Day 133 of 180 … I think.

We had a snow day on Monday.  A snow day.  In April.  Oh Nature, I know we’re in New England, but I worry about this.  I know you’re all gangsta, so you do April Fool’s jokes whenever you want, but really?  A snow day in April?  Crazy.  I was a junior in college the last time that happened.

It was exciting, more than I expected, as I hadn’t brought my work laptop – or very much to grade – home with  me.  Happily, that meant I got to start a new organizational process on Monday and dive into … drum roll please … #BulletJournals.

Bullet Journals are a tangled web over which one can quickly become obsessed/insane.  They’re so free form, and yet so helpful because however your organizational-brain works, you can set it up that way.  Seriously.  Yes, the Bullet Journal system begins here, but quickly branches out in a million ways.  Want to write a million lists?  Do it.  Think in mind maps? No problem.  All of this works within this system.  It’s heavenly.

The downside, for those of us who have crafting-hoarder issues (like me), is that this can be a new reason to buy new pens, new paper, new fun tools, wheeeeeee!  PURCHASE ALL THE STUFF NOW!  Seriously.  ALL THE STUFF.  Let me be clear, you do not need all the stuff to bullet journal.  That’s the beauty of it.  But, skip onto Instagram or YouTube and WHOOSH down the rabbit hole you go.

“But Monday, what does this have to do with teaching?” you (whomever you may be) may be asking.  And I answer with what I wrote two paragraphs prior.  It’s the free range planning that lets us teachers have lists of possible Essential Questions, next to an April Daily section that reminds us to grade those ^*%^) essays we’ve been denying need to be graded.  It’s a list of cool tech tools, or cool new activators/bell-ringers on one page, and a nearly complete lesson or even unit plan, all at your fingertips.  And, more importantly, all carefully indexed so you can find them!  As an aside, by using the nifty little circles/squares/triangles of the system and filling them in or migrating them, it’s been easier for me to see what I’m putting off, or what I haven’t finished.  This is incredible for me.

I only just dipped my toes into the #BuJo waters, but so far it’s warm and welcoming.  I’d love to hear from other teachers who are using this system.


Day 122 of 180

Integrated Enrichment writing period means that I write as well, so that the kids know that I don’t believe that they should be doing it by themselves.  I don’t always remember to model everything, but I try to do so when i can.  Why not use this time productively, right?

In truth I haven’t done much that’s been productive recently.  What I thought was just a cough was the flu.  Steroids and antibiotics and elevated blood sugars because of the steroids! Wheeeeee!  So.  much.  fun.

MCAS begins tomorrow for 10th graders across Massachusetts. Some students take PARCC.  I imagine some students are involved in opt-out movements.  My tenth graders will be taking it, as far as I know.  Although, I heard from one student that another student might be out because she’s in some other state?!?!?!?  Why would parents/guardians take a student out of classes to go to another state not only NOT during vacation, but DURING mandatory state testing.  This kid is focused and, I imagine, will do fine.  But it seems like such a set up.

Night school is over.  I didn’t think it was going to be such a bad thing, but the wife was right.  I have no business teaching Night School during February.  In some ways, it might have helped.  It gave me some focus during a time in which I usually fall into the doldrums.  However, because I do fall into the lack-of-light/grey-and-dark/when-will-winter-end? doldrums, it made the whole thing that much more intense for me.  (I won’t lie, the extra money was nice.)


Day 112 of 180!

My students are currently practicing their writing over extended amounts of time.  I have an integrated enrichment class with my ninth graders.  The first day of every week that I have them I make them write for 25 minutes, silently.  They can write about whatever they want.  I’m not particular about whether or not it has to do with their shop (Collision Repair or Auto Mechanics respectively), as long as they know that if it is about hurting someone, hurting themselves, or being hurt, I have to report them.

As they write in their journals, I write this entry.  It’s sort of entertaining to see all these young students try to reach a place where they understand that I want them to write and examine what goes on in their brains.  I’m not asking for perfect.  I’m asking for them to practice sustained writing. They were falling asleep, so I put on a Pandora dance station.  MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This!” is the first song on.  It’s cute to see the kidlets bopping along to it while they try to tap into their thoughts.

