Thursday, December 17, 2015

Day 86: Finals are hard

Finals day two and the kids were working hard. I am a firm believer that a final, feel like a final.  Not that it should be excruciatingly hard, but that it take a prolonged length of concentration, thinking an d performance.  It should be an assignment that makes the kids bring their "A" game. They should be proud of what they did when they are done.   It should feel like they accomplished something.  At the same time, the final needs to reflect the skills and content that were taught, not introducing or assessing new skills and content.  I often see people throw in a presentation, but I wonder- did they focus on scaffolding good presentation skills all semester?  Have they done three already with feedback and now this is their chance to show proficiency? Cuz if not, it should not be part of a summative assessment, like a final- in my opinion.
It would not be sustainable for students to have to bring 2 hrs of intense focus and concentration, reading and writing and processing every class, but a Final Exam is great practice in being able to suit up and show up for them and their learning esteem.

When you don't let kids give up they listen.

Finals are hard.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Day 85: First Day of Finals and Pancakes

Today finals for 3rd and 4th period- Yearbook and Government.  Yearbook, our deadline was today- so we made pancakes and decorated our computer lab hoping it will be all finished by the time we return in January. This was the first time we had the opportunity to just hang out with each other without me hounding people. It was much needed and a lot of fun. We were laughing and dancing and singing a lot- oh and eating pancakes.  I am hoping to incorporate more of that fun into our yearbook business next semester.
My Government students did great. The majority of my students were prepared and very successful. After grading the multiple choice and the 4 short essays- there were only 2 D's- the rest A's, B's and C's!!! No F's on the final???? That has never happened in any of my classes before.  I was stoked to watch them work so hard( many stayed after school to finish) and happy to see they learned content and could demonstrate grade level writing and reading skills.   I will hope my other classes come just as prepared.....

I wasn't even sure if the kids in yearbook liked each other until today.

Pancakes are crowd pleasers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Day 84- karaoke study time

Today was a review for the final and bond over karaoke kind of day.  I started each class today with a popular karaoke song and by the end every kid was singing or moving their lips and ALL of them were reading the whole time.  My new justification for karaoke in the classroom is reading practice.  And well, its fun.  Moving into our study cram jam time everyone was in a pretty good mood, including me. I didn't feel sick- forgot I was sick- but feel my itchy throat again tonight. I guess I did sneeze a few times today.
My Government final is part multiple choice and part reading and writing.  It will take them 2 hrs and some students are stressed about that.  The thing is, I give them all the questions and reading before the day of the final so they have time to really read the articles. Those that prepared ahead will do great, the rest- we will see.  Nonetheless, the Seniors are on fire with after school and completing past assignments and assessments.  My juniors not so much.  I have never had so many juniors with F's. Bummer.

Sometimes parent meetings are not enough.

You can bring 'em to water but....

Monday, December 14, 2015

DAy 83- uh-oh itchy throat

A little itchy throat last night before bed. Home now.  Didn't know I was fighting something today until I left. Just got home. Going to bed. Guess I'm human.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Day 82- I was so proud of them.

Its 11:13 on Sunday night and I am about to blog about Friday at school. I have been making this my habit, blogging on Sunday night about Friday, but not usually this late.  I did take a nap today so that should help me survive tomorrow.  However- if any new teacher's are reading this...I do not recommend going to bed this late to start off one's teaching week. DO as I say not as I do! Goes well with my modeling post the other day....
Friday was an overall super fun day of students learning and working. Most of my work was done before class which is how it should be!  In Gov. we did a jury simulation where the students acted out an abridged version of a copyright case between MGM and Honda.  They were all engaged, they learned about how things are run in a court room ( we set up our Socratic Seminar room like a court room). After the case they got into jury deliberation groups and had to practice coming to agreement while looking at law and evidence. It was the first time I tried this particular one, its from iCivics. It was very clear and challenging at the same time.  Today I was most impressed with my 6th period. I have quite a few newcomers in that class and they all volunteered immediately to play a part.  I get all vklempt when I see students wanting to challenge themselves and take educational/life risks.  I was so proud of them.
After school we had a CocoaCram. One of our Asst. Principals introduced it for tutorial. Finals are this week so she suggested we pay teachers to stay for tutorial and offer the students hot chocolate on Friday.  It was a huge success. When I went down to get some hot chocolate, they were like 200 kids in line for cocoa! Oh one last was PAJAMA DAY at school!!!! A+ all the way!

Kids really like hot chocolate and students need practice with scripts to help them be in front of the class.

No blogging this late on a Sunday night!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Day 81- Modeling, very important.

Started the morning with a Senior Class meeting.  We are trying to get more Senior involvement so decided to switch it to Advisory, first thing in the morning, instead of lunch time.  It did improve attendance- a little over 30 as opposed to 3-7 at the lunch meetings.  Myself and the Senior class President created an agenda for the meeting the other day but somehow, she forgot to show(or something). I ended up running the meeting which I decided in the end was okay. I keep saying I want them to run the meetings and take care of all the business- but I realize they need modeling!!! Just like me, when I see an effective leader doing PD or running a staff meeting- I learn from them, I watch them carefully.  What makes me think that these 12th graders even know how to run a meeting.  They may never have seen anyone do it well or correctly.  So I did my best to delegate duties, ask for input and inspire the people who showed up. I even openly apologized for making a joke that led to everyone laughing and at a students expense.  It was basic- "I won't be the one to write the memo- I don't write good", said the sweet willing student, " It's you don't write well," and laughter ensued.  I closed the meeting with an open admission of sometimes wanting attention and making jokes at others expense, and an apology to the student. Modeling, very important.

I need experts and role models, so of course the kids do too.

I am the expert and the role model when I am in the classroom. Never take it lightly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Day 80- we are getting down to the wire

The best thing about kids doing really poorly in my class is seeing their faces when they come in and make up work. A "D" to a "C" is pretty excited face- but a "F" to a "C" or a "D" to a "B"- those kids I should take pictures of and plaster their proud, relieved faces on fliers for my tutorial.   I try to keep the focus on learning and not getting a grade but it sure is hard when we are getting down to the wire and they need my class to graduate.  Nonetheless, I do see how much easier it is for some of these kids to learn when it is just me and them or just a few of us.
Today after school was the staff holiday gathering at the Principal's house.  Its always nice to see my colleagues outside of school and the end of the party was the highlight for me with rag tag entertaining karaoke, from Cher to Aca entre nos!  The party ended at six so it wasn't that crazy- everyone was well maintained.  I am happy to report that the hostess, the Principal, made vegan chili!!! I never get vegan options at work-like gatherings(conferences, anywhere), and it actually made me feel more belonging than I would've ever expected. I mean, its just some chili.  The kicker is I took the leftovers in the crock pot and when I exited the freeway it spilled all over my car! There goes my environmental footprint reduction- I'll be hosing down that car for quite awhile to get the chili stains out.  Oy vey- I guess sometimes meat is easier.....

I do feel like an outsider sometimes when I don't drink and don't eat animal stuff.

My feelings of separateness are made up lies from my ego and pride self. The belonging is the truth.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Day 79- Ich liebe dich Oma!

The big news today- the fire Marshall came by school to check the rooms and I have to move my Oma out of the way for easier access to the fire extinguisher.  She's German- she would understand- actually she probably sent him from her grave.  Ich liebe dich Oma!(I love you Grandma)
I had two very apologetic and hard working boys from my 11th grade class with me after school for a few hours- now let's see how they are tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day and I will assume only good intentions on their part and make sure that's where I'm coming from too. It's just easier to teach Seniors with my style and I am spoiled. My 11th graders keep me creative and my Seniors give me space to be creative.
I wish I could have a conversation with someone about tomorrows lesson but its kind of late. I will talk to my partner because she is my white privilege, cultural awareness and sensitivity expert.  So tomorrow in US History we will look at poems, art, music and the club scene from the Harlem Renaissance.  Students will  look at common themes throughout these mediums and write a constructed response inferring what life was like and how these things influenced African American identity during the 1920's.  The part I want to make sure I am not being to careless with is having them compare and look at modern African American identity  by making a group collage of music, poems, art and trends for African Americans today.  My students don't have a lot of exposure to black folks so they could very well go to negative stereotypes and promote prejudices.  I am going to address this before we start. Remind them to be mindful if someone who was a race other than their own was making a collage about their racial or ethnic identity, how would they want to be represented? Maybe that's what the assignment should be first.....

A-ha: I still have a lot to learn about cultural humility and cultural awareness.

