Thursday, April 28, 2016

Day 156 - briefs

Next week we will back to normal but on the last leg, which is always the hardest push.  I feel like one blink and the school year will be over...I'm not ready! I was even getting nostalgic with my juniors today, thinking about how hard it will be to say goodbye to them next year when they are seniors.  
Funny moment in class today: As I was putting up my amazon account for Soundtrack to a Revolution, a student says " You buy your underwear on Amazon?", another pipes in "$8.97".  Wow, I didn't see the side panel of past purchases.  Luckily, these underwear were for utility and not fashion or "evening" wear; just good old sturdy Hanes.  I was surprised they weren't more interested in the drone copter purchase...

A-ha:  Its been awhile since I purchased those undies, and actually purchased a history book in the morning. I guess Amazon thinks its time for me to buy new underwear.

Reminder: Turn the projector on when the movie is ready.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Day 155- teambuilding

Its late, I'm tired. This will be short.  Two things I would like to do before next year starts...go find cheap/free furniture and rearrange and decorate the yearbook lab. If the room has to be shared, it might be impossible.  I don't like that word, impossible.  Decorate and rearrange, that's two things right?  Plus the bonus, do the impossible.

A-ha:  Team building is the key to everything.

Reminder:  Team building is not a one day event.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Day 154 - Only Tuesday???

Only Tuesday??? I do not know why I am so tired.  Another day of testing and it went smooth as we are all used it to it and know how to correct problems for the most part.  Seniors are getting the picture that school is almost out and its now or never.  I predict after school drama and tears intermittently through the month of May.  nothing new, just the usual May freak outs.  Don't get me wrong, there will be plenty of celebrations, high fives and tears of happiness too.

A-ha:  I'm going to really miss some of these kids. Almost cried in class today thinking about it.

Reminder:  This happens every year. The world is full of special people.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Day 153 - I am noticing

Monday, the beginning of the Civil Rights unit and I mam noticing my heightened sensitivity to every student move.  I have noticed this before, when I teach the African American Civil Rights movement.  I want so desperately for the students to get it and be outraged and be motivated and to be altered.   The town I teach in has very few African Americans but the realities of the oppression of people of color and white privilege are very real and alive in our town and its neighboring town, Santa Cruz.   This fact just doubles the importance I feel for my students to connect to the African American struggle.  And honestly, in the last few years, I have yet to be satisfied with my students enduring understanding or my method of teaching this unit.   I am focusing on music this time, and I could hear a pin drop as the students listened to Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit today. Next week, Soundtrack for a Revolution.

A-ha: Written reflection leads to internal change much quicker than keeping self observations in my head and to myself.

Reminder:  Even when done with this yearlong practice of blogging every day, I need to keep on a writing and reflection schedule.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Day 152 - project day

Friday flew by as my seniors finished building their websites and I had to bolt right at three to drive to Santa Barbara for my partners Moms bday celebration weekend.   On these days when students are doing all the work, one would think that I could get so much done- but its not the case.  Which is fine, I would be worried if no one was asking me for help or guidance.  But it is an interesting phenomena that one can actually get more done with a perfectly scheduled class.  Then you know how long you have - like 10 minute quick write- then you know what you can get done.  Whereas a "project" day, every time you sit down something comes up.  I want them using me, but I just have to remind myself about how those days go, so that my expectations don't get me all ruffled.

A-ha:  It is nearly impossible to get any substantial amount of work done with students in my room.

Reminder: That's what preps for....and home.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Day 151 - the news threw me

More smarter balanced testing today, but it went a lot smoother than the first day- as predicted.   The news about Prince kind of threw me in the middle of the day and luckily I have a few co-workers that I could mourn with.  One even came up to my room and find me to make sure that I was okay.  I do love prince- he is a genius, prolific composer,  a perfect and moving singer and the best overall musician that has lived during my lifetime of loving music.  I am a musician and I wish to have a even an ounce of his talent.   The kids don't really have a connection with Prince- but they will.  Especially after tomorrow in my class.

A-ha:   There is no excuse for not going to one of your heroes concerts.  Its been too long.