It’s only my second week doing this with these students, but last weeks entries already revealed what it’s like to be a student in Springfield.  One student wrote about a dream in which she was being repeatedly drugged and raped by her father’s friend.  Another student wrote about how he had moved from NYC because his uncle had been shot, and his dad needed to get out of the city.  He was explaining how he tries to keep his dad safe.  On the flip side, another student wrote about going to church, and another talked about going on a date with a girlfriend.  Yet another is writing a dystopian zombie-apocalypse novel, and he uses the 25 minutes to work on it.  Ah, Springfield.  We definitely run the gamut here in terms of our students experiences.

Clean cup, move down!

The Western NY Teachers Pay Teachers group is having their conference.  I’d love to go to it.  I need to buy a ticket, and find out about buying just a meal ticket for the wife.  If she can’t do that, I’m not sure she’ll go.  It’s not that I can’t do these things by myself, but I enjoy going on adventures with her.  This would be an adventure.

Day 110 of 180!

Teacher burnout, party of one.  That’s me.  It’s not so bad.  Not quit my job and run off an join the circus bad, but I’m dragging today.  And when I’m dragging, I find that everything I’m doing is futile.  Honestly, I think this is left over from the Super Tuesday primaries.  I cannot believe that so many people voted for a man who celebrates anti-intellectualism to such an extent.

I fear what will happen to education.

I fear what will happen to my job.

I fear what will happen to my marriage.

I am afraid of a lot of things right now.

And that, my friends, is burning me out.

Day 103 of 180

Welcome back from February break!  I didn’t do a lot on my list at all, but I had a great break.  So, I don’t know, six of one, half a dozen of the other.  Re-entry is always rough, but this is a short week for students (PD on Friday for staff).

I wasn’t ready with photocopies.  I need to do that.  I need to make a list and continue to photocopy during the afternoons or something.  I’m not getting into the building in a time where I can fight with the copier or with other people to use the copiers.  Not that I need to fight with my co-workers, we’re surprisingly civil to each other about it, but the copier itself?  Heck yeah.

I’m ready for AP now.  My students’ scores are back from the mock AP exam they took.  They were … not pretty.  A bummer, but hopefully a wake up call.  Today we’re going to do some practice.  I’m hoping if they do this work, and write out justifications, that maybe I can figure out where they’re going wrong.

Blech.  I’m not a fan of standardized tests.

February Break – Day 3 of 5

I’m currently sitting in Panera, using their wifi and eating some breakfast.  Today I’m going to run some errands and then sit in front of the computer, my planner, and a notebook.  My goal is to get back to being real with my teaching.  I feel like I’ve been phoning it in far too much.

It doesn’t feel quite like burnout, or at least, not as burnout is described in the bazillion of articles I’ve read on the subject.  I feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions at school with things I want to try, and things that my administrators are asking for, and things that my district is asking for, etc., etc., etc.  Unfortunately, what happens with that is I feel like I’m never getting to the so what of it all.  And, if I’m not getting there, my students definitely aren’t.

I need a plan to get back to what my kids and I need.  Organization, logic, lessons that go from beginning to end in a day, and also a week.  We need closure and connections.  I sure do.  And judging from the work I’ve been receiving, trust me, they definitely do.

My to do list so far:

  1. Posters for the seniors on the girls’ basketball team (senior day on Friday)
  2. Some anchor charts for my tenth graders to review open responses
  3. Unit plans using UbD guides
  4. Clean my desk at school – maybe on Friday after the game?
  5. Review my many Pinterest lists to figure out no more than 3 useful strategies to focus on
  6. Enter information into my SEEDS portfolio (MA teacher performance evaluation system)

I’m only willing to go up to number 10 because I’m trying not to go crazy.  I think this is a good list.  It feels manageable without adding stress.  *Fingers crossed*

Day 99 of 180!