It's almost vacation!!!!!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Day 78 -class on the soccer field from now on

Who has two parent meetings a week before Christmas break???? I do I guess.  I started things in such a great mood and I remembered to stay present and clear but  a few of my 11th graders could not control themselves today, so I called their parents during class.  I have thought of doing that a few times before but today I did it. One parent showed up within 25 minutes! I couldn't believe it.  It is so interesting when I ask a kid to describe their behavior and they say "it was bad, I know I was acting wrong". Can you imagine knowing something is completely wrong and bad behavior but doing it anyways? Yep- I thought so.  SO they are just little teenage humans that I guess I can never get too mad at and they know it.  They need a lot of practice in self control and learning about situational appropriateness.  My other students parent came after school and he was a nice man but seemed a little helpless about his wild child too.
That's it- class on the soccer field from now on. I wish.

It really takes me a long time to call home about a child's behavior.

Call home about behavior right away. Ignore my ego, trust my instincts.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Day 77 - Its flying by

On Friday I had an appointment in San Jose at 5 and had to bolt out of school right at 3:15 to get there on time. And of course, tons of Seniors were trying to come in for tutorial and make up work/tests.  I was there all week folks, I told ya I would not be available Friday! Selective listening, students do it often- teachers do it at staff meetings.  Next week is the last week of content, then FINALS.  Its flying by and suddenly students are getting scared...(they need my class to graduate).

On a lighter, different note- I took a random poll of my seniors on Friday about sex education in schools.  We were discussing the Senate passing the bill to defund planned parenthood for a year and repeal major aspects of Obamacare.  Having one of my teaching credentials in Health and being a former health educator, I jump at any chance to broach this topic with my students. This topic being health education of any kind, especially topics surrounding sex ed.  As we were talking about the movement of this bill and what they predict will happen if/when it gets to Pres. Obama's desk, the conversation shifted to planned parenthood and school sex ed. I took this opportunity to poll my students on how effective their own sex ed at school was.  In my very impromptu, unofficial poll; I had the students rate their sex ed learning experience from 5 to 1 fingers, 5 being the most informative, empowering useful information and one being they put on a video.   Mostly 2 fingers in the room and a few 3's , 4's.   As a class we talked about whether sex education  helps reduce the number of unwanted teen pregnancies or not.
And here is a another article I may use on my 11th graders as we look at Margaret Sanger's influence in the 1920's and the influence and similarities seen today.

A-ha: Kids want more sex education, beyond 9th grade.

Reminder: Be clear, consistent and present on Monday.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Day 76-I couldn't stop laughing

So today was right in the middle - no highs, no lows.  I did get a lot done though.  I'm starting to plan my Economics course for next semester and am realizing that since I am keeping the same students, I will rollover some government and start with government spending.  I have never actually had enough time to go deep with it in Government so I feel it might be an easy way to ease them into Economics. High school kids/ people are so afraid of economics!!!! C'mon people, its just the study of scarcity and choices- reality, basically.  I am trying to choose a supplemental text for us to read and I don't want to just choose Freakonomics without looking around a bit more. Suggestions?  
     In other news today, the juniors loved their Kahoot and struggled with document analysis and my Yearbook class seems to be figuring out how to self start and direct themselves.  OMG, I just remembered something hilarious(to me, at least).  The Kahoot was on trends of the 1920's and one of the questions was about advertising. I slyly used an old feminine hygiene product ad as the image for that question- just to make some teenagers uncomfortable. Well in the middle of the Kahoot, one of my very eager not so mature juniors yells out at the top of his lungs, "TAMPONS!!!!".  I couldn't stop laughing, on the inside- a little on the outside.

Its nice to have days that are not registering on the richter scale.

It is want I want it to be.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Day 75- Write the final before the semester sta

I was done with work today by 4:00 pm!  I can't think of the last time that happened.  I dropped my car off at the shop for an oil change and was able to take a quick after work nap.  I guess this is what normal folks do. I like it.
We had a collaboration meeting after school that was very successful for morale and connection and didn't really try to be anything it wasn't.  Very basic work, trying to create the multiple choice portion of our US History final.  We got one teacher down to 50 questions instead of a hundred which was quite an accomplishment.  I personally will roll with 30 and even that is hard for me to do.  Some students are used to m.c. tests and can do well but others not so much. Also I hate testing them on things they can look up the answer to on google.  When they need to remember that info again, that is exactly what they will do.  I much rather have an application of the knowledge for their final.  It takes a long time to grade finals when they are essays, but I think it is worth it.

Every year I drop the ball on writing the final before starting the semester. When will I learn.

Write the final before the semester starts, not at the end.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

DAy 74- I am a better teacher when I am being observed

I am a better teacher when I am being observed. I wish it wasn't true, but it is.  Today a student teacher observed my Government class.  She had asked yesterday so it wasn't like I pulled out all the stops or anything, just a normal class with direct instruction, small group discussion, a fun game and closure writing.  So what I noticed was different or more on the forefront of my mind, was my referencing my learning objectives and my clarity.   It should not take someone observing me to be that explicit with my instruction.  I know all the facts and ways making the learning visible is necessary for students to do well but I guess I do not practice it enough.  I was very deliberate today and very clear.  I must continue to be that much of a model for teaching.  Its almost like I get a little lazy when someone is not in my class, or I forget the importance of slowing down and being explicit. Its moments like these that reallly help me appreciate this blogging and reflection- I get to hold myself accountable for what I know I can do better.
Class went great today-not perfect but kids learned and being aware of the learning goal made it very easy for the students to recognize when they weren't on track or understanding- and they asked for help and clarity. Not only from me, but also their classmates.  Lets see how much they remember tomorrow......

Focusing on my behavior and not the students behavior will keep me a better teacher.

Use my equity cards everyday.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Day 73- Back to work

Everyone seemed genuinely happy to see each other today. We all had a much needed time to remember how much we like the people we see everyday. Or maybe I should speak for myself. Started the 1920's in US History and I had the kids at prohibition and gangsters.  We do a station activity that gives a collaborative overview of the decade as an opening to the unit.  Too many students for my taste are failing that class but I am letting go and showing up. After school, the students who want to pass and improve their grade are coming. The rest I will just keep waiting for after school. Two weeks left of teaching in this semester and then finals.  I love the 1920's and oh how I wish we had more time!

Kids might fall in love with History if we could just spend time going deeply into an era without time crunches.
There is always room for change.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day 72- never listen to the naysayers.....

Tuesday was a wonderful day. Someone asked me why and I said, "because it wasn't Monday!". Also because it was the day before Thanksgiving break and I started the day with a lot of gratitude in my Advisory class. Students were paired up by their appointment clock and discussed 3 things they were grateful for. The bonus was to mention someone they would make extra effort to be kind to over this holiday. Whether its someone that really is in need right now or someone they haven't been too grateful for lately. I had to hold back my watery eyes as I listened to some students talk about being extra nice to their Mom or Dad to make up for their behavior lately. Or extra nice to an uncle who has cancer and I heard one kid promise to be nice to his little sister. I guess the moving part was that they recognized that they could be treating people better and they wanted to do that. I hope they remembered their hearts over break.
I know some kids remembered their college recommendations and personal statements over break- my email has been blowing up! Without a doubt, there are always students who wait til the last minute.  I guess its like the IRS mailbox drop off on the evening of April 14th. Are we the only species that procrastinates? I know we are the only species that pays taxes but still...I wonder.
Reading personal statements is always an honor and an eye opener. Some of my students stories still surprise me. Their perseverance does not. I know how strong they are. I hope my students know how strong and capable they are. If I can only convince them that they can do anything they set their minds to and to never listen to the naysayers.....

Holidays without my Mom or my family do not get any easier.

Be aware of my own emotional sensitivity around the holidays to keep me from taking too many things personal in my classroom and at work.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Day 71 -need to admit that I really need this Thanksgiving break

SO...  I think its time to admit that I really need this Thanksgiving break coming up.  The last few days I have had a lot of stamina as usual, but not so much tolerance. Today for a good few minutes I felt like quitting teaching.  I've never felt that way before. I was just kind of flabbergasted by the complete disregard for my care and effort and other students desire and right to learn.  I didn't yell or scream at them,  but I gave them the "you are breaking my heart and my spirit" speech, which would've included tears if I was that type. I might get watery eyed a little when I am moved by something, but just not a cryer.  And I wasn't angry, I was genuinely heart broken and utterly confused with what I should do. SO I decided to be honest.  As I was finishing my emotional speech, a co-worker came in to deliver homemade vegan pozole to me. Perfect timing. I needed some nurturing at that moment.
Getting my feelings out allowed me to think clearly and I modified the lesson without dumbing it down or giving up completely. Students kept on task and produced some creative political cartoons with clear viewpoints on U.S. Imperialism.  That's more like it.

