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.