Hellllllllllllloooooooooooooo snow days!  Friday and Monday didn’t happen, so instead of being day 101, it’s day 99.  I’m grateful for these snow days for two reasons:

  1. Who doesn’t need a surprise break?
  2. I had called out on Thursday and Friday.

Originally I thought I would be late, because I needed blood drawn, but on a hunch (and based on my cough) I asked my doctor to look at my ears.  I won the extra-super-awesome prize there: double ear infection with bronchial infection as well!  So, in conclusion, I only needed a sub for Thursday, instead of Thursday, Friday, and possibly yesterday as well, and teachers benefit from surprise breaks.

Now I’m back at school and trying to focus on making sure that my grades for second quarter are confirmed.  Grading is a tricky subject.  On the one hand, I get that grades should indicate to students where they are toward mastery of the subject.  On the other, I think that students don’t always get that.  And, if there could be an additional hand to go with that other hand, administration doesn’t seem to understand that either all the time.

Another discussion for another time.  On to more exciting things: I’m working on some unit supplements with interactive notebook/foldables.  In the 9th grade, we read several books, but I’m focusing on two of them: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  I’m excited about both of them.  Some of my former students have been strong armed volunteered to try them for me.  Hopefully I can get the first one out by the end of February break.  Fingers crossed.  Also, I need to sign up for the North East Teachers Pay Teachers conference.  I hope there’s still room to sign up.


Day 96 of 180

It’s the countdown to day 100!  And I completed day 3 of night school!

I’m working with this concept of Partner Reading/Pair Reading at the high school level in my English classes and my Integration classes.  I’m doing this by asking students to partner, with a friend for now, read a passage (or a page) aloud and then have the other partner look for a quote to prove a point or to summarize what was just read.  On one level it scares me because my students aren’t always the most fluent, as they are primarily English Language Learners, so they struggle to read aloud, understand new vocabulary, and interpret text.  On the other hand, it’s pretty cool to see more of them getting involved with the language and doing their best.

I’m watching today to see how they do with it, naturally, with role instruction but not much more.  I don’t know my Integration classes well enough to highlight high and low readers.  Here’s what I do see.  Students in this first class are NOT good at following directions.  They would rather work alone.  Frankly, I don’t blame them.  I was the same way in high school.  However, they’re not even pretending to try.  Which is not cool.  As I look around, and ask groups what they’re reading, or how their summaries are going, or what they learned … I’m getting some blank stares and even some open hostility.   To the drawing board again, to make this more organized.  I think, in a room this small, I need to look at doing this just as partners with one group of 3 or one “group” of 1.  So while it would be more voices reading at the same time, it would easier to maintain and monitor.

Have you tried Pair Reading or Partner Reading in a high school classroom?  Were you successful?  What worked for you?

Day 95 of 180

Why is it that some classes are so much more challenging than others, especially when doing the same work and when the classes should be approximately the same student make-up?  I had one of those poor timing moments when one lesson lasted the whole class period, and then I did it the next period and they were done about ten minutes earlier.  I didn’t review their work at the end of class, but I suspect (as the second class is directly before lunch) that the students didn’t do as much work.  I could be wrong, but I’m going to put my money on it.

In other news I ran into a co-worker in the hall today, and it’s one of the first times that we’ve actually been able to talk.  It’s such a shame that we don’t get time to collaborate.  I hope we get some soon!  We have a Professional Day (PD day? Professional day day? Anyway, I digress.) and I’m hoping that will give departments time to co-plan or even just discuss how our year is going.  It’s critical to our students and to us for us to have this time.  I can’t express that enough.

At our school, the first Tuesday of each month is supposed to be a faculty meeting.  The third Tuesday is supposed to be a department meeting.  We keep having our department meetings usurped for “brief” faculty meetings that go on for far too long, and, in the way of so many meetings, could have been an email.  While I can appreciate the point of faculty meetings in that they keep us all informed at the same time, department meetings mean so much more.  Bonding, growing, stretching and teaming are critical.  I wish we had more time.