I am manipulatable.



Sunday, November 22, 2015

Day 70- a long Friday

I have never had that many students in my room on a Friday night until 6:30 pm.  It was the last day to finish their on line credit recovery courses and most of them were taking the cumulative exam. It is always great to see students working hard, even if it is at the last minute but there is something that feels confusing for me about this credit recovery.  Looking back on my Friday, I cannot identify any moment where the students were engaged in or conscious of learning.   They really wanted the CREDIT. I guess we really want them to get the credit too or we wouldn't have credit recovery.  As credit recovery becomes more on line I feel the focus on actual learning is getting lost.  Of course they will learn some by the sheer nature of doing it, but that is not their goal by any means.  Towards the end especially- how well can they guess? how many times can they take the test until they memorize the answers and the repeat questions?  That is what they are thinking about.
Maybe we should call it learning recovery and focus on the learning and not the credit.
I think the overwhelming answer might be "Ain't nobody got time for that".
I don't have a solution with the given resources of time and money. But at least I understand now that something has to change/shift in our credit recovery classes.

I do not like the feeling of focusing on credit over learning.

Keep my eyes on the prize of learning.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Day 69- I better check in with some other folks...

I'm feeling a little abused today. I had a parent/student/teacher conference today after a student left class today instead of letting me hang onto her phone for the remainder of the class.  She is failing and does not need to miss any days.  I guess the abuse I am letting happen because I keep repeating in my head,something she said in the conference.  "Everybody says you never help us and you give too many assignments." Mind you at this same time 5:15 P.M. there were 14 students in my room.  I do not like to get into blaming or defensive conversations, so I did not negate her accusation- I recognized, out loud to her that she is feeling not seen and made a promise to put extra effort into recognizing her calls for help.  But, I asked her to promise to read the directions at least twice after I explain them before she calls for me.  Still I can't help but hear her voice, "everybody says you don't help us...".  I know this is not true, but I also know about 40 percent of the students in that class need help, a lot of the time, and I am not able to always help everyone. I convinced her if she actually reads the directions a few times, she could probably help people too. And I better check in with some other folks...

Maybe some students see me as unavailable with all my busyness.

Double check for understanding.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Day 68-They told me yearbook might be challenging.

Sometimes I'm not the best listener - especially when people are complaining.  I understand in my heart that people need empathy and to be heard, but I am a problem solver. Skip the feelings and fix it. And I guess I should specify that today the people were my students, my yearbook kids.  There are a lot of glitches and bumps in the road right now for our print deadline tomorrow and I did not want to waste anytime hearing complaints today.  Students with all-campus passes and wonderful creative minds sitting on their butts complaining about how they do not have pictures or logos or names of people, instead of running around campus and trying to solve those problems before our deadline tomorrow - DRIVES ME CRAZY!  Thank you for the empathy and the listening.

I guess I complain too.

They told me yearbook might be challenging.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Day 67 - Instructional Rounds

I was with students all day long but I didn't have to teach! A day of rest from being completely present and able to observe my colleagues and all the learning going in my school.  Today after school as I was preparing for tomorrow, I felt like a different teacher. It surprised me because going into instructional rounds I felt fairly knowledgeable and consistent with most of the things we were looking for in my own teaching.  Well, very explicit observation and discussion impacted my teaching more than I had anticipated and even more than I anticipated before I started writing the agenda up on my board. My biggest take away today was the difference between a learning objective and an essential question. I know, that sounds basic, but in a rush to set up class for the next day, I never(maybe first day of school) write the explicit learning goal for the day. Always the essential question, but that is not the learning goal.  Even in  these past months as I have been reading more and more John Hattie and exposed to more PD around explicit teaching; it didn't hit me hard until today.
Now, lets see how many times I can reference those learning goals tomorrow......

Teaching is a practice that needs discipline and work everyday- even when I feel buff.

There are some great teachers at my school.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Day 66 -Youtube is their language

The beginning of U.S. Imperialism Unit was altered a little this morning after I heard Pres. Obama's speech on NPR. I had already been dancing around the idea in my head on whether to use the freshly published NEWSELA article on Paris or not.  He had me at ISIL. ( Bad joke) Yes, I could not have better timing or luck to start a unit where I need students to care about foreign affairs and relations the U.S has with other countries.  Starting with the horror in Paris and getting clear with the students on the thus far known facts, while discussing what should the U.S. do or not do and how much responsibility does the U.S. have in all of this, I think really got the students sucked in. I did stoop down to the media's level and show footage from someone's cell phone on youtube, of  people running from the Bataclan and pulling bodies out.  It got their attention. Youtube is their language.
I have hopes that as we go through various early U.S. "interventions" and look at these actions and place them on a spectrum we can go back and forth with current events and the same spectrum.  I want them to have a strong curiousity and  healthy skepticism about what actions our government has taken in the past, takes now and into their future.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day 65- Teaching, Football and Activism

My blog headline includes what my Friday was all about, not to be confused with the much publicized actions at University of Missouri.  It is interesting to see how much money and power is in football and what can be accomplished when people jin together for a cause.
The school day was fairly smooth with students using various artifacts(documents, photos, etc.) to create museum exhibits of a day in the life of a President in order to learn about and teach about the different roles of the President.  This is a TCI lesson from their GovALive currriculum which I love because we get to go deeper into some historical knowledge about various Presidents and sometimes there just isn't enough time to do that in US History. I like Presidents- I wouldn't mind teaching a US History course based solely on each Presidency.
But then the night came and Watsonville High School was on fire at our last football game of the season against our longtime rivals! We won 23-6, the stands were packed and everyone was wearing black and gold, chanting, chanting, chanting.  It was great fun with yellow powder shot in the air and streamers flying all over at each football game. This game was worthy of the movies.
Afterwards up the street Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers(UFW) and renowned labor and civil rights activist, was having her 85th birthday party.  I got to share some dance floor with this powerful woman and when I had an opportunity to speak to her the music was so loud she started writing on someones poster asking me about the involvement of the parents at my school and LCAP at my school. Activist even on the dance floor- loud music is no excuse to not talk about whats important. This was a very powerful interaction for me. Being in the presence of someone whose purpose is so clear and who felt even more powerful in person than in the history books.
SO that was my Friday- an unforgettable one- teaching, football and activism.


People don't retire from activism.

It's all worth it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

DAy 64- All day felt like Monday

We all agreed today that we would be much more productive and happy if we had every Wednesday off. A colleague even suggested we just add one or two weeks at the end of the year to make up for it.  I would vote for that in a second.  All day felt like Monday and guess what, tomorrow is already Friday!!!! Imagine work for two days, stay home for one, go back to work for two days. Then the weekend!  On that at home Wednesday you could grade and plan and have optional collaboration meetings or video meetings-althewhile take a walk or a bike ride or make meal in between! Maybe even run an errand or go to the dentist like normal people!!!!  Can you tell this idea excites me by all my exclamation points?!!! Truth is, we would still work 50-60 hours, but a midweek day off would give everyone the much needed power up time.  Just thinking about it feels nurturing.  Plus Wednesday modified schedule days are never that productive anyway,,,,

A-ha: Education is changing, maybe its time to do some forard thinkning around school hours...

Reminder:  Change has to start somewhere.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Day 63 - feels like Friday

There wasn't anything amazing about my teaching on Tuesday, but I felt so light that everything seemed easy. We were laughing and learning and time flew by.   Opening Executive branch unit in Gov., and I think the kids like learning about Presidents because its something they understand already- its not as intimidating.  They don't have to wrap their head around some obscure concept, just allow for expansion and deeper learning.  Next week however as we get into the bureaucracy of the Executive Branch, it may get a bit more foreign to them and I am still trying to figure out how I can help them grasp all the different parts of the Executive branch and attach some meaning or prior learning to it.  Its always been the difficult part of teaching the Executive branch.
We had a fun nighttime rally to hype up for our rivalry football game on Friday, and watching the kids all dancing in unison ( I think they were doing the payaso de rodeo) is always heartwarming.  I sponsored a karaoke from for the Class of 2016- only a few kids found me, but boy did they have fun and they sounded good too! Its fun to dance and run and yell in the schools quad at nighttime!

