Many of my friends return to classes tomorrow (some are already there, I know). I still have another week before the official beginning of the semester though when you work in an online environment, the division between semesters is not as clear (I posted reading list, syllabi, assignments, etc. to LiveBinders in early December so my students could get a head start). A new semester means a new start for us all. We can make changes in our approaches, methodologies, strategies, activities, and EXPECTATIONS. In some ways, this is why I love my job: I have the chance to change and adjust four times in an academic year. I can alter my reading lists (and this is the first semester in 20+ years that I made not changes in my basic reading lists for children's and YA literature), change texts and assignments, fiddle with grading, and adapt class policies as I need. One of these days I might just come up with the magic combinations, but I doubt the changes will ever end. There are new books, for one. The reason the reading list changes has more to do with the evolution of literature available for children and tweens and teens. Graphic novels come on the list; something has to drop off or the list gets longer. Genre lines blur, so attempting to ensure I have representation of all the combinations I can imagine means more books. Awards are presented; I read more books. Welcome more books onto the lists. Ditto technologies. My students now surf blogs, participate in Twitter chats (#titletalk is tonight), join Facebook pages, and read with ears or online in eBook formats. About the only thing that has not changed and will not is that neither class has quizzes or exams. I swore to myself that I would not give tests over books or lectures. Instead, I ask students to apply what they are learning in short assignments that can take a myriad of forms. None of this has been easy for me. You see, I HATE change. But I do know that my classroom must continue to change and evolve just as my interactions with books and colleagues has changed over the years.
And one more thing: my expectations have not changed. I expect my students to read TONS of books during our time together. And so, as the new semester begins for all of you, I wish you all great expectations. I hope you will motivate kids to read, model those behaviors we have as readers, and make time for yourselves to read all those books we will see in the coming year (perhaps as many as 10,000: better get busy).