Monday, February 29, 2016

Day 119 - I love how much we are all learning!!!

Socratic Seminar filming today about "Is it justifiable to take away people's rights for the common good?".  The students are beginning WWII and I wanted to start with looking at Pearl Harbor and Japanese Internment.  We watched a video with a transcript copy to collect evidence.  It wasn't perfect, but there were moments of greatness for a few.  My favorite part was reading the reflections.  Students really do like learning in this format- from each other and through discussion.  They want to speak more- they want to use more evidence- these are all things they wrote.  I guess that makes it my job to work on helping them be even more prepared and have more modeling and videos for what it looks like to listen,  A few were antsy today and the other students noticed and wrote about it in every reflection. They wished a few people were more serious and they noticed when the outer circle had a side conversation.  This time I forgot to control the outer circle seating before we began. It negatively impacted the seminar, but I love how much we are all learning!!!

A-ha:  Everyone is listening when you let the students be the center of the learning.

Reminder: Don't skip steps to finish on time.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Day 118 - Friday seems so far away.....

Only a two day weekend, but Friday seems so far away.....
I was at school all day on Saturday for a Senior Class fundraiser, maybe that's why.
My seniors are behind on a few unit assessments, so instead of going to the school play- we worked on and relearned some of the things that were due last week.  There was pretty much a 95% no turn in rate for the last assessments, so I realized it must be something I'm doing wrong.  I have allowed them to do them out of class- like homework.  I figured if I give them a whole week to due an assignment which shows me they understand the units learning- that would be enough time.  In the past, my assignments that take a little more creativity have been mostly embraced; not so much with this senior class.  But I will keep trying to let them show them selves how brilliant and creative they are!
One of the assignments was a picture of themselves, where they identify and label goods & services , the factors of production and include an explanation of where they are , along with the opportunity cost.  About a 20 minute assignment if you read the instructions and understand those things.  I was able to help them and get them to help each other as we relearned and refreshed. It took about 30, but almost everyone finished and turned it in.  The second was to write song lyrics comparing command economic systems and market economic systems. Again not too hard but they froze on this one, " we're not songwriters", "this is too hard".  I did some more modeling - using the tunes of other popular songs, looking up lyrics of songs and just changing them etc.  Not all are completed, but most have confidence now.  One girl was rapping in the class, recording it on her computer.
Bumped into a student and his mother at Costco. What a pleasure. Those are moments when I wished I lived in Watsonville so I could see students and their parents all the time around town.  I guess that would be some teachers nightmare!

A-ha:  Just because creativity is easy for me, does not mean it is easy for the kids.

Reminder:  Run more errands in Watsonville.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Day 117 - I was due for an adult day

Its hard to be out of the classroom but sometimes it comes at the right time.  A technology workshop all day today and it was the most useful one yet! The pace was good- I learned new stuff but not too much new stuff. Re-learned some stuff and not once did I feel held back by the tech level in the room. After 16 hours together, and practicing in our classrooms- I guess that happens. And, I had enough time to work and apply all of this learning to immediate lessons in my classroom.  Good use of time. Another bonus, I didn't have to ask anyone to put their cell phone away or hand it over.  I was due for an adult day- thank you PVUSD, thank you Jason Borgen, thank you Courtney Rudd.
So just so I remember, some of the new google apps I learned and re-learned about today were:
1) turn off the lights- to blacken my screen- which I need now because I have a smart projector in the ceiling as opposed to one on my desk that I can just close the cover on
2) docent edu - annotation tool for any website I find and want to share with the kids. I can put questions in, arrows---all kinds of stuff
3) Tab resize - so I can like 4 tab pages showing(I need a lot of tabs open sometimes instead of toggling back and forth)
4) In google sites I had never used the single page template - I can make an announcement page or even a list page
5)we used screencastify today, but  use screencast o matic. However screencastify is great for the students
6) google sites Webquest template to help me keep my webquests rigorous and organized.

There was more too, but thats it for now.

A-ha:  I do need adult days sometimes.

Reminder: Sometimes the kids need a break from me too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Day 116: " Let it go, let it go..."