A-ha: I prefer a midweek day off than a three day weekend.

Reminder:  I am allowed to take a personal day if I ever wanted to or even needed to.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Day 62- Rookie move

Oh the rain....the first big rain.  I will leave it at that. Anyone who teaches, knows what that looks like/feels like in the classroom. Its the same, no matter the grade.  
Then there was third period yearbook, with their super duper deadline and many unfinished pages. Many of my yearbook kids seem to think they only have to think about yearbook when they are physically in the class.  Well today's preparedness for the deadline showed them that isn't working. And the editor in chief I was proud of convincing not to quit was having an emotional stress breakdown, unable to do any of her pages, or help anyone else.  I would love to have or start a conversation on when its okay to let a kid quit or even what are the best signs that its the best idea.  I do believe she will be okay but while she was breaking down with her counselor, the class made a motion to remove her from her position.  With a 2/3 vote to accept the motion, that is allowed in our club Constitution.  They tried to be so quick, but I was able to keep them in procedure around this very sensitive issue. But yes, we have a new editor in chief and she has hired a co-editor. Pages aren't done yet though.
      Just as I am writing this I realize what got me so worked up and in their stress space today.  I know the yearbook will be made and this probably happens in every yearbook class, but I don't want to look bad to my Jostens yearbook representative/consultant!  Wow, I feel like such a sucker- I really let my ego get the best of me today.  I wasn't able to really be present and supportive for my students today because I was worried about how their actions or non actions might reflect on me and my reputation.  Rookie move- but I guess it happens to the best of us.  

A-ha: I really don't know when the right time is to let a kid quit.

Reminder:  Day off on Wednesday!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Day 61 - Thank god sensitive days only come once a month.

Today I found myself extra sensitive.  I don't know why I was feeling so sensitive but the good thing is, I recognized it very early in the day.  This recognition helped me not blow anything out of proportion or actually believe half of the things my mind was making up about what people were thinking today.  It all started in advisory today when I discovered one of my students wants to leave CAtzNation (spirit club) advisory and return to their academy advisory.  That exchange got my ego fired up into thinking that everyone at school must be thinking about me and how I am failing at CatzNation.  Stuck in self, stuck in ego and completely apart form the truth about CatzNation. The truth is I am there for the kids, whatever that looks like- and the last thing I need to worry about is what other people may think I am doing wrong or right.  I should take the advice I give the kids when they complain that the school doesn't have enough spirit or the class isn't stepping up enough-"If you want more spirit, bring more spirit."  Thank god sensitive days only come once a month. 
I did end on a high note: was asked to sing the national Anthem tonight at our last home football game. I brought the spirit fo sho.

A-ha:  Maybe I am a victim to October.

Reminder:  Being present is the best thing I can do for my students. Stay in the now.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Day 60 - stuff happens

SO first period got right to business with a DO nOw about things they think need reforming in today's world.  They were to begin a research and digital media project about the Progressive Era and I wanted them in that zone.  They were there, even the hyper hormoned 16 year old boys.  We shared out, I explained the project, you could hear a pin drop- they were LISTENING TO DIRECTIONS - I gave them the go ahead to open computers and pick the person they will research- we were good to go....
5 minutes into researching and discovering about their subject, the power in the entire building went out.  I looked around, they weren't too distracted yet- they were still working!  98% of their Chromebooks were charged and this power outage did not deter them. I handed my ipad to one kid and my chromebook to another.  Another kid said, "I'll just use my phone".  Wow- nightmare diverted!
15 minutes later- the wi-fi goes out.  Now they were ready to have their excuse.  I checked other classrooms, racked my brain.  There is no textbook that has all 35 of the people they were researching. Should we go to the library and use encyclopedias??? I don't even know if the library still has those.
       I waited ten minutes, no wi-fi.  Okay time to read.  I found a story of that era in a set of literature books I have in my class, for moments like this I guess.  Everyone got a book, they were all on the page and quieted down, transitioned to mellow time. I was about to open my mouth and - wham- the lights and power all flashed back on.  Hooping and hollering. I decided to keep them in reading mode.  We read and laid on the ground until the bell rang.  I had no more transitions left in me.

A-ha:   I still get surprised when things do not go as I expected.

Reminder:  Find out if the library still has encyclopedias.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Day 59 - Evidence

Battery is running out so this will be quick.  No in class teaching today, just more college, Sacramento State and the Capitol building tour.  Met up with former students-- so happy to see them!  They are so many students we don't get to catch up with or know what life is like for them so its great when there is some solid evidence that my hard work has paid off. Seeing my former students so willing to give back to their community and show up for current WHS students was all the evidence I needed today.

A-ha: Some teachers don't realize sometimes kids are so excited about field trips, that they can't sleep the night before.  These are special opportunities for many.

Reminder: GPS isn't always right.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Day 58- college trip

I am sitting in a lil cabin in Sacramento listening to some of my students in the other room having bunk bed girl talk.  The guys are in the next cabin over with another teacher. We are on an overnight college trip. I envisioned this trip last year and feel very satisfied that we are actually on it, but as with most things, what I am getting out of it is not what I expected.  I knew I would love to hear them laughing and joking on the drive over, I knew I would see their eyes light up as they walked amongst the UCDavis students, but I didn't realize how little time I have spent this year just listening to these kids and getting to know them.  It has been so nice all day to just hang out with them and not have some sort of master lesson plan agenda! Spending time with students when they are experiencing memorable moments like these is a gift for sure.  I am totally tired from all the walking today, but at the same time rejuvenated by the brightness of their futures.

A-ha: I need to ask more questions of my students and sit down with them more often. I am very personable with my kids, but I haven't really delved too much this year.

Reminder:  People are fascinating, complex, creative human beings- teenagers too!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Day 57 - Rain, field trips, and deadlines

There were 7 students in my first period, as many were on a field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row.  Those at Cannery Row were supposed to take pictures of any person, place or thing that reminded them of the American ideals we have been studying: democracy, liberty, rights, opportunity, and equality. Students will then make a movenote about "How Cannery Row defines America".  It was actually a student asking me if they were going to get "another one of those photo assignments" that inspired me. The other kids were probably not to happy when I accosted them with an assignment handout before they boarded the bus.
Yearbook had a "deadline" today which was met by a few students, but in better news I convinced my Editor-in-Chief not to quit. There are some strong personalities in there, that are not the easiest to lead and quiet ones that aren't easy to lead either. Overall, its a great bunch of kids that have a lot of talent and desire to create, but are still learning the class is work, like a job, with deadlines.  They crammed and stepped up today, so I think they are getting it.  My editor in chief sent me an email last night trying to resign(quit) because it is much harder than she expected and "nobody listens" to her.  Today she said she didn't even know why I chose her.   There was no way I was going to let her quit, especially after hearing that. I asked her what would she learn if she quit, and she said. "to quit when things get hard". She doesn't want to learn that so she decided, very adamantly, that she wants to stay editor in chief. I think she'll be stoked later.

A-ha: People quit because they believe the lie that they are not good enough or deserving enough.

Reminder: Letting go of outcomes really helps me see things through.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Day 56 - Looking back on Friday

 Teaching wasn't nearly as much as a pull as I thought it was going to be on Friday- Halloween at school.  It seemed as if more teachers than students were dressed up.  I went as kale- yep, kale, the vegetable.  I most enjoyed eating the kale off of my shirt in front of the kids.  
In class the seniors began flushing out their CAP (community action project).  Each class started out slow and hesitant. I had the ability to go to each group and talk with them individually helping them hone in on a project and/or their own strengths and goals.  The number of students who couldn't tell me one thing they were good at or one thing they were passionate about, was heartbreaking yet affirming that this project(and more like it) needs to happen.  Education is evolving and having the freedom to make the learning completely relevant to the student will change how these students view life and their future possibilities.  My hope is that as education is evolving more and more opportunities like this are provided for students at earlier grades.
Yes, we are still in the early stages, but I'm seeing kids eyes light up as the ideas are flowing.  One group of boys want to organize a free sports camp, another group wants to start a Wildcat Run in to bring awareness to health issues in the town, another group wants to put up anti gang violence murals around town, another kid couldn't believe when I told him " yes, you can make a how to video of how to change brakes". They are started to realize this is their project and their learning.  I am soooo excited, but I'm playing it cool and just trying to keep them in possibility.....

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Day 55 - I wasn't tired and they learned a lot.