Reminder:  Buy Michael Franti tickets.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Day 150 - Always try

Getting the Seniors prepared to present their Community Action Projects and watching some of them begin to scramble for evidence, artifacts and even ways to pull any action off.  This is the first year we are trying senior projects in more of a #20time style, student driven and designed.  These students aren't used to student driven and directed projects, so all of us have been learning a lot. I'm impressed with the GOV/ECON dept. just getting on board and collaborating together on something that was technically, a trial run-- we took a risk.  I think we will be happy with the results....

A-ha:  Seeming untouchables, like it when you reach out to them.

Reminder:  Always try.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Day 149 - Day one of Smarter Balanced testing

Well the hardest part is over, day one of the testing.  I was surprised about how much anxiety I had around doing everything exactly perfect for this damn test!!!!  Students who brought their own computers kept being sent to the library but then coming back to my class with computers that were not updated, more students would show up and then my computer wanted to only remember last years password and I was so anxious I didn't even think of starting the test on my other computer in the room with all my saved info from this year and then  I started the test over a few times because the directions in my binder did not exactly match the screen,....But then we got started.  phew!!! Bonus - all these kids were ready and willing---and by the time we started every kid had shown up.
The lessons we learned during the test were aplenty.  Screens would freeze, one girl had magnification stuck and couldn't read any questions --she sat there for 35 minutes as we scrambled to find someone to help.  SO the trick is to restart the computer and it will save the students work even though they are in this special browser and test.  Now we know.  Next time will be easier.
In my perfect world, the company who receives the 100's of millions of dollars for these tests, should administer the test.  They are the experts, I'll stay in the class with them for morale support. If they are such high stakes tests, wouldn't this make more sense?  Because what happened in my class happened in many classes and I know multiple instances of the same are happening at every school.

"Hang on students, I need to mediate before our test!"

A-ha:  If I had this much anxiety what was it like for the kids?

Reminder:  Everybody did their best today.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Day 148- powderpuff conditioning

Today I found something I am good at and I love to do... leading students in exercising and conditioning!!! I did lead a zumba class once at the first school I worked at-- some students and the school secretary; but this was different.  Only two girls showed up today, but they meant business.  They wanted to workout and I loved cheering them on and working out right next to them.  Full of willingness and perseverance, they made my day.  We used barbells, we used kettle bells, we used dumbbells, we used resistance bands, we did squats we did lunges and we had fun( or at least I did).
Lets see who shows up tomorrow....

A-ha:  Teaching or leading exercise satisfies my physical needs, emotional needs and spiritual needs all at once.

Reminder:  Willing participants in anything can make all the difference.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Day 147- Learning DIfferences

It's Sunday and I am blogging about Friday, but honestly, I can't remember much.  That's good and bad.  We did spend much of the day getting students set up on MArketwatch and their Virtual Stock Market.  It's always fun to give them $100,000 to invest.  Some go for it right away and some buy one share of a $34.00 stock and are afraid to spend the rest.  We are just getting started and already I can imagine who will be the obsessers/future brokers.
But SATURDAY...I spent the day at AT&T Park at a conference revolving around students with learning differences- EdRev. It was powerful, informative, moving and fun.  By 10 am, I had already learned about four very powerful tech tools.  Yes, they are presenting them as tools for resource students... but these tools are great for all my students! is my favorite so far.  It changes the Lexile (reading) level of any document--the student can just paste it in.  But rather than just simplifying the document, it shows what words were changed and builds quizzes the students can take after to help them learn the words that were altered.  It also tracks student data....and it is FREE.

All the speakers and presenters were inspiring and all had a learning difference of some kind.  I wish there were more teachers there and more students of color there.  There is nothing privileged about having a learning difference, but there is privilege around who has access to the resources to turn that difference into a strength.    

There were only like 500 people there and how fun to see the beauty of the park without the hindrance of 20,000 other people bumping into you.  One of the workshops was in the visitors locker room and they had batting practice in the Giants batting practice area.  The field was open to run around on, with a climbing wall, a bounce house a live band  and green grass to lay on at lunch.

A-ha: There are so many unknown and undiscovered resources out there for all learners.  Tech is changing the game.

