Monday, August 31, 2015

Day 13- Build it and they will come

Very smooth Monday.  I have been loving my Monday prep period; the week just feels more manageable having a less stressful Monday.  I only teach two classes on Monday (we have a block schedule- 3 2hr classes MTTHF and collaboration Weds. all classes).  My 11th graders were curious historians today, wanting to learn about how the Constitution allowed for slavery- working on the skill of corroboration between sources and evidence. The majority of my history department uses materials from the Stanford History Education Group. The lessons in the SHEG website enable critical and historical thinking skills to be taught in a consistent manner.  Students answer historical questions after analyzing various modified sources, enabling multiple viewpoints and responses.  The beautiful part is 3 of us in the history department have been taught directly by people who have created curriculum for SHEG.  This has really allowed for our department to focus on deepening our students understanding of history and ingrain those historical thinking skills like contextualization and corroboration.  I highly recommend that anyone teaching US History or World History visit the SHEG website.  All the resources are free and completely common core aligned        (although created before common core).

After school two of my students from last year came by my room to study and do homework until 5:30.  I saw them in the hallway today and mentioned they are welcome to do homework in my room anytime.  They stayed past normal tutorial time and worked and socialized the whole time. Historically, these are students that are hit and miss with homework and assignment completion.  SO I was happy to see them caring about their schoolwork and more than happy to give them a space to do that(this is where teachers work for free but need to get paid for the most in my opinion- or let some teachers start at 9:30 so they can work til 5:30).

Sometimes kids just need an invitation.

When people offer help, accept it!!!!  The yearbook rep came to my class today and it was dreamy.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Day 12: Friday- I heart the Constitution

Hot class, no air conditioning. Personally, I like it- but the students complaining is far from enjoyable or productive.  In times like these I ma fortunate I have so much flexibility on campus.  The kids voted, lets go outside to the shade. Okay, no problem.  It was just as hot, but they weren't complaining anymore and we were able to scour through the Constitution with some semblance of comprehension, but more importantly effort and curiousity on the kids parts.

A-ha: Maybe they call the Constitution of the United States a living and breathing document because its so easy to fall in love with and at the same time, want to burn it.

Reminder:  some jokes can get people in trouble

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Day 11- my lucky number

Today I swam during my prep and I left school by 4 pm.  This happens as teachers get some time under their belt; but I still feel like I cheated or something.  Have to get over that.  In a few weeks the after school program will start and I will be unable to leave before 5:15 on eveyday except the Fridays when there is no home football game.  So, I should rejoice at this time-- and the weather was fantastic today.  Great day for a swim, great day to get out of work at 4.
One of my students had her uncle at school today, shadowing her.  Her family is concerned because she ditched 1st and 3rd last week.  It was fun being able to teach an adult and my students today.  We did a Bill of Rights activity  that I think my students uncle really enjoyed.  He was very engaged! What a lucky girl to have her family refuse to let her mess up.  Many of the parents at my school work multiple jobs, and often ones that aren't easy to get days off from- especially the field workers.  Her uncle had the day off and represented today.  The funny thing though, I think she actually really enjoyed feeling that special today. Good. Like I said, lucky girl.

Deep down teenagers like it when their parents/family sit with them in class.

Go home and take a walk on the beach whenever I can.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 10 - sing the preamble

Wednesday- restructured day- collaboration day. Usually this day feels crazy because its 1st-6th and 45 minutes each, wham bam next class Sam! But not too bad today.  I sang the preamble to the Constitution about 10 times today.  The kids probably hate me tonight as they can hear my voice and that cheesy school house rock melody.  My hope is they will write their own tune to the preamble. My belief is if I play and sing the schoolhouse rock one enough times they will be driven to make  a more bearable version!