Students feed off of a teacher's energy.   I am a high energy, always moving around the room type of a teacher.  Guess what? I bringout the hyper in my students!  I'll finally admit it- I teach them to be rowdy.  SO this is a mixed bag though.  It is true in retrospect, all of my classes are sooooo calm in the beginning of the year.  They have been well trained to sit and listen, or pretend like they are listening.  Then they get to my class and I am begging them to get out of their seat, forcing them to meet everyone in the class and talk, talk, talk.  Move, read and talk, move,talk and make-  Listen- now write.   Soon there is not a safe seat oin the house for the gabbers, because they know everyone. Students expect when they get to my class, they are FREE!  Guess what?  Thats what I want for them. I want them to feel free and creative and unafraid and taking risks.
But I still have some ways to go in perfecting this "freedom".  My optimism keeps me in denial about the truth that some kids do not know how to transition or turn on and off, or on and then down.  For me, my way seems to work well with Seniors, but my 11th graders, especially the hormonal 16 year olds-- cannot calm down after I have cracked the seal.  
I have to address my part in this and the truth that they need practice in situational appropriateness. Structure in my class can be where they can get that practice.  Today my 11th graders seats were in rows instead of grouped in fours.  First thing out of one of my hormonal boys was, "I like this, it makes me look straight ahead."  Not what I want him to do, but what he might need to do as he practices focusing on the appropriate behavior for each of our different class activities.
I also was waaaayyy mellow this morning and spoke in a low, slow voice( not like Bueller, Bueller- but soothing).  They were chill.  I did some document analysis modeling , and then we did some together. We had a focused discussion about political bosses and progressives- and sourcing and corroboration.  They took a two minute break, got into groups for political cartoon analysis and small group discussions, and finished off with a constructed response using evidence.
I wasn't tired and they learned a lot.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Day 54 - Slow my roll on Wednesdays.

Wednesdays are short/modified days but they seem to make me the most tired.  Every other day of the week we have block schedule- 3 classes in one day, but there are 2 hours long. It makes for opportunity to go deep with learning and do various activities, solidifying knowledge and reaching different learner types.  I do not lecture usually for more than 10-15 minutes so this schedule works well for me and my students, as I like to move around a lot and I am able to keep them moving around a lot.
But Wednesdays are wham, bam, shazaam! Classes seem to go so fast and yet I still try to deep intense learning.  When will I learn??? Today my first period 11th graders were not ready for an immediate shift into third gear, then fourth gear learning.  Next time I will plan the into and build up of a document analysis lesson on a Wednesday, and the analysis, discussion and writing the next block day.
I was tired by second period today.

I like games about government more than my students do.

Slow my roll on Wednesdays.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 53 - light days

Today I tried to focus on not taking myself to seriously. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my plans for the students and what the lesson is supposed to look like that I forget to enjoy myself.  Don't get my wrong, I am an enjoyer of life.  But I think if some people saw how serious I get in my class sometimes, they wouldn't recognize me. This occurs mostly when I am dealing with a class that is acting low skilled in the behavior and self control areas. So today, I just tried to stay light and it changed my perception of the students and my reactions. I was quick to move onto joy today and very present with the students- not frozen in the fear of what one students behavior might do to my humongous plans for the day!  Everything got done and we laughed and sang in the process.
BTW, I recommend the Redistricting game for any Gov. class that is teaching  reapportionment, redistricting and gerrymandering.

If I want to have less stress, I need to bring less stress.

On Monday nights, drink Sleepytime tea.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Day 52 - I'm not exempt

Today seemed fairly normal; full of activity, teaching, quieting students, exciting students, administrative paperwork, up stairs, downstairs, across campus, library visit, lunch with colleagues, working on essays, after school shenanigans,etc. But upon driving home in reflection I started wondering about an interaction I had today with a parent and my students reactions.  So here's the scenario:
I had just started going over a decision the yearbook class and I had to make when we were interrupted by a parent visiting who had questions about the yearbook.  I invited her in, (she spoke only Spanish) and asked her to please have a seat and I would be with her in a moment after we finished this "vote"/discussion.  I noticed the students didn't want to finish the discussion and were hinting I was being rude by making the parent wait.  The parent seemed fine waiting to me and after a few minutes I sat with her, invited her to my desk and she made a deposit on the yearbook once she was clear on the price.  My students thoughts were that it was unprofessional to make her wait and I tried to explain to them that any parent who interrupts a class would probably know they might have to wait for the teacher to finish something.
But on my way home, I wondered if I would have treated that parent differently if she was English speaking and/ or white.  In my perfect view of myself I would say, "of course I wouldn't have".  But to be honest, its possible that I would have.  This is so important for me to write about, especially coming from a place of sometimes tricking myself into thinking I am above white privilege and that I do not contribute to the covert racism that keeps most oppression alive and breeding.  
Teaching where I teach, I need to be even more real with myself rather than assuming I'm in the clear.

A-ha: see above


Share this with my colleagues, beyond this blog.  My students too.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Day 51 - something different happens afterschool

Students were disappointed that I could not stay after school on Friday.  I was too.  After school is where I learn the most about my students and sometimes, its not even my students I get to learn about but the friends they bring with them.  Kids laugh more easily after school and aren't afraid to ask questions or ask for help.  How can I duplicate that in all of my classes?  Maybe I am more relaxed too and easier to approach when I don't have a lesson plan or agenda I am trying to fulfill.  Whether its one kid or 20 kids, there is something different that happens after school- we get to just be together. Some of my favorite after school moments include random karaoke breakouts, teary eyed personal statement breakthroughs, and students just wanting a place to do their work.
The hardest part is kicking them out when its time for me to go home.
Or, like this past Friday, just not being available.
But I know how important my self care and care for my personal relationships are, if I am to be present and available for my students.

A-ha:  Modeling healthy relationships, self care and healthy boundaries is part of my job.

Reminder: Play more guitar after school

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Day 50 - Something was right in the air

I video tape my lessons often (6-8 times a year) but I still get a little tense about the students behavior when I do it.  I guess kind of like when I have an observation, I want my kids to show their best selves and make me look good!  It is  so tiring to look through the lens of what I think someone else might think.  Ugh- I get tired just thinking about it.  Even though I know better and I know that tendency to slip into what things may "look" like, it still happens to me.  Today after getting through some more evidence collection, question generating and expectations for our academic conversation, we headed over to our Socratic Seminar room.  I was aware of my tenseness and just tried to stay focused and loving.  In the room, kids stepped up their academic professionalism and took me by surprise with their listening skills, questioning skills, ability to articulate with evidence and examples, and utilize my sentence starters.   Something was right in the air and i am stoked I got it on video!

I still haven't mastered enough wait time.

Students rise to challenges, just like we do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Day 49 - I just have to be patient and trusting.

Collaboration takes practice and I need more of both- collaboration and practice collaborating.  Our senior project - CAP - is in its first stages and the GOV/ECON teachers met with the senior English teachers to co ordinate and cross curricular plan.  That many talents and ideas in one room can be overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time.  I found it difficult to listen to others for longer than 60 seconds without wanting to jump in and contribute more ideas.  I really need to practice just listening!  Maybe I could offer to take notes or minutes next time to keep me focused on others and afterwards I can reflect on my thoughts and contribute more effectively.  I know people only listen or hear when they are ready and in instances when everyone is trying to share their ideas all at once there is just only so much listening that can happen.  Many ideas get lost and missed.
So I am making a pledge now to specifically work on keeping quiet and listening in my next collaboration meeting, knowing full well that my ideas will always have an opportunity to be heard and built upon- I just have to be patient and trusting. 

The more familiar I am with the people I am collaborating with, the less I keep myself in check(the less I listen).

Stay in the purpose of the work--the CAP is about the students learning real world skills and finding purpose(student sample).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Day 48 - what will come, will come

I have to keep my expectations in check.  I have been doing a lot of thinking and planning around one class activity and I realized now, that I may not get the results which I think equal the amount of energy and time that I have been putting into it.  Looking back, I remember that I have been overly frustrated and disappointed in my students when I have worked my butt off on something and it seemed like they weren't taking it serious enough or putting in "enough" effort: basically taking their abilities or performance personally. I am doing my first Socratic Seminar of the semester with my rambunctious 11th graders this week and I am already sensing anxiety and stress over their ability to have a structured serious academic conversation.  That thinking is not fair to them and it will only make my life and lesson worse.  My job is to stay focused on the learning intentions, be sure the expectations are clear and keep the structure solid.  What will come, will come- and I have never been disappointed by a Socratic Seminar yet.  My students always surprise me with something new for me to learn about them or my teaching.
Thankfully I have this blog to remind me to catch myself when lack and limitation hijack my thinking.