SO a little more than 8 years ago I quit smoking. That first day, I finally understood what people were talking about when they said how hard it was to quit smoking...I wanted to kill everyone I saw!!!!!  I hadn't felt anywhere near that full of angst   Well maybe that's an exaggeration, but I did have a flashback to that day and those feelings, in my search for relief today.
I should track the dates of my blogs and see if there is any correlation ...( pms, hint, hint).  I may have escaped the misery but I had a defiant student whom I had to get escorted by security that put me in a mood and I couldn't really shake it. My other classes were okay but nothing magical.  And so it goes....

I'm happy to be home watching World war II documentaries....

A-ha: NO ONE is obsessing about what happened in my class today except for me!!!!!!

Reminder: " Let it go, let it go..."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Day 115- experiential exercise

In Economics today, we learned about gains from trade, specialization and comparative advantage through a game.  I try not to call it a game until after its over, because for some reason students all think games are easy and when we start the directions and the first rounds of this exercise it is easy only for a few and hard for most.  That's my favorite part, watching them struggle and try to problem solve!  It is from TCI Econ Alive and I highly recommend it.  Half of the room are farmers from region a and the other half are farmers from region b-- they have different production goals and different production schedules for potatoes and pineapples.  The ultimate goal is for the students to realize if they specialize in one of their crops, (potatoes & pineapples) they will be able to trade more effectively and increase their production.  We do five rounds and most students don't get it until round three or four. A few don't get it until we talk about what worked and why.  The room is bustling, students think its impossible then they are successful, students keep saying this will never work etc., etc.
These types of activities really deepen the learning. It takes a lot of prep work, a lot of time and a lot of guidance- but soooo worth it.
My mistake today- I made sure to have the kids give me digital feedback on what they liked about the game and what they would change.  Great idea, huh?  Except I read the feedback after school when I was already done administering that activity!!!!  Save it for next year I guess....

A-ha: This type of learning is very new for some of my students and they think they would rather do textbook work.  By the end of class, not so much.

Reminder:  Never decide to forgo one of these exercises because there is not enough time.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Day 114: This is a busy time

This is a busy time.  The work I do with Stanford's Hollyhock program is due- two parts- and lesson plans for my district google certification is due- oh, and I have to teach, plan and grade.   And I need to finish a presentation I am doing at a conference in early March.  Well it's good for me to write that down and see it more clearly than the way it was all jenga style stacked in my brain.
So it has been mentioned that I may want to check my number of commitments, but I don't think people understand how many things I do say no to! I am a doer and as long as I am honest with myself and able to say no and/or back down as needed, I feel pretty good about stepping up.

A-ha:  Taking too many commitments may not be about me, but rather leaving opportunities available for others.

Remember:  Don't be afraid to change your mind and don't be afraid to commit.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Day 113: They heard me. Today.

I saw kids talking to each other today for extended periods of time. It was lovely and reminiscent of how things used to be before everyone had a cell phone.  After catching myself in some laziness on Wednesday I gave a stern refresher of my cell phone expectations PLUS an added- no more warnings. I just don't want to see them.  It worked.  Go figure.  I did confiscate a few, without words just a hand out and then student puts phone in my hand. I told them "I don't even want to say the word cell phone today". They heard me. Today. I will have to repeat myself next class I am sure.
But the best part was seeing how much it improved their group work.  They were all talking and engaged with one another- not one hurrying up so they could be done or one obsessed with sneaking a peak on their phone.  They were interacting, like humans- face to face.
So I guess I get to remind them everyday of the cell phone policy if I want it to stick.

A-ha:  Cell phones really do keep people from being present with others, myself included.

Reminder:  Stay firm and clear.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Day 112 - They need more practice.

Lots of opportunity for growth today, me and the students.  Lots of evidence of growth also.  In US we are getting prepared for our Great Depression unit essay and students collected evidence today about whether the New Deal was a success or a failure. Its actually a SHEG (Stanford History Education Group) structured academic conversation assignment but then our department extends it to an essay using the 7 documents from that and students knowledge from the unit etc. Sourcing and evidence analysis is where students need to grow.  They stop at the words of the evidence. We talk about motive of the speaker, credibility of the author, and contextualization over and over but they are not doing this on their own enough yet. They need more practice.  This assignment helps them practice that thinking and my hope is their writing will grow in the reasoning/analysis category.  Historically my students fall flat in reasoning and analysis of evidence, I have to try not create too much anxiety about the essays they haven't even written yet.  One day at a time- they still have to create thesis, outline and choose evidence.
On a growth note, a few of my more challenging students who missed class today came to my room at 5 pm to find out what they missed and excitedly talked about getting together Friday night to go over the documents and collect evidence.  Now that would be hilarious to be a fly on the wall for.....

