are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a
habit." – Attributed to Aristotle, but in fact it's by Will Durant, who
is attempting to summarize some rather more complicated quotes and ideas
from Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. So it's an Aristotelian idea, but the quote is not his.
Habits are so difficult to build, and so easy to break down. For as long as I have been teaching, I have been trying to build good habits of "classroom" journaling – by which I mean taking note of what works and what doesn't in the classroom, of recording in a consistent way what the next homework is, what the next chapter is, how we did on the last chapter. All those basic out-of-the-classroom day-to-day management issues are hard for me to stay on top of. I mostly succeed, but I've done best where there were external structures in place to guide me. By "external structures" I mean the required lesson plans when I was at the public school, or the LBridge online "syllabus" that we had to fill out and adhere to.
In my current work environment, I have despaired of ever getting such external structures, no matter how many times I tell my boss that not just I but all our teachers and staff, not to mention students and parents, would benefit from the consistency and reliability having such structures would promote.
Having despaired of getting such a thing, I keep trying to come up with new ways to be organized, despine my inherent disorganizational tendencies. Lately, I've decided to try to leverage my "good habits" around this blogging thing for my work. I have started another blog. A work blog.
The idea is to post there my students' next homework, and compile in one place the results of their work. It took quite some time to get it working the way I wanted it to, and I have been using it consistently now for only about two weeks, but I'm pleased with the results. If I can make it into a habit and stick with it, and begin to broaden its contents to include more things, it could be a major piece in becoming more organized.
Given that I'm the main "speaking" teacher (which in my curriculum means mostly "debate" teacher), I have for some time now been recording on video student work (speech tests, panel debates, etc.). The new blog offers opportunities for that, too.
So, without further fanfare, I present my new work blog: jaredway.com. [Update 2013-05-30: due to some concerns about the large amount of student content on this new blog, I have set up a password protection for the site. If you're interested in viewing this blog I will be happy to share login information with you. Sorry for the inconvenience.]
I dont actually like the name I've given to it. It comes off as a wee bit narcissitic, doesn't it? But I already own the domain-name (which is convenient), and I wanted to come up with something memorable for my students (i.e. easy to find online, and easy to tell them about), and I was wary of overlapping my personal "brand" as a teacher with the "brand" of my employer – my goal here is not to produce or support this technology for my hagwon but for me personally, since ultimately if my employers wanted something like this, well… then they should do something like this. It's not my job to be a "technology guy" for a Korean hagwon – it's not what I want to do, and if it was what I wanted to do, I'd be making a LOT more money doing it.
Its primary intent is for communicating effectively with my students, and not least, for communicating effectively with myself. In only the past two weeks that I've been posting homework on there, I've used it twice to open the blog on my smartphone and see what a student's next homework was so I could tell that student, while away from my desk. That's convenient.
Having said that, I also see this new work blog as part of consolidating in one place a sort of "portfolio" of my work as a teacher. I will try to post my student work there as well (e.g. essays, pictures, etc.), not just videos (although as I said, as a speaking teacher, video has become a substantial component of my work).
I hope this new work blog is successful. So far I've only told a few students about it, but I imagine it being handy for things like telling students where to find out their next homework, etc., too. I wish my workplace would provide an environment like this that all the teachers not only could use, but were required to use. I think it would go a long way to developing a feeling among customers that we were leveraging technology effectively for improving the hagwon experience.