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.....