A-ha:  The Dab is a new dance move. New to me. That is why in every photo kids throw their arms up to the side.

Reminder:  Teaching reading and writing takes time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Day 111- Letting kids slack off is a disservice to them

Looking back on my day, I realized a few things that I may have done differently.  First block, I singled out a student, who kept going to his phone, as the one who was going to learn something today. but I did this out loud without even thinking about it.- "we're not leaving until "Robert" learns something today"... I was pushing him on purpose because he knows better.  But I know better as well and should've just taken his phone, not tried to shame him into learning.  I really didn't realize I was doing this until I looked back.
Second block, pretty smooth---we got what we needed to get done- students met the days learning goal and they appreciated the screencastomatic video I made, breaking down their on line textbook chapter reading.
Third block, looking back I see I kind of slacked off - and still it was the hardest work of the day. Slacked off, meaning, I did not have the energy to force a few kids into staying on task.  Today was majority online work and during the times they were on their chromebooks I got tired of policing them very quick.  If I take away their chromebook then they can't do the work.  Their textbook is online, most of their quick writes are in google classroom- etc. The most successful part of the day, for some, was the short group work and going to the board to write down details and examples of different economic systems.

A-ha:  There should be a study on technology use effectiveness for youth at different times of the day. Haven't they researched when P.E. is the most effective? How about technology?

Reminder:  Letting kids slack off is a disservice to them.  Explicitly giving them some lax time, is not.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Day 110 - TIME IS FLYING!!!!!

Its 10:00 on the dot and I just got home.  I promised the Senior Girls basketball players I would come to their last home game- we won!!!! It was worth it, even though I am starving and still in sweaty clothes.  I made a pact with myself, that if I stay late for any games, I have to also workout in the school exercise room,  I did. I took time out for me and my health.  It only took me 5 years of teaching to figure that out.  Now to keep the consistency.  So far so good this second semester.
The teaching day went smooth enough, pushed a lot of kids and maybe I could've been a little gentler in yearbook.  But we are past a deadline PEOPLE!!!!  Some of the students in yearbook do not feel a sense of urgency until their grade reflects Failure to meet a deadline.  Right now, I have about 7 Failures to meet a deadline.  I have a strong feeling by next class, those pages will be what they think is done.  Conveniently, the yearbook company sets the deadlines with enough time for me to then help them finish, as in edit etc.  There is only one more deadline after this one...TIME IS FLYING!!!!!

A-ha: Some parents really do lose perspective during sporting events.

Reminder:  Take a shower.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Day 109: pleasantly surprised, again

How is it that I still get surprised by my students?  I am not complaining, I just can't imagine people are as pleasantly surprised in other jobs.  For example today, students were doing their CAP (Community Action Project)  elevator pitches and one student quickly explained how he is going to use microprocessors to design a way to bring the Internet to third world countries and anywhere Internet access is not available.  He seemed very sure of himself and I ma excited to see the next step.
Second half of class, I was doing an activity going into investing, 401k's and IRA's but I opened with a question on google classroom( then we can all see the answers), "What would you do with a million dollars?"  I wanted then to go there and then be able to show them the possibility of creating a million dollars with investing and saving.   Reading their responses I was all teary eyed.  In all of my classes, about 90% of the students wrote about buying a house for their family and paying their parents bills. The few that didn't mention parents did mention investing or starting a business.  I was expecting, buy a Ferrari,etc.  Not these kids.  Screenshots of their responses will be in my next back to school night slide show!

A-ha: The more empowered my students are, the better off the world will be.

Reminder:  They are important, make sure they know it.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Day 108- Its my birthday!!!