Reminder:  It's good to do stuff I might not normally do.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Day 146- Light Days

To be honest, the best part of my day was playing around with my new smartboard software. In yearbook class the students wanted to play jeopardy, connect four, logic was just fun-- and they got to show off all the stuff they remember from history and government.  I do love playing games and I love technology so me and this smartboard ought to get along fairly well.  Of course this is much more that one can do besides play games...but until I create those new presentations, it will be review game on fo sho!

A-ha: Sometimes a game is just what the student ordered.

Reminder:  A light day is perfectly fine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Day 145: Everything takes practice

Pulled in my driveway at 6:30 and realized I forgot to stop at the Salvation Army where some of my students were feeding a meal they prepared to some of the homeless people in the community.  I almost drove back to Watsonville and decided to stay home.  I feel horrible that I forgot about the event, but my afternoon got a little hectic.  I am not looking forward to apologizing to my students and I missed out on witnessing our students taking action in the community.  Tomorrow, I will see the glow of self esteem and purpose in their smiles...I hope. 

A-ha: I have not found the fine line between taking care of myself and being there for my job and students.

Reminder: Everything takes practice.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Day 144 - be present

Seemed like an easy enough day, but I was pooped by the end.  A day full of group assessments on pricing , markets and equilibrium  and then after school for those that still needed more explaining and learning time.  Left at 6, but most of the grading is done.
Multiple times I heard students mumble how much they hate school and likewise teachers with similar rumblings.  I'm telling you, its this time of year!  My daily work is just to not go there with them--- must stay present, grateful and available (repeat a million times a day and I will be fine).

A-ha: It's hard for me to watch people feel helpless about their situation because then I feel helpless too.

Reminder:  Maybe I should just be present for them and not make it about me.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Day 143: Defiance

Defiance, thank the TV gods that I can laugh when I think of that word because I always think of Scandal whenever the word comes out of my mouth or I type it in an email.  Yes-- I had two instances of defiance today. It seems so silly; just give me your phone please when I ask for it- you know you will get it back in an hour!  But every month or so, I am greeted with.....DEFIANCE( HA- you are thinking about Kerry Washington right now!)  Another student decided today that the bell dismisses him not me--luckily everyone else stayed put and respected my wishes. I do not think that he will enjoy apologizing to the class.
I wish Scandal was on tonight.....

A-ha: As a kid I was kind of wild, but I was never defiant-- I knew how to please adults.  I think that's why it still surprises me.

Reminder:  I know my work is important, but I mustn't take myself too seriously!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Day 142: TGIF

Friday and the students were able to focus all the way through sixth period.  Sixth period is always the most challenging, I take some responsibility for that.  Not only are the kids over it by the end of the day, so am I kind of.  Its hard to be completely present , available, joyous and free in the 7th hour of teaching.  We all did pretty well on Friday and stayed with each other and available for learning.  TGIF!!!!!!

A-ha:  upon watching an older video today, I see I let a student derail a whole class learning.  In retrospect, I should've exited him from the class.

Reminder:  Its okay to interrupt a Socratic Seminar by asking a student to leave, waiting for a situation to mature within the circle does not always work. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Day 141- I am not the savior

Having students work on a project in class can be a mixed bag. They are building a cold war website in US History and first they are in expert groups, then go back to their website group to teach and build each individual page.  Most students working, researching, sharing info-- and a few slacking off and not worried "cuz its due Wednesday".   I like this set up, because I can visit each group and give a mini lecture on the event that each expert group is working on. Eight mini lectures instead of one long one.

Teachers are starting to get into their "what is wrong with the Seniors?" mode. This is only my 5th year  teaching but I am having deja vu because this happens exactly the same at the same time of the year, every year.  I will not let myself get sucked into this!!!! I will stay available for my students and allow the same make up assignments but I will be reminding myself on a daily basis that this senioritis has nothing to do with me and me losing sleep and showing all my stress to the kids, does not make them do work.  They will do it when they do it- if they do it.  When they are ready, I will be there- they hope.  They have to figure it out on their own- they will.  And yes- a few may not figure it out until its too late....Thats what summer school is for.  Hey- I was a summer grad....

A-ha:  I need to be ultra conscious of how I internalize students(esp. Seniors) not doing work during the last quarter of school.

