Thursday, January 15, 2015

Broken essays

A couple of weeks ago I was leading up to students writing an essay on a story's theme based on Gary Soto's memoir one last time. The end result of all this work would have them write their own memoir where they would have to pick a them for their own life.

We were in the process of analyzing Soto's memoir, breaking down the plot line discussing possible themes and providing evidence that back up what they were saying. 

I was asking a lot of them. Each day I would reveal a new assignment that would cause them to go deeper into Soto's memoir. For the most part students were going along with the plan. But there was this small group of students that we're starting to grumble.

Their grumbling would intensify each day as a new challenging assignment was given. Until one day a student's head was slowly lowered and stayed there the entire class period. A complete system shut down occurred with this student. I observed from afar until it came time to see if I could intervene in any way. Turns out I couldn't. The class ended and this student went on the merry little way.

The next day I investigated as to why this student completely shut their door on me. You want to know why they decided to lay their head on the desk? I was giving them too much work to complete. I like to call this scenario 'earning my paycheck' I love when students ask why I make things so challenging.  That's part of the job description to challenge their brains.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A conundrum

I've always been perplexed by the double standard of being a teacher. There seems to be a microscope that pops out and examines various aspects of our lives at any given moment. If we say or do something that is less than teacherish we get our hand slapped. There is very little room for errors because we live our lives in the spotlight whether we like to admit it or not. I've been told on numerous occasions to not be seen in local bars or to be walking into a certain movie at a theater, looking at a type of book in a bookstore and even watch what I write about. You never know how people will interpret words, what eyes will see or what ears will hear. 

To make matters worse we are expected to act like good little soldiers. New mandates and latest trends in education flood our classrooms on a yearly basis with little input from educators regarding these changes. You will hear very few teacher complain about these new standards as a whole, but behind closed doors eyes are rolling. 

For the most part I don't mind being held to higher standards. I follow rules for the most part. I put my students first and know what is best for them. Sometimes I just wish I was treated like an adult and not a student. 

Know that I write my post in an honest manner. I am not here to offend anyone or any institution. I am just exercising my freedom of speech. After all that's the beauty of teaching in America.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Unicorn student

You know those students that are beyond amazing. The ones that complete an assignment before it is even given. They catch mistakes and serve as a second teacher in the classroom. Earning anything less than an A is out of the picture. You know the type. They don't come around often but when they do its a sight to see. These students are about as common as a unicorn.

 I have had the privilege of having such students in my class. I marvel at their unbelievable talent to make anything they do look effortless. The funny thing is, they don't brag about their amazingness and the other students don't despise them for being overwhelmingly awesome. How can anyone not gaze in amazement when a unicorn is in their presence. 

I will admit there are times when these unicorn students should just teach the class and I will play student for the day. I do not hesitate to have them assist other students who are having difficulty. Perhaps a small percentage of my paycheck should go to them.

I want to be them when I grow up.
Yes, I know this is not a unicorn. 
It's a miniature elephant. 
Also as rare as a unicorn

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Losing Focus

It's easy to lose focus in the classroom. From state assessments, data collection, formal observations and common core curriculum. With everything that is shoved our direction educators can lose focus on why we entered the classroom in the first place. 

To regain our true purpose in the classroom perhaps we need to examine those that warm our desks on a daily basis. I know when I become overwhelmed with my ever growing to do list I literally glance across my room and all the noise in the background disappear as I am reminded that I am in the classroom for my students. 

I am not a teacher so I can perfectly administer a state test, put on a dog and pony show for an observation, get caught up with all the latest technology trends, create a perfect IEP, earn a highly effective rating on my evaluation or collect never ending data. I am in the classroom for my students and that's it.

I believe when students are put first in the classroom everything else falls into place. Does this always work, no. But I'd rather put them first then put them last. When we lose focus on who our students are and who they are becoming then the joy of teaching vanishes. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

The year of change

Impending doom greeted me the morning of 2014. I affectionately gave 2014 a name "the year of change." A great deal of shifting occurred in my life this past year; more so than in all the other past years. 2014 brought on a change in scenery which proved to be a breathe of fresh air. It brought me back to the city I love, refreshed my walk with the Lord and introduced me to new relationships. As each month of 2014 passed the doom slowly faded into hope as I was once again reminded that I worship a God that never leaves me and prepares a path for me. There is no name for 2015 thus far. Only time will tell what this year will unfold.

Two things I am not fond of:
1. Talking about myself 
2. Getting sentimental. 
The fact that I was able to peck out these couple of sentences is a tiny miracle

Friday, October 10, 2014

Adapters

I've come to the conclusion that there are two types of people when it comes to change. Those that adapt and those that complain. Complaining keeps things consistent for the most part; while adapting allows room for growth. Don't get me wrong consistency is nice, but growing isn't all that bad either. I hope I am one who adapts to change. I sure have experienced some change these last couple of months. With common core shenanigans, switching counties and schools, adjusting to a new form of teaching and living in a new city. Change is part of my daily schedule. Complaining about it's recurrence will only make matters worse. If you are going to refuse to adapt to change then do it quietly because the sound of complaining can become quiet draining. 

Here's a tip. Try smiling when change happens. It's hard to be in an awful mood when there's a smile plastered on your face.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

That one time...

It's one thing to be caught texting in class, but to recreate a cell phone on an index card and pass it to your friends in class deserves a round of applause. To be honest with you I was in complete awe that a student would go to this length to text in class. Imagine if this much effort was put into class work. Perhaps our grades would not be on the lower end of the spectrum.