My pre-conceived ideas and ego can really impact a lesson's outcome.

It's all good.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Day 47 - Talk about a risk paying off!

Sometimes I wonder if the risks I take in class are worth it.  For example, today I changed an assignment for my US History students to make it a little more challenging and giving them more responsibility. It is an assignment that has been tried and true for my US History team but I decided to change it today.  Usually there is a packet of 10 primary sources around the topic of Immigration (1850-1920) and students in groups cut up the evidence, glue it to a poster, create a thesis and write in reasonings next to each evidence which backs up their thesis of Whether America was the land of opportunity for immigrants during this time.  But  I decided I wanted them to find the evidence in all of the assignments we have been doing in this unit, since it is an assignment which is to prepare them for writing an in class essay.  It should be evidence we have seen before and they should find it and print it out- they should do the work.   Well, let me tell you, it would have been a lot easier to hand them that packet of documents!  But what about the learning?  I will know more on Wednesday and Thursday when they write their essays, but after school today students were still printing out evidence, finishing posters and talking about evidence and their thesis.  Yes it was messier and I had to repeat directions and re direct students to the evidence in their Google Classroom  a few many times; but my observations tell me the learning was more meaningful and lasting, if for no other reason than the amount of communication that was needed for each team to produce a finished product.

I also took a risk with my yearbook students by sending them out into the neighborhood to sell yearbook ads. The school hasn't really sold any of these to businesses int he last years, but I just wanted my students to  have some real world practice and experience.  Honestly, I didn't feel they were prepared enough but I think I might feel that way everyday- so we did not put it off.   They were walking a little taller on the way back - they sold $600 worth of business ads already!  Talk about a risk paying off!

The neighborhood wants to support our school and will when asked.

Taking risks often does mean more work, but its worth it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Day 46- good old fashioned 21st century teaching

Its funny what I consider is good old fashioned teaching. What that means for me is direct instruction with some spice and flavor, feedback,- music, breaks and learning.  My good old fashioned teaching today included- 1) having a student go around and stamp finished Cornell Notes as students revisit and annotate their notes- create questions on the left margin and compare notes- AVID style  2)  reviewing homework on NEARPOD looking at the class answers together, reviewing and recognizing each other's thinking 3) Kahoot quiz to see if they actually remembered anything from all of that  4) 2 min Break  5) explore world/community/national problems/issues to research for senior Community action Project (20time)  
6) group mingle to find other people with same issues 7) instructions for this weeks CAP  BLOG 8) stay after school to retake mastery assessment from the other day.
So you see why its funny-- my good old fashioned teaching involves a lot of technology and 21st century collaboration skills.  It just became the way I teach- thanks to tons of professional development opportunities throughout my entire 5 year teaching career.  Yes, I am allowed to say good old fashioned teaching even if I've only been teaching 5 years.

Students respond more positively and actively to an "I" for incomplete as opposed to a D or F. Tons of kids stayed after school today to improve their test grade and show proficiency.

Its okay to have tried and true tricks and strategies that make teaching feel easy.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day 45 - One on one time with students

One on one time with students can really shift a class dynamic.  Today I was able to have 5 minute "performance reviews" with each yearbook member.  I have to figure out how to do this for my other classes!  Its grade time and I wanted to check in with each student and ask them what they believed they deserved as we looked over the grade criteria.  Some who clearly deserve an A weren't quite able to stand up for their work or weren't sure if I had noticed how much effort they have been putting in.  Wow what an eye opener!  I have been so busy in yearbook that I have not been praising my students and thanking them for their effort.  This is so important to know - especially now before its too crazy- I can practice having that in my mind.  I always feel so positive that I forget sometimes my "get it done" attitude skips right past "good job".   And the ones who weren't able to speak of their accomplishments, this was great practice.   The students appreciated my asking them how I can better support them to be successful and I believe they enjoyed getting props and individualized direction.  The two students who have been so detached and unmotivated were part of the reason I did this and my most dreaded.  But these meetings felt the best.  It was nice to hear them articulate what they know they need to do and that they want to do it. They have been hiding and one on one,students can't hide anymore. One on one they start believing that they are important, capable and worth something.  

I need to release my US History and Gov students into more self directed activities so I can meet with students one on on during class.

Get a present for the office ladies- they have been hooking me up!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day 44 -I guess I would be worried if everyone scored 100%

I am still confused by some of the choices students make.  I often give my students their test (summative necessary Unit tests), like an on line copy of it, a week before we take it.  The tests are usually 50% multiple choice and 50% writing with evidence.  Some students excel at memorizing things and some need more time to process and understand deeper questions- along with need more time to read documents.  If they only google and memorize the multiple choice they will still fail, so I am not really worried about cheating and all of that.  But one would assume that every student would get 100% or close.  I have been doing this give the test first for three years and without fail, at least half of the students haven't even looked at the test before the day.   The others do okay.  The A students do well, the less motivated students don't do well.  So my strategy is not working.   For a few kids, especially process or newcomers-- its fabulous; but very little impact on the others. Maybe they don't believe me when I say "the test is online if you want to practice it or ask me questions or see what you know and don't know".
I also gave them a choice of a different assessment, which was an argumentative essay about a US Supreme Court case- only 3 out of 105 students opted for this.  Most of my feedback through out the unit had to do with similar cases and writing arguments, so I assumed(again) many students would choose this option. 
 I have proven one thing in these few years; my students are not very driven to cheat. I guess I should be worried if everyone scored 100%.

Standards based grading would improve student self direction and motivation.

Go play around with Jumprope (on line standards based grading program) and see if it will work for me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 43- Angel Island Field Trip

The weather was perfect today for a trip to Angel Island, Immigration Station.  My school has wall to wall Academies- which allows extra funding for field trips and student bonding activities.  I am part of the Environmental Sciences and Natural Resources Academy(ESNR) and I teach my Academy kids U.S. History.  This is the second year that I have been able to take my US History students to Angel Island during our immigration unit.  Its a long day, but the kids get to have fun in the fancy discovery bus with a movie and snacks then we all get on a boat and motor over to the island.  We then hike to Immigration Station, short but pretty strenuous for some students(a wake up call for some) and finally arrive at the tour with the ranger, all with beautiful views in beautiful nature. And today the weather was perfect!  The tour focused on creating discussions about immigration- which is a year theme in my class- so it was perfect. And my oh my the students actually knew some stuff!. Their assignment today was to take pictures which we will put into a slide show with a voice over of poems they wrote about immigration and Angel Island( tech tool-Animoto or movenote).  They got into it.  Kids love this field trip even though we don’t get back til 6pm (I think its cuz we stop at In-n-out on the way home!)
I am tired but so grateful I can share learning, nature and new experiences with my students.

Bus drivers can make or break a field trip ( we got Washington- he’s bomb-yay!)


Ask about payment methods before going on a big class trip.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Day 42- November is soon.

October, the month historically known to teachers as the looongest month of the year!!!!  Its the only month without any kind of holiday or break (which sounds like we are spoiled but unless you teach full time- you have NO IDEA the amount of energy needed for this job- emotional, intellectual and physical).  Its just something teachers know, October is hard.  Well today, October was not hard for me and I may ride the high the whole month. I had my first home visit where I actually made it into the house.  I shouldn't celebrate yet, because I have to see if there is any impact on my students performance.  But there was a lot of love in that house today and I saw, lets call him Andy, smile bigger than I ever have. We talked about him going to college to pursue his piano/music passion and his Dad told me, in Spanish, how teachers say they want to help his son, but no one has ever come to the house and he was very grateful.  I understand it is probably statistically impossible for all my home visits to go this well- but I needed this fuel so it came at the right time. I got to meet his little brother and sister and his neice- Mom takes care of her oldest daughters kid while she attends SJSU. His little brother loves to read and his favorite book right now is Bone, he showed me. They all live together and I felt honored to be in their house.
I hope "Andy" is going to follow through with his promised after school tutorials. If not for him, for his loving family.

Home visits are impactful- for all parties involved.