Reminder:  Stay in my intent-- I am not the savior, I am the teacher.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Day 140 - Brainstorming

Wham-bam, the day is went quick!  Usually Wednesdays feel like forever but this momentary relaxation leftover of Spring Break is really keeping me well paced.  No drama, some kids a little too hot and antsy in 6th period and the teachers after school were even calm, cool and involved in the staff meeting.
I practiced using lucidchart with my yearbook kids to map out what an issue of a school newspaper might look like and I think it got them more interested.  I really think we can do an issue before the end of the year, I just need a little more buy in from a few more students.......and make sure we are selling yearbooks at the same time.....

A-ha:    Brainstorming with visuals inspires people.

Reminder:  I am lucky to have the classroom that I have.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Day 139 - Banana market

"B is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s-, I ain't no hollaback girl"....a little Gwen Stefani playing in the background of my classroom-turned banana market for a simulation/experiential exercise I love to do with my Econ kids!  Teaching them about equilibrium price and how markets work through this game has always been one of my most engaging and impactful activities.  Thank you TCI curriculum - ECON ALIVE!!!!!

This is one of the days when students say, "wow. class is already over? It went so fast!"  In a block schedule, that is a rarity! Its good for me when time flies too.  There was one student who suggested I have the students sell something illegal to make it more fun.  Okay- let me see...drugs? guns? what should I do next year????(no thanks, I will stick to bananas).

A-ha:  There is nothing more inspiring than seeing kids laughing and learning and taking risks.

Reminder:  Don't forget to do reimbursements for my conference!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Day 138 - Back to school/work

Considering how difficult it was to get up, how horribly I slept, how many times I hit the snooze button and how late I was running- I had a pretty good day.  Got to work on time( just not as early as I like) and my room was not too dissheveled from having a substitute before vacation.  Cords were unplugged, my projector was pointing the wrong way and my audio was messed up, but nothing I couldn't fix in a few minutes.
It was genuinely nice and sweet to see the kids. I think we all felt well rested and patient today. First period seemed more mature than I remember and yearbook seemed way more immature than I remember. I think I would prefer to have immaturity in my elective than in a content class.
Its nice having a prep on Mondays, especially after vacation, because I can ease into the week.
My after school credit recovery kids were supersmooth today and a few finished their course. There are now only 8 kids left to finish and they are right on track.  This is the third year of e2020 an online credit recovery program we use, and finally, I think the kids are getting the hang of what is expected of them.
Smooth day back at work, and even though I stayed til 5:40- I made it to the gym and made dinner fro my partner!
Almost forgot to blog tho.....

A-ha:  Being without technology or a phone for 5 days in nature, really did bring a deeper sense of relaxation into my body and mind.

Reminder: Don't be scurred- do it more often!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

DAy 136 & 137 - CABE conference

SO the last two days before Spring break, I was at CABE 2016- a conference focused on EL strategies and bilingual education.  Its hard to be out of the classroom when so much is going on, but at the same time that makes it easy to enjoy too.  I have to remember the students have 5 other teachers and plenty to do. Also with technology it is easy to assign content to students when I am out.  I was most worried about my Seniors conveniently forgetting about their community action projects and my yearbook team needing some fire from me.  I was on the phone with my yearbook crew, lighting the fires under their butts as much as I could from afar.  I did end up doing quite a bit of work in my hotel room on that yearbook- but its done.
A bonus from the conference was two of my students parents also attended.  It was nice to get to know them, practice my Spanish and best when my student called his Dad, I got on the phone and scared him to death when I said I was with his Dad eating dinner in San Francisco!
I had never been to this conference so I didn't know what to expect.  The learning strategies weren't anything that new or exciting- our school and history department really focus on all the common core they were addressing at most sessions.  The sessions that inspired me the most were on culturally responsive teaching and bringing creativity back to the classroom. There was also a very informative session with tools and take aways on how to recognize specific language writing issues and how to address those.
Last bonus, it was in San Francisco, so lots of vegan food for me!

A-ha:  Social interactions with parents may be just as powerful as a home visit.

Reminder:  Keep shooting for an Academy family beach bbq!!!!!