If you work at a school, I recommend not being shy about your birthday.  It just feels good to hear happy birthday all day.  The students like wishing you a happy birthday and you could probably use it as leverage.  I did not have to do that today, just enjoyed the day.
First thing this morning was the Senior Panoramic picture for the yearbook and never having done it before, I expected chaos.  I coached myself a bit beforehand, " accept any and all help, just let people help you, do not get attached to any outcome....etc." Well, teachers helped, kids were cooperative and we did it in less than 20 minutes. No chaos, low stress.  I am so thankful for everyone who helped, and glad I let them!
After work was the annual high school teacher celebration at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.  Fun hanging out and seeing all the teachers from the area while we get celebrated by the Seaside Company.  This year it was karaoke and bowling--a fun, accidental birthday party for me!  I got to sing and dance with co-workers and just have a good time.  Sometimes I think about not going to this event, but every year I go, I bond with a new co-worker and make new connections.

A-ha: I have enough proof; second semester is easier....

Reminder:  Say yes to hangin' with colleagues, especially those you do not know very well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Day 107 - I still don't give enough feedback

More conversations about grading today after school.  Back when my school had more money             (School Improvement Grant) we had some time to get into grading for learning and had a few visits from an"expert" in the field of impactful grading.   As noticed by the Principal, it seems the school is sliding back into old practices and thinking around grading- things like extra credit, zeros, having kids redo whole courses when they could maybe have redone a few units or showed their learning in other ways.  These practices keep the students buried and it keeps them from loving learning and understanding learning is a process.
Today I realized that as much as I focus on wanting standards based grading and to come up with the perfect grading system for our school - I don't know how much it will help. At least not with the thinking that exists now.  The grading system really doesn't matter.  It is the thinking behind grades that matters.  Thinking from the teacher and the student.  Growth, growth, growth!!!!  The more explicit we teachers are with want we want the kids to be able to do and to know, the more able students are able to show success and know when they are growing and getting it right.
But how do you do this and make it cookie cutter for 2000 students?  You don't.  You can't. Grading itself, is subjective - even though people think it is not.
The Principal talked about feedback today, and this is not a new mention but the reminder is sooo important.  Grades make teachers think we are giving feedback.  But a letter grade on something is not feedback. A student only knows "I suck", I'm average" or "I'm good".  They think about and internalize the rating and not what it was that they learned or what they need to improve upon.
"The simplest prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops of feedback’.” -Classroom Assessment & Grading that Work - Robert J. Marzano (2006)
Seeing a school as big as mine, I think Marzano would say" its time to teach teachers how to give feedback- that isn't grades".
My district is trying to do that -- but I think they , like the teachers, need to be more explicit about this.  Just saying "formative assessment", isn't good enough. Teachers need to be taught multiple new ways of doing this. And with technology, it can be even more immediate.....

A-ha:  I still don't give enough feedback.

Reminder: Give more feedback. Use socrative!!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Day 106 - nature, naturally

Something has shifted in me.  I do not know what, but I felt different today. Still with a million things to do and deadlines up the wazoo, students not having assignments, students taking to long to give me their phones, computers being slow- you name it- its not bothering me.  I feel relaxed and confident that everything will work as needed.  Here I am blogging at 11:15 and not feeling anxiety about rest, just knowing it will be a short one.  Maybe its because I just feel so grateful for everything.  I was able to spend a lot of time in nature and with people I love this weekend. Food for my soul.

A-ha:  Alone time with nature is fast healing.

Reminder:  I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Be outside, alone with nature more often.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Day 105- Friday seems years ago....

Three day weekend, kick off birthday celebration- kept me from Friday blogging.  I did think about it Friday, but got sucked up in packing  etc.  
Friday was definitely a teaching day, not a bonding day.  What I mean is, some days you can tell the connections are the meat and the most of the learning and some days you are soooo teaching that the bonds are not obvious.  In Economics, when kids are interested, we actually are discussing and discovering all kinds of things about ourselves and the world, but its under an academic guise.  Friday was all about factors of production and all the different inputs that go into all the different outputs.  The world slows down a little bit and your mind speeds up when you think about all the different resources and energies that go into every little thing we see, use, buy, throw away, etc.   After learning about factors of production, everyone looks at the world a little differently.
Bonus of the day (week/month/year): one of my students said, "Ms.MacLean, I thought Economics was going to be so hard- but its not, its like common sense."

A-ha: I'm a good Economics teacher.

