Sunday, January 31, 2016

Day 100 - over the hump

There have only been 100 school days??? It feels like a thousand!!! But we are over the hump, because that means we only have 80 school days to go!  Wow, I sound worse than the kids right now.  Unfortunately, its part of our job to always count the days and match our curriculum to the time frame and standards etc.  But I have to remind myself that 1) we have enough time, 2) those 80 days are going to go fast, and 3) I wont be ready to say goodbye to many of my students.  My heart always thinks there will never be another one, or group, or class- as great.  But then the next year comes and another group steals my heart.  But I do know I won't be ready to say goodbye to the seniors in 80 days.
What is all this nostalgia? That's what I get for writing Fridays blog on Sunday night I guess.  Last week was a great week for school, teacher and student morale.  Feeling so connected and bonded can often lead me to think about how temporary everything really is.  At the same time, that thinking keeps me not wasting time with the people in my life. Students included.

A-ha: We constantly say goodbye as teachers.

Reminder:  Then when they visit half the time I can't remember their names....faces , moments, talents...but never names!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Day 99 - Feel good day

Today was day one of Academy recruitment, where the Freshmen get introduced to all 7 academies at our school and start deciding about which is their first through third choice.   Being part of the Environmental Science Academy ( and vegan), I decided to make some healthy non animal product snacks for them to chew on and ponder about the positive impacts of not eating animal products even just one meal a day, or once a week- while they browsed the other stations relating to some of the fun stuff we do in our academy.  I had a sous chef for the veggie sausages and server for our smoothies. The upperclassmen in our academy really showed up and had a good time.
I saw a lot of kids all over school laughing, presenting things, making things and belonging today.
Feel good day fo sho.

A-ha: Giving kids a purpose, helps them know what it feels like to be useful and important.

Reminder: Blog earlier.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Day 98- me, the student

Today I was without my students and at a Socratic Seminar Conference with one of my department colleagues.  She and I have led school PD on Socratic Seminars together in the past and want to continue and grow our expertise in this area.  It was worth it.  These things can be a crap shoot sometimes, but the facilitator/presenter was, without a doubt, an expert in Socratic Seminars. He modeled clarity and kept the all day conference very focused.  My biggest take aways were the strategies and instruction he provided around creating the opening Socratic Seminar question.  The first part of the day all of the teachers participated in a very rich socratic seminar, where he modeled leading, pressing and formative assessment.  He did not allow us to switch on our teacher hats; we were students! I loved it!!!
About myself, I learned that, yes, it is still very difficult for me to not share.  I spent way too much time waiting for an opening to speak and needed to let go of how important my thoughts and ideas were and just listen.  Progress....

A-ha: My ego really gets in the way of my ability to listen.

Reminder: Don't worry, life will go on even without my input!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Day 97 - I need to see where they are at

Today I saw proof of the power of Socratic Seminars on student confidence, thinking and questioning.  I don't need convincing that Socratic Seminars are a powerful learning tool that will improve students skills across the board and far into their future-- I preach it all the time.  Still, I enjoy seeing the impact.  Today with my Seniors I did their first Socratic Seminar pre-assessment (they will have one as part of their final in May), I need to see where they are at.  There were a few students in each class that had experience with Socratic Seminar, either in my US History class last year or in one of their English classes.  The difference in confidence, ability to articulate reasoning , listen and ask questions was like black and white.  I am excited for the progress that all of my students will be making in these categories as we improve our speaking, listening and questioning skills this semester.
I did something new today and I had the students self assess in a writing afterwards.  SO beyond peer assessing, I had them write about what they did well, could improve upon and any observations, feelings and thought processes they had during the seminar.  Overall, the students listened fairly well (I love watching them listen to each other), next steps using paraphrasing to share what they were listening to from each other.  In their reflections many students wrote about really wanting to speak, but being afraid.  They also wrote that they want to speak next time and go for it.  Others wrote they wanted to use more evidence and wished they had taken better notes.  They were clear with where they want to go, and clear that they felt this work was purposeful and important. They want to be better at it!! Yay!!!

A-ha: I have done enough Socratic Seminars now, that they don't feel stressful anymore!