When assigning kids yearbook jobs, be as specific as possible. ( my first year doing yearbook)

kids love it when I act crazy and sing stupid songs to them

DAy 9 - a day late

I'm writing about DAy 9 on the morning of DAy10- really trying not to get into that habit but at the same time giving myself some leeway knowing sometimes I just fall asleep when I need to.  If I actually accomplish this blogging everyday of the school year I will be impressed and have built in what I hope to be an ingrained daily reflection practice which takes no planning at all.  Just something I do everyday, no matter what.
Tuesday was hard for facign the realities of working in a humongous public school district and the built in limitations (which need to be changed) causing inequities and underserving students.  The students at my school are in a new place; the culture has shifted.  There is a seriousness about their studies and what they want from their education which I have not seen at his school before.  I have only been there 4 years, but it is an obvious difference.    And yesterday to discover that 4 hard working students whom want more challenges and have fulfilled all of the requirements (summer assignment etc.) for an AP class have to  be removed form the class because the district wont allow 39 and won't/can't(?) pay to create two classes is heartbreaking.
This situation seems helpless but I must stay in possibility- for healing, for changes, for making sure this never happens again.

Teachers need nurturing and someone to fight for them in a system that can often feel punishing (just like their students).

Use my mentor more. Asking for help and getting full kudos can heal.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day 8- Monday - self care

Its 10:15 and I can barely keep my eyes open.  I just got home 30 minutes ago from my day.  Yes I stayed at school til 6 but, I made it to a singing class that can help me focus on my spiritual connection while I'm singing.  Which in turn keeps me more connected all the time- especially where I need it most- in the classroom.  I also did laps today at school to take care of my physical being.  Looking back on the day, I feel good about being able to show up for myself.   Its the only way I'll be able to sustain showing up for my students, and showing up the way they deserve.  

Singing is more of a vulnerable place for me than I thought.

Self care is a necessity.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day 7 - more than just Friday

Its Sunday night, so I'm two days late but this post will be about more than just Day 7, Friday.  I work in a community that is about 15 miles south of Santa Cruz called Watsonville.  Watsonville is a small town with a rich history. Its primary commerce is agricultural and currently there is a majority Latino population, but it has changed over the years.  From my observations, something that hasn't changed is a town rooted in tradition and family.   My school is over 120 years old and many of the teachers at my school, attended high school there.  Watsonville High School- I am a proud Wildcat!
Friday night we had a football rally in the quad where parents, families, community members and of course students danced and played and hooted and hollered.  It was a new kind of kick off rally and it really brought the community together, along with getting kids excited about school and the football season.  I forget how important these events are until a parent searches me out to tell me thank you or how their kid liked my class last year.
The next day I was at another Watsonville Community event- a food truck block party- where I saw old students, a few co-workers and more parents!
Then today, I attended Watsonville Pride Parade, where I marched with a co worker, my partner, an ex principal of Watsonville High School and many members of the community.  Once again, I saw parents and I saw students- new and old.
I have always thought of myself as a little bit of an outsider to Watsonville  because I live in Santa Cruz, but that went away this weekend.  And I'm grateful for that.

I really am a part of the Watsonville community.

The rate of return for spending time in my school community outside of the classroom is very high!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Day 6: at capacity

My fourth period Government class still has 39 students enrolled in it and they keep showing up- all of them!  I am not complaining but it is different than the past few years when students seemed to not show up for school for whatever reasons.  This year our school of 2000 has a waiting list- we are at capacity.   I feel for the four kids who will be taken out of my class and probably get a complete schedule shake up.  The counselors will try to make it as painless as possible but I do wonder how this happens and to what level does this mean underserving our students.   Who is being underserved in this scenario and is that acceptable? I know that its unacceptable, but this is one occasion when I feel helpless to the system- only able to do my best in helping the kids advocate for themselves and make sure they don't let a bump in the road hold them back.  

A-ha: I would like more experience with master scheduling so I can feel less helpless.

Reminders: Clear directions make all the difference.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Day 5

Managed to make it home with enough time and energy to make dinner, blast some music, play guitar and sing my heart out.  Perfect midweek me time.
I bored my first period to death today by deciding to read the whole Declaration of Independence w/ a think aloud and annotation modeling.  Mistake to try and teach this skill with that document.  Oh well, we learn.  What I will do next time is: give them a transcript to read and annotate while I play the you tube clip of famous actors reading the D.O.I.  Then, go back and look at our annotations together.