November is soon.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Day 41- Eye openers

Writing this on Sunday night- for Fridays entry.  Homecoming game and dance kept me at school until 1130ish, and a super fun wedding (with half of my school district it seemed) on Saturday kept me tied up. I am very grateful for all the loving, fun, supportive people I work with and it was fun to party down with them on the dance floor.  Plus two of our dearest colleagues tied the knot!
I got some eye openers about myself this week.  I am often involved with students -being that I am a crazy doer and feel available, but this week I noticed some things I haven't really registered before.   When I am stressed I can come off like like no one is as important as me- I stop listening to people and have a one track mind.  I made two apologies this week for my "importantness" and shortness with others; one to a student and another to one of the most helpful office staff members. I am happy I have reflection tools and I can forgive myself quick enough to give deserved apologies.  And as uncomfortable as it may be, I believe apologizing to students models humanness, forgiveness and self awareness.  But most importantly, it shows them the respect they deserve.

I'll stop the world and melt with me is a pretty dope slow song.

People deserve to be looked at and listened to.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 40- 8 weeks

Homecoming week is crazy...but I think its worth it.  Students running around getting ready for the rally all day--snapping at their advisors, wanting everything perfect, staying at school til 830 to make signs and floats, while all the teachers hope that every kid will be in tutorial next week to make up work.  And there is still tomorrow and tomorrow night!!!! Today the teachers started the rally doing the WHIPwhip NAeNAe dance - always fun for me to be dancing at a rally.  After school today the Class of 2016 which I advise, was trying to finish building their haunted house.  Its a fundraiser and it has been a process- with tears and blood and  good times; we hope only good times to come.
Academically today went every well. I am realizing my 11th grade US History class is not as prepared to do collaborative works as I thought.  I need to be more strategic with grouping and have it completely structured to work for them.  However they love it when I read to them and then we analyze as a whole class.  Today they also really got into naming Jacob Riis photographs.  I am taking them to Angel Island Immigration Station on Tuesday- they are excited!
On another note- the reason that family wasn't home yesterday was because I went on the wrong day!!!!! I had to apologize over the phone to both families for switching their dates up.  The one I was supposed to go to on Wednesday night  is now rescheduled for Monday and our attendance guru had already scheduled one for today to the other house.  Well my mistake increased my parent phone contact time!

Kids really want to have the TV high school experience.  I don't remember having those feelings even though I was very active in my high school.

Slow down.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 39 - Hope I am not too late with this one....

Seeing where students live opens my eyes to so many things.  I went to a students house today and the family wasn't there.  I waited but finally had to leave- as I was responsible for the nighttime shift for homecoming building supervision.  First, no wonder this student doesn't come to school- she lives hella far away!!!!  Second, the surroundings were so not what I expected that I have been racking my brain trying to think of anything I have taught this young lady that might be relative to her life or that she might care about.  Imagine if I were able to see how every student lives- how much that could impact how I teach them??? The first thing with this student though, is getting her to school. Must find a solution- she is failing 3 other classes as well as mine. She's one of those quiet students too. You know, the ones who fall through the cracks.  Teachers don't worry about them too much because they hide really well and stay out of the teacher radar. The loud F students will always get calls home and interventions before the quiet ones.  Hope I am not too late with this one....

I don't really know my students as well as I think I do.

Some quiet kids could use a call home this week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Day 38 - DO the "hard", time consuming lessons.

Some days you're so proud you just want to video tape your students! The lesson I did today really let the students shine and there are so many ways I could do even more with it.  Sometimes I think it should be shorter, because how long do we actually have to spend on the first amendment- but this lesson is so much more.  The students argue historical first amendment cases in lawyer teams of four( from TCI- highly recommend)).  Everyone has a role and a chance to speak, while the other students are the 9 supreme court justices and the remainder the gallery/media.  I think it is the black robes that really help them step up their game.  I borrow graduation gowns and make the justices wear them.  This year we have a new discussion room and we used that, which stepped their game up even more.  2nd period, my smallest class- killed it today and the lawyers wanted to continue arguing their cases.  We have another day of cases to present and some ways to improve the outcomes and performance will be 1) to have the justices write down questions for the lawyers before we begin 2) double check with the Chief Counsels that precedent cases are presented as evidence and 3) bring a gavel.
They got a taste of academic professionalism today. I was impressed and realized I must push them more with these multi leveled assignments.

A-HA:  Atmosphere can really impact students expectations for themselves.

Reminder: DO the "hard",  time consuming lessons.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day 37- I am honored to be a guest

My profession is teaching, but there are these moments when I feel so moved and so inspired, that it feels more like a spiritual experience than work.  Don't get me wrong, it is incredibly challenging work-but I wouldn't be able to do it without the unexpected gifts.  Sometimes its in a colleagues homemade bread or roasted coffee, maybe in a students willingness to keep on trying, or a student that knows exactly when to help another student, or even shows up as a student that says "friggin blast", followed up with "see, I'm curbing my language, MacLean", or the best one yet, a parent that says yes to a home visit. So maybe not a big deal to some folks, but huge for me.   Today two parents said yes to home visits.
I decided last year I wanted to implement home visits this year to see if it could make a difference in some of these kids that often get given up on.  I'm starting early enough in the year that I should be able to collect enough data to conclude if these visits make a difference (this is part of my work with the Stanford Hollyhock Fellowship). My thinking is, a home visit can really convey a different level of care and respect for a student that may inspire them to work harder and/ or not give up. Secondly, seeing a students home can give me insight on how to reach a student, whether its by learning about more things they are interested in or just more about their reality.  I honestly thought today was going to be a wash when I got on the phone and even almost gave up before I started calling.  First call message. Second call, answer- they prefer speaking Spanish- ok, I can do this.  I explain who I am and why I am calling- then pop the question, "quiero ir a su casa- por favor" (I want to come to your house please).  A quick yes -que dia? What day??...I wasn't quite prepared for a yes. We got it scheduled and the parent sounded genuinely happy.  I thought for sure to good to be call-  Dad gave the phone to his wife and she immediately said yes, thanking me over and over.  Again mostly in Spanish- but don't worry, they don't think they won the lottery or anything- my Spanish can cut it.  SO , yes I called after 5:30 and I made the appt.s for 6 pm in the evening- but wow, am I shocked at the willingness and welcoming of these two families.  Lets see how the visits go...but in the meantime I am grateful for people - and the community I work in and am inspired by.

To some, a teacher visiting your house is an honor.  I am honored to be a guest.

When I do what I do not want to do, I am always inspired and better for it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Day 36 - the sooner you take action, the sooner the fear is gone

An important part of my job is modeling risk-taking.  I consciously do this for my students and my colleagues.  For whatever reason, (that my mother let me run free like a wild child or because the planets were aligned a certain way the day I was born- who knows) I noticed that I am one of the lucky ones who can just go for it without getting too caught up in the fear. Yes, I get nervous and am afraid of failure just like everyone else- but those feelings just inspire me more - like signals that I must be doing the right thing if I'm afraid. Plus, the sooner you take action, the sooner the fear is gone. Of course, I'm not talking about jumping out of a plane or driving 100mph (I have done those but...), the risks I pay close attention to are personal risks. Some may call them professional risks, but to me my profession is very personal.
Today was a professional development day for teachers and the kids had the day off(although tons were on campus building homecoming floats and starting their UC and CSU applications). A colleague and I presented to our staff on Socratic Seminar and discussion in the classroom.  The staff was receptive and present, giving us hope that more teachers will bring this practice into their classrooms.  Besides my strong belief in how much these classroom discussions can impact students personal academic growth, I know presenting to my colleagues and taking risks in front of them influences them to take more risks, either with the staff and/or in their classroom.  Teachers need to be inspired just as much as students do. Have I said that before?

Choosing video clips at random from hundreds of minutes of video to a captive audience is not an effective use of time.  Next time I will select some various ability clips with more purpose.

More eye contact and don't be afraid to practice out loud, not just in my head.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Day 35 - "when its this hard, you know you're learning a lot!"

For whatever reason, today I took everything the students did personally and I had felt like I had no skin or skills.  From an outsider everything probably looked kind of normal, not too different from any other day. But to me a student giggling  looked like a child throwing all of my hard work to the side, a kid trying to watch youtube on the sly felt like a personal affront, a student unable to be quiet was the scissors that cut the thin rope to a better future some of my students were hanging on to with dear life!!!!! Yes- it was hard for me today.  I have not been able to exactly identify why, and if I say it might be PMS than some of my more enlightened friends may never speak to me again.
I did receive acupuncture yesterday(first in years), so maybe my senses and emotions were raw and exposed(but she said I have no blocks in my chi- bet I do now!). Yeah, I like that reason. Its a rawness on the path to serenity.  Or like when I tell the kids, "when its this hard, you know you're learning a lot!"