Reminder:  Don't forget to charge my battery when I am video recording classes all day...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day 96: The best Monday of this semester

The best Monday of this semester( maybe because I did some self care and went to a concert last night impromptu...I needed to just sit and listen to music, feed my soul and not worry about Monday) ...oh it is also the first Monday with classes this semester.  Nonetheless, I felt rested and for a minute felt like I was back on a routine -until I realized this week is super modified for a couple huge school events, including a career fair.  All of the events we have at school this week are powerful, in learning and school morale, but man, I miss the routine!  I miss it because I think I need it- and I think our students do too.  Its rough to meet all the needs of a big school and stay on a tight routine, but I do wonder how much it affects the students- like I wish I had data.  Anyone have any data on this?
I have been to my training gym everyday from 6-7pm since we have been back to school and I know that routine has been helping me stay sane and grounded. I write this blog to help remind myself the importance of routine and daily practices.  I wonder what my students have as a routine everyday that makes them feel secure?  Ya know, I will ask them tomorrow.

A-ha: Growing up, school was the only thing that was normal for me- I guess i still expect and need that.  Maybe thats why I like working in a school so much.

Reminder: October might have too much routine.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Day 95 - Spent the day modeling

A full day of seniors- my favorite.  Spent the day modeling close reading strategies and preparing students for their socratic seminar on whether the federal minimum wage should be raised.  The mistake I made, was choosing an article to close read and chunk that had 17 "paragraphs" or chunks. Now this should not be too long for my students (should being key word there) but it is definitely too long to model, think aloud, chunk, number- put in the margins what the author is saying, etc. I did it, and we made it through in each class, but it was tiring and took a long time. I have to be honest, by 6th period I tried to take a short cut and modeled the first two paragraphs, then asked them if they would rather continue on their own in pairs or have me read this article to them.  Most had no opinion, but some of my more interested students wanted me to read it and model- so I did.  I asked if they regretting me reading it to them afterwards and their response was "no"- they feel like they understand better when I read to them. SO, now that they have these new comprehension, close reading skills, maybe that will change.  I was surprised that in a senior class, only 3 of my students had ever been taught to chunk the writing and number the paragraphs.  This takes time, but they need more practice doing this and building confidence in their comprehension skills.  But all of this was to get them collecting evidence and creating varied levels (AVID-Costas & Blooms) of questions for our socratic seminar. Common core, thank you for allowing me to spend time on this.
We have been gathering information from a great classroom source I recommend, The Lowdown.  Its a kqed site that offers news articles and lots and lots of graphic and visual interpretations of very complex ideas.  I like to use this site as a first place for students to gather information and begin questioning the texts.  Check it out, the visuals are exceptionally accessible for students.

A-ha:  Close reading strategy practice is good for me too!

Reminder:  The more comprehension the more one enjoys reading.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Day 94 - I'm going to sleep like a baby

This day was quite emotionally eventful for me. I could blame it on  my horrible nights sleep(drank coffee way too late yesterday) or my cycle but I'd rather not- I don't want to look for some explanation to my emotions and try to solve them- I need to practice just being okay with them. Granted, my emotionally eventful days look very much like any other day to everyone else, but they feel different and my mind obsesses on what other people think and many other things that are none of my business and I have no control over.  So lots of feelings inside my head, ups and downs today.
          First, I was thrown by a meeting I was not prepared for, which allowed some insecurity about my preparedness for my rowdy 1st period to creep in- then I had First period. Within 5 minutes I had asked 2 students to step out(aah it was so peaceful while they were gone...), then I invited them back in, lesson was moving along fairly smooth with attentive students. Then Principal swings by to hang out for a minute and I immediately felt "not good enough" and unsure of myself ( ohhh the way life gives us road signs and flashing lights to our deeper issues).   But wait, there's more in First period... as we moved into the second lesson of the day (which I worked my butt off on), my patience disappeared as my chronic disrupter stood right up while I was explaining the lesson and learning goals, telling me how I need to let him use a charger for his computer etc. Guess who got to go outside again???
          Everything was uphill from there. My yearbook team has really been gelling and seem to be more clear about what they need to do- with a lot of self starting.  Pretty good lunch, but I forgot my greens! Then a couple student visits on my prep that reassured me about the positive impacts I have on my students and a couple colleague interactions that I was very thankful for.
I'm going to sleep like a baby.