Reminder: Leave chores and email alone more often.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Day 104 - what a relief!

Today I did something I have never done before...I walked a student down to the office to hand off to the assistant principal.   I felt good as I quickly made the decision, I felt good as I explained the reason and I felt even better when the student returned to me - different and obviously ready to change.  What a relief, I cannot believe how much so.  I let go of my strong hold on the idea that I was going to be able to fix this situation and asked for help.  Kudos and props to my admin, because they were right there to give it.  
I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch, but I have a good feeling about the "different" student I will have next week.  (I hope I am not jinxing myself).  Well, I can't predict the future but today sure felt better than many of the other days I have had with this student. I can ride this high for awhile.

A-ha:  Change happens when you learn something, not when you know something.  I know to ask for help, but today I learned to ask for help.

Reminder:  It is true, they just want love.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Day 103 - "A long short day"

 "A long short day", as one of my colleagues put it.  Wednesday ends at 1:15 but the meetings seem to go on and on and on. A full day with 6 classes wears me out a little too.  They are shorter but it is a lot of wham, bam, here's a bunch of information, I hope you understand!
However today was a bit different; my seniors were working on their CAP(Community Action Project) proposals and preparing for their elevator pitch.  It is different to have a project that we have been dabbling in all year and see them think, " oh, we are still doing this???".  Some students today got right to work were happy to get specific with their plans and others wanted to change their whole project.  And still others tried to not use the time wisely at all.  These types of student driven activities can be risky and inconsistent- but I believe the risk and our end products will make it all worth it!

A-ha: People are not really registering the severity of CA/US teacher shortage.

Reminder: Keep your eyes on the prize

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Day 102- instead of everything being boring

I do not love lecturing, but when it comes to talking about Economics and economic enigmas, I want to talk to the class all day! There is something you see click in students heads when you break down the thinking around everyday things which they never have questioned.  Like "why are there braille dots on drive up ATM's?" or my favorite "why do people pay for bottled water when tap water is so cheap?" The kids are always shocked when we look at data showing that most bottled water is just filtered tap water and that it doesn't get tested as often as tap water.  But mostly, they can't believe when I was in high school there WAS NO SUCH THING as bottled water!  I grew up on L.A. tap water and I am just fine(well, healthy at least).  Anyway, I like giving kids a new way of thinking and opening their minds to new creative solutions and possibilities. Actually its not new thinking but economic principles allow students to make thinking visible, theirs and society's.  Tools of meta cognition really get students interested in what they are interested in.  Instead of everything being boring. 
Finished the night off with a soccer game at school. Always fun to scream and yell with the kids and see us winning!!!!!

A-ha: Economic thinking really allows for inquiry based projects.

Reminder:  A school sporting event always gives me the warm fuzzies....

Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 101 - Sometimes our students help us learn the hard way

I left work today with a clear mind, not taking any work with me.  I felt light and free to take care of myself and to know I could pay full attention to my partner when I made it home.  Believe it or not, this is not very often the case.   Don't know what formula brought this about, but I will take it.
I started my Monday with asking two of my juniors to start class and do the assignment in another classroom, as they were not ready to care about the class and were straight up laughing every time I asked them what behavior is expected of them in class.  Class was a dream for the first hour.  Then I invited them back to class for the second activity of the day and class changed.
I called the Dad of one of them and still haven't heard back. The other, I have met with his dad and I guess its time again.  A colleague of mine said, "those boys need a behavior contract!"
Wow, I had never thought of that.  I realized a couple things/issues about myself as I was asking my friend at work about this elusive behavior contract- 1) Not having rules growing up or ever being yelled at, I don't have a lot of modeling around "strictness".  I was a good kid, so I deeply feel that if you are loving with kids they will behave(these boys are trying to prove me wrong).   2) I have some sort of block in asking for help (duh), but especially in this realm.
So a behavior contract entails getting the administrators and the parents and hopefully a couple of the teachers together, along with myself and the student, where we create a contract of how they will agree to behave and behaviors they will agree to not engage in.  Sounds too good to be true- except for the asking for help part....

A-ha: I have never sent a student to the office and I want to be perfect.  I need to do what is best for my class and the student; not what is best for my ego.

Reminder: Sometimes our students help us learn the hard way.