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Day 34 -training for benchmark training

Today I learned I may be difficult to work with when group grading students writing.   We are about to grade an ELA benchmark as a whole school and today after school, as Dept. Chair, I had to go receive training on how we are going to score so I can share that with other teachers on the big day of grading. Well, I get very attached to details and what is not in the rubric or why isn't it organized like this or semantics - what does a 3 mean? How can this be a zero? Etc., etc., etc.!!!!  I have been lucky enough to sit with many teachers who really get into calibrating grading and enjoy arguing many points. Today, not so much.  Those times when my questions were welcomed were at voluntary and paid professional developments.  This was a dept. chair obligation with no extra pay, which I think has led to less interest in picking through all of these things.
For students this is merely a practice and the scoring is really only for teachers to be more familiar with what is expected of students.  Which makes this a little frustrating. The district is going to enter all the data in our data base but the data will only be a 0,1,2, or 3.  It will not tell me if a student did well on claim, or evidence or analysis.  Its just one score to reflect how well they did on all three combined.  Which for me to immediately help kids in the class, that number gives me nothing specific to work with.  I will just have to give my own benchmark in my individual class.  AAARGH.  I will assume best intentions on the districts part and hope the teachers learn a lot from this.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Day 33 - they did it

Today was blogger with students. We are upping the quality of their on line presence, by pre-writing before we post, clearly identifying our purpose for each post and following a basic thesis and reasoning with evidence outline. I repeated myself a lot today, I re explained about 100 times, I coached people off the edge of giving up and I heard plenty of, " this is too hard", or "this is too confusing".  Every time I heard that I responded with, "it sounds like the learning process."  They did it. 90 students published their first post in their very first published writing, their Community Action Project Blog.  The pre writing outline made a noticeable impact on their writing and I am excited to see how much they grow as writers through this process and reflect on their own learning. Maybe they can fall in love with learning at the same time.

There is a fine line between letting kids quit and refusing to let them quit.
I have to start the last period of the day as if it is the first.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 32- solutions will come

So I have this student in my 11th grade U.S. History course that has been perplexing me and in turn, my mind and ego are creating unnecessary doubts of my teaching abilities.  I have been painfully asking him to stop reading his novel and be with the class and involved with what we are doing.  He tries, he gets bored, picks up his book. He wrote for me in the first assignment this year and couldn't believe when I commented to him how I appreciated his deep thinking but its time to move into utilizing evidence to help explain his thinking and reasoning. " you actually read what I wrote?", was his response.  This statement made me wonder how many students have never heard verbal feedback about their writing from their teachers.  I know teachers always give written feedback, but honestly, I don't think students get much from it- or even read it.  John Hattie in Visible Learning writes about his research on factors that effect learning growth- teacher feedback is a big one- and the sooner the feedback the better.  Written feedback on a paper sometimes gets to a student 2-3 weeks after the assignment was due.  There must be a better way- there is, and technology helps even more with this immediate feedback.  Apps like Nearpod , and google classroom can allow you to see the work as they do it and respond verbally right then and there (or comment- but...).   If you are going to comment on a paper, try using voice comments in google- Kaizena extension works well.
       But I got off student...I asked him what I needed to do to get work out of him, "I really like your teaching -- I just get stuck and frozen".  We are just beginning our industrialization and immigration unit and I have been thinking about the classic novel  Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. I mentioned to my student what if I gave you some assignments from a novel- before I could finish my sentence his smile occupied his whole face and he became more alive than I have ever seen him.  That was last week, this morning I had the joy of giving him his book.  I told him a few things to look for in the writing style and to first take note of all the people mentioned- they are historical figures we are learning about.  By the end of class today, he managed to stay fairly engaged with us, read two chapters. list out the characters and their descriptors, and suggest to me that he writes detailed summaries after each chapter for homework. Sure- sounds good to me. "That's a good assignment you have created for yourself.  I will add some essay questions to each chapter too. " "Okay, see ya later Ms. MacLean."
hmmm, should the whole class read this novel?

I need to incorporate more fiction options in my US History class.  Common core allows time for this.

My ego will lie to me, if I stay in purpose and intention, solutions will come.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day 31 - Students need to be heard

TGIF!!! Watsonville HIgh School puts on a yearly show called "Whats in a Name?".  It is about 10 years running and was first started as a result of a lawsuit to the school from the family of an out gay student who was beat up and bullied.  The family thought the school did not protect their son. A judge agreed and one punishment was a mandated LGBTQ/tolerance/bullying/acceptance assembly for the entire school.  The drama teacher Kip Allert and his students were allowed artistic freedom for this assembly and every year the students write a new version of this play.  I saw it for the first time today. WOW! Word on the street is this is one of the best years, but me personally I have nothing to compare it too. I will say I can compare it to other school performances and assemblies as far as student behavior.  There were many times you could hear a pin drop in the Mello (our auditorium)- talk about engaged! Kids want to hear from other kids and thats what this was all about- touching on issues of body image, suicide, rape, consent, sexting, LGBQTIA and the main theme- LOVING YOURSELF, just the way you are.
Proud to be a part of a school that knows how important it is to make these topics visible, accessible and talked about all over campus.

A-ha: Students need to be heard and have places to use/find their voice

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Day 30- new territory for me

Been tired all week, someone told me it was because of the season change- but I'm not really seeing any change in the seasons. 90 degrees plus today....crazy.  I guess some people believe the autumnal equinox it self makes you tired. I think my weekend in Big Sur made me tired.  You know how slowing down can slow you down sometimes?
I want to write about an uncomfortable moment I had in the class when an administrator was in my room.  I will preface with a two things - 1) I feel very comfortable with and would call the administrators at my school my friends  2) I had a dream the other night that I got so frustrated with a kid who wouldn't get off his phone and then tried lying about it, that I cussed at him-"Stop f***ing lying to me and stop selling yourself short!" That was scary, but then in my dream I look over and the principal is sitting in my room at a desk. I woke up a little shaken.  (I am not much of a cusser, but that kid does drive me crazy with his phone) 
I gave you that background to explain why I may have been so sensitive today when admin was in my room and a kid says "hey I wanna get out of this class", and another pipes in, " yeah, me too- honestly I don't feel like I belong here". 
So this would be hard to hear with or without an administrative witness.  My dream for yearbook is for everyone to feel like they have an important purpose and that they belong to a powerful team.  The year is young, but I sure didn't anticipate the hardest part of yearbook would be getting kids to want to be there. Students taking an elective that they didn't elect is new territory for me.

A knowing of belonging can fill up empty holes.

Protect my students before I protect myself.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Day 29 - everything is a blessing in disguise

The computers came for our yearbook class!!! Yep, thats right- the computers that were supposed to be set up over summer in our brand new yearbook lab got overlooked.  It was difficult for me the two days before school started, to open my yearbook room and see it completely empty.  I decided not to react too much and spent very little time in anger and disappointment.  I couldn't.  For one, I cannot survive in a place of helpless complaining. And second, I knew the kids were going to be disappointed so I had to be in solution and acceptance- pushing forth the knowing that everything would work out fine.  So far it has, and today they were really happy to unwrap those boxes and set up the computers.  This is far from a perfect situation, especially since only 11 came from the district warehouse and the others are on hold; but I am hoping they will have a certain pride fro their yearbook lab once they are done building it.  Not a lot of kids can say they built the yearbook and the lab for yearbook. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.

With a shift in perspective, everything is a blessing in disguise.

Data is important. Looked at SBAC/CAASP scores today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Day 28 - they know they know it

Actually blogging from class instead of home-- my partner will be thrilled that I will be able to pay attention to her instead of my Chromebook.
I almost cried twice today during a Kahoot quiz!  I am silly, I know but twice, every single kid in class got an answer correct.  Another hidden joy of Kahoots. Of course this happens on all sorts of tests(one hopes), but there is something powerful about seeing it on the big screen that every single student learned something successfully.  Its powerful for them too- they know they know it.  In the beginning I worried that my English language learners were at an unfair disadvantage in these formative assessments because they are timed and you have to read fast.  But I tell ya, today- they kicked butt on everyone.  Its possible that some of the nerves calmed down because they know what to expect when that horrible music comes on.  Its nice to see proud success on their faces when they are ranked number one and number two in the class. Again- just a simple formative assessment- but so many rewards.

I need to find a way to make filling out reimbursement forms more efficient.

Some teachers get zero reimbursements.