A-ha:  Embracing my emotions can help facilitate me getting to the true nature of them, instead of turning to my ego which tries to control them.

Reminder: Tomorrow's Friday!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Day 93- real life

Today a student exclaimed, "Finally!!!! I'm learning something I can actually use in real life!"  This is why I have incorporated this Budget Challenge simulation into my Economics class.  Its helpful that the new proposed CA Social Science standards include financial literacy in Economics now, allowing me to feel more secure on all fronts about really spending time doing this.  Of course, we know the truth- she has learned much of what she uses in real life in school, and plenty she will use in real life- but the point is, she doesn't think so- in her eyes most of her learning isn't applicable to her life.  Wouldn't it be powerful to have students feel " wow I can use this in real life", on many occasions? For students to have multiple opportunities to choose learning that they felt they could "actually use in real life?" I know I'm not saying anything new, but I think it deserves repeating over and over until there are some drastic changes in education- and to make sure I never forget.
The beginning of this simulation has taken a little more time than I first anticipated but, it is sooo worth it(10 weeks to go). Now that everyone is on the same page and realizes they have to check their emails to know when to pay bills, and they know how to log in their bank and use bill pay - and fill out their budget spreadsheet to make sure they have enough money to pay their bills next month- we won't need to spend much time at all in class with the simulation.  Next class we can just check in and see who in class has the highest credit score!

A-ha:  Many students feel completely disconnected from what they are learning in school.   (I have been in denial about the magnitude of this)

Reminder:  Some kids will resist thinking about real life and money. Their fear of the future is real and resistance is just a cover up. Don't give up on them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Day 92: they just need some space to move.

Today I incorporated kahoot quizzes into my lecture.  This slide lecture only had  photographs and I wrote a few words on the wall. So the students had to listen and I had to be clear about what the most important points were as we were going through 6 major causes of the depression.  Each cause, has a photograph slide accompanied by my lecture points about how that cause helped lead to the Depression ( this is always a scary lecture because I swear, I see a lot of similarities between now and then). Sounds kinda, eh - at least for anyone who may not be interested in The Great Depression. Plus it can be quite a bit of information and I would like them to retain some of it. SOOO, I incorporated a kahoot for each slide.  Meaning one photograph and information in their organizers- then a crazy screaming 5 question kahoot- using their notes.  I thought this was a good idea, until we were there.  Again, it is so hard for me not to enjoy kids hollering at the screen and high fiving when they get a question right, or move to space number one- but....then calming them down for the next slide- then all over again! I do have some hyper kids in this class so I thought this was a great way to break up the direct instruction, plus we learn during the kahoot too.  Well, multiple kahoots , during a slide lecture, only fueled the hyperactivity in these students!   Now I know- just do the kahoot at the end of class for my US History students.  On the plus side, they all answered fairly well (retention 5 minutes after a slide is expected to be high), and getting the information again in the kahoot will probably help them still retain much of the learning throughout the unit. But if not, they have the notes...

A-ha: Wiley kids don't need kerosene poured on them, they just need some space to move.

Reminder: get earplugs for next kahoot

Monday, January 18, 2016

Day 91- first Friday

It was the first Friday of the second semester and many kids didn't even realize they were getting a three day weekend....the teachers, however were not as forgetful- myself included.  Its nice to ease in to coming back with a four day week, but at the same time I am conflicted with feeling I do not have enough time!  But here I am on Monday night of a three day weekend and I still haven't had enough time to do all the things around my house-- so maybe this is a personal problem and the truth is I do have plenty of time to teach my students what they need to know.
I like that, "the truth is I have plenty of time". Just saying that out loud feels good (or in this instance, to myself- in my head).  If I constantly feel like I don't have enough time, I can't be present and will race through things so fast no one is going to learn anything anyway!
SO- that settles it.  I am going to give my US History students a list of topics/units that I am expected to teach (not possible) and let them choose which they want to learn about the most.  I could learn a lot from this google form I will make.  When I do I will share it.

A-ha: Not enough time is me believing the wrong things and not being present.