Did some manual labor after school, emptying out an old computer lab.  Admin has given the go ahead for a socratic seminar room at our school. This is like a dream come true for me. I strongly believe (and I think there's data too) that academic discussion will level the playing field for my students and help shrink the opportunity gap faster than most classroom activities.  Plus, for my joy- I get goosebumps of inspiration when I watch my students engage with each other academically.

A-ha:  As supportive as my school is, its still hard for me to ask for help sometimes.

Reminder:  Everything is easier when you have help.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Day 4: Its only Tuesday?

Monday=so refreshed! Tuesday, not so much.  Getting back in the swing of my heart caring in overdrive, my mind working at lightspeed and my body running around all day.   This is some serious work we do!!!  I bet if they did a study (maybe they have) of mental acuity in 90yrs plus folks who spent their lives teaching versus other careers, our brains would be the most exercised. What do ya think?

There are two things I started doing today that I am hoping to implement throughout the year.
1) Using tech like or googleforms or nearpod- I can see student responses and writings immediately to spark class discussions and give feedback or pose more questions to the class.  This seems more efficient then walking around and looking over kids shoulders.
2) I have kids post quotations and short quickwrites on google classroom around main course ideas or questions usually as a part of outside class work- something they can do on their phone or in the mall or on the bus etc.  But today I copied and pasted some of their responses from last nights postings and taped them up on the walls around the room.  We did a walk and talk about their writings.  I saw the faces of kids whose writing I chose to put up- they liked it, they were proud inside.  I excluded their names so I could get a feel for their reaction. I think next time, names.

A-ha's: Students like seeing their writing on the wall, even if their name is not attached.   I must include more student voice in class- IN ALL FORMS- not just speaking or classroom discussion.


  • My school is full of great teachers, I wish we spent more time together.
  • Tuesday is a B DAY, no 5th Period prep- I have to eat that fast!!!!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Day 3: A good Monday

The students are groovin'- keeping me on my toes but really getting the importance of transitions.  We can't have an active class with lots of collaboration and movement if they are not able to transition efficiently back to listening mode.  As long as I stay consistent on my signals, I see a bright future for our class endeavors.

Our yearlong lens for each unit in US HISTORY is "What does it mean to be an American?"
Today the students watched the first 17 minutes of Jose Antonio Vargas film, Documented and we used Lesson One of the curriculum that goes with the film- students beginning to write their own immigration stories.   I've only read one so far, but already teary & inspired by the empowerment in my students voice being able to write about this topic.


  • careful of the rabbit hole, changing an assignment and what I'm going to teach tomorrow- at 6pm in the evening
  • I have 5th period prep, I don't have to eat that fast!

  • My students will always reveal themselves to me in their writing whenever they get a chance- so I should always put a personal twist on quickwrites and always collect them.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Day 2

I managed to remember all of 2nd periods names( small class) and make up a song about each of their names at the beginning of class.  It was a happy improvisational accident and hopefully the students are figuring out that play and creativity are a large part of learning in my classroom.  

I was soooo tired from Day 1, that I wasn't sure what was going to come out of me- words, I mean words.    SO I have already learned a lot and/or have been reminded of  many important things.
Green and growing...I want to always be green and growing as a teacher.  Hopefully it will rub off on my students.


  • I need a full nights sleep to show up the way I want, they way my students deserve me to show up..
  • always put my equity cards from the last class away before next class starts....
  • My principal really is way smart- I mean way.
  • I have fifth period prep- I don't have to eat that fast!
  • when I doubt pulling off a 20time project, I am doubting my students and lowering my expectations of them( large because biggest a-ha of the day, possibly year).

Friday, August 14, 2015

Day 1:

Last night I watched parents walk their children through school campus to help them find their classes--at 6:30 pm at night.  These are parents that are so exciting about their chld starting high school but work to late to come to the regular orientation and tours.  I am fortunate to work in a community that respects school so much.  My hope is that I can help them understand its workings and empower them to make sure the school is serving them as equitably as possible; students and parents alike.
I am drinking my protein shake and trying to imagine what all my yearlong friends faces are going to look like.   Can I learn 120 names today?  Probably not, wish me luck!