to teach a new subject or grade level. Although there are always new challenges like these to face, the key is to start every year by remembering what motivated you to enter into the education profession in the first place. For me, that motivation is a desire to make a difference in the lives of the students with whom I work. Regardless of the age group or grade I am teaching, I experience a sense of renewal when I design new, innovative lessons to help students learn.
For example, every year I teach the play Julius Caesar to my classes. However, every year I have a new group of students, and each student comes into my class at a different level of proficiency in the English language. Therefore, every time I teach this classic play I use a different approach in order to meet the needs of my students. By always taking a fresh approach, I end up feeling empowered and not burnout. I have seen students write outstanding comparative essays between Julius Caesar’s Brutus and John Wilkes Booth; I have seen students create modern-day versions of Julius Caesar by re-enacting scenes; I have seen students rewrite parts of this classic Shakespearean play in the form of comic books and rap songs.
All along the way, I remind myself to apply the concepts of universal design and differentiated instruction when creating my lesson plans so that I am sure to scaffold instruction for all of my students and help them reach their personal bests. I also collaborate with colleagues, both in person and online, in order to research innovative ways to keep students engaged. I am an educator, but I am also a life-long learner, and I try to always model this passion for learning with my students. I welcome each day of instruction as an opportunity for renewal and empowerment.
As you stand in those long back-to-school sale lines, I strongly encourage you to seize this season of renewal and empower yourself. Adopt new habits that will energize and revitalize you and your students in order to make this the best year ever.
Bio: Arpine Ovsepyan is an award-winning educator and Class of 2007 ASCD Emerging Leader.