Reminder: There is enough time.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Day 90- This week has been a success so far...

I wonder what the impact would be if I changed the time of my blogging to right after school.....
Maybe my perspective would be different, maybe I would sleep earlier, who knows?
I loved having two A days in a row!!! I need my first period 11th graders and I believe they need me as consecutively as often.  We just went right into our work today without skipping a beat and accomplished quite a bit.  Better yet, there was learning in all the doing.  I won't see them again until Tuesday and I must keep our momentum!!!
I have been working out every day since back to school, partly because I am completely out of an exercise routine and I am forcing myself to leave school by 5:15 the latest- everyday.  Its been good- I even left at 4 on our Wed. modified day.  I do prefer to do most of my work at school, but if I don't get out of thereby 515- I stay til at least 6 or later and never exercise or do other self care.  This week has been a success so far...

A-ha: Consistency creates its own two way street.

Reminder: Always ask for clarification- my mind can make up what I think people mean.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Day 89 - conversations in the hall

I think one of the reasons I couldn't quite relax this break was because of my feelings around the difficulties I have been having with a few students in my first period.  Today wasn't that different but it was fine.  Sure, I had two occasions of sending students out until I came to talk with them (conversations in the hall), but the lesson went well, the students stayed engaged and on track and big whoopee- I had to do some disciplining while I was teaching.  Its part of the job and it doesn't mean I'm a "bad" teacher.
I think I was wishing that during break their would be some personal breakthrough, teenager corner turning toward maturity and self control- but today I realized that didn't happen to the extent I had been hoping for.  That's okay.  They are still bright, creative students and I just have to be CONSISTENT like a drill sergeant - or better- a COACH.

A-ha:  Students need to practice and learn behavior, just like content and skills.  And I do have to scaffold that behavior learning.

Reminder:  Taking care of myself benefits my students and classroom.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Day 88 - First day of second semester

I am a sucker for most of my students and then there are those that when I see them - I  get all choked up and happy inside.  I forgot how much joy they bring to my life! I felt warm and fuzzy today- and strict and comfortable and tired and .....patient!  I don't know if it was because I forgot to drink my coffee or I just let this day be the best it could be without trying to choke hold it and shape it into what I wanted it to be.
First thing, I didn't have any students in my schedule, except for advisory.  We use two platforms and in neither did I have students.  Luckily most of my economics students found their way to me- including the new ones.
After saying hello, catching up getting giddy- re- enforcing/defining the class cell phone policy( more later)- we were to begin this great budget simulation I found for them- but.......the Internet was down!!!!! We stayed calm just spoke more about our vacations and discussed the importance of financial literacy. Eventually - the Internet returned and we got to register and delve into our budget simulation.
Everyone is assigned a salary (this is post college graduation budgeting) and gets to choose what 401k contribution they will choose if any- as the first step. It excites me to teach these things- because I honestly feel financial literacy will be one of the most important, lasting and useful tools that I can teach them.
This was a good way to start the first day as I ease them into the conceptual learning of ECONOMICS which they have been convincing themselves will be so hard.

A-ha: I listen better at lunch to my friends and colleagues when I don't bring my phone to the table.

Reminder: Everything always works out some way.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Day 87: 3 weeks ago...

The last Friday of classes, three weeks ago, was teaching day 87.  Last day of finals for the first semester and I was ready to be done thinking about my classes- couldn't even blog that day( or the subsequent days)!   My goal and promise to myself was to blog and reflect on each teaching day this year- so here I am before we start back tomorrow- reflecting on that last day and some of my time off.
I did feel worn down at the end of the semester- almost entirely opposite of how I felt in the beginning of the year. I am not quite refreshed yet either.  I am very open to the memories I have of how much easier second semester feels compared to first semester but I am not comfortable enough to sit in any expectations.
As usual, it feels like a lot is happening, and when that is the case- the chances of things not falling where I would like them to, increases.  Is there any job on the planet where you learn this much. all the time?

A-ha:  Its the learning (about ourselves, others, patterns, content, strategies, truths, lies,possibilities, failures, humanity) that wears us down, not the teaching.

Reminder: Everyday is a new day, every experience is a new experience.  Feel free to see with new eyes tomorrow.