Background: this student had their phone taken away by their parents; which obviously caused severe enough withdrawal to create an illustration of a cell phone. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Paper buffet

It's funny how we tend to worry about the littlest things sometimes. Over the last several weeks my main worry is focused around paper. I know odd. Who worries about paper. Apparently I do now. I've never been one to worry about paper but when you're given five reams of paper to last you the entire school year, worry tends to happen. To be honest, I didn't really know what a ream was until the beginning of this school year. I've heard of the word I just didn't know how big a ream was. Turns out it's a single pack of paper. I was hoping it would be a box of paper, but I was wrong. To make matters worse my paper worry has seeped into my dreams. Yep, I dreamed of endless amounts of paper and then had other dreams where I was experiencing a paper drought.  I have started to look at paper in a totally new light. Each piece more precious than a pound of gold. This paper worry is new territory for me. For the last five years I have been surrounded by endless amounts of paper at school. A paper buffet if you have it. At any given moment I could grab a pack of paper and no one would question me. Now, I slightly considered locking my paper up just to keep it safe. I triple think how many copies I need to make. If a student loses their notes they better fork over two dollars for me to print another copy. Who needs to have hard copies of IEP accommodations; I'll just look them up on the computer.

 Oh are the days of endless paper.   

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Unforgettables

There will always be unforgettable students and moments in education. Friday provided me with two unforgettable moments. 

1. A student in my second period class looked me up and down and asked if I was willing to take his mom shopping because she apparently has issues dressing cool and I do not.

2. It has taken six years, but it finally happened. A student said they "F***ing hate this class." This outburst warranted an impromptu meeting after the bell and I congratulated this student for being the first to ever say that in my class. I informed this little darling that I will remember this day for the rest of my life and that I was grateful that I at least liked what I was wearing that day. 

I ended Friday by taking a stroll through Trader Joes where I bought sunflowers and the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. It only seemed natural.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Inclusion

A word that has always and will always weigh heavy on my heart. Funny thing is that I am now in the mist of an inclusive environment. Something that I have been longing for a couple of years now. I'm used to self contained classes and a very wimpy version of inclusion. 

You know, the kind with all the ESE kids a few gen. Ed. ones in the same class and two teachers (one ESE and the other gen. ed.). Not my idea of what inclusion looks like.

 Now I have what I would define as a true inclusive environment. A class of twenty some students with less than half of them receiving ESE services. This past week I witnessed the beauty of what an inclusion classroom can do. Students working hand in hand to discover the theme of a story. A low murmur filled the classroom as groups of students found evidence to support their answers from the text. These two groups of students, the ones with labels and the label less ones, blended together. This experience made my heart happy.  I drove to work Friday morning knowing that the ESE students I love so much may have a chance to fit into this world with little to no fuss. Now will everyday go as planned, absolutely not. But it's nice know that inclusion works and everyone can benefit from this model.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Orientation

First off, the word orientation is a funny word. Especially when you consider the opposite of this word: disoriented. Sitting in a day long orientation can bring up an array of emotions ranging from excitement, gloom, giddiness and boredom.

Typically the purpose of these meetings is to familiarize yourself to your new surroundings. The funny thing is they cram so much information at you within a couple of hours that when you are finally released you feel disoriented.

Here is the information that was graciously given to me yesterday:
Avoid touching blood
Think twice before hugging a kid
Do you want to join the union
Teachers do not have freedom of speech
PPOs & HMOs
Do you want to join the union
Safety first
Each observation is a piece of the puzzle
Do you want to join the union

I will pay someone $5 if they create a "Do you want to join the union" song to the tune of "do you want to build a snowman"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Change

'The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not of fighting the old, but building the new'
-Socrates

Building a new beginning can be intimidating and overwhelming. Where does one begin?

Well as much as I enjoy awkward situations I do not enjoy uncomfortable ones! For the 2012-2013 school year I was debating leaving my school to move to another county and teaching there. I ended up staying at my school for an additional year knowing that I would make the transition at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The uncomfortable situation dealt with telling my principal that I was leaving. Me wanting to move to a different county was in no way a surprise. It was only a matter of time before I made the move.

 My first mission after telling my principal was to create a kick a** resume. I have never been a fan of the traditional resume. In my opinion your resume should stand out among the rest. Through the help of Craft Pimp that mission was accomplished. She did an outstanding job and was more than patient after each countless change that was suggested. She took my lack of vision and created a resume that made me look pretty good on a piece of paper.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Apartaclassroom

When I first moved into my classroom five years ago I already started to dread the day when I would have to move out. Despite the fact that I teach middle school and one subject teaching supplies tend to add up one way or another. Thankfully, a majority of my materials came from Donors Choose. Not to mention there is an overflowing amount of books. 

I've always tried to keep work and home separate. There has been some success with this separation. Every now and then an IEP will need to be worked on or a handful of essays will require editing, but other than that home and school have not spent too much time together. 
Well this summer the two have collided in full force. I not only moved to a new apartment in a different city, but my classroom came along with it.  So now my classroom sits in my apartment waiting to be moved to its new home.

In other news, I was able to get inside my classroom this week.
High five.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The rough life

Let me introduce you to what summer looks like:
I know what you're thinking this looks pretty rough. Eating a nectarine at the beach could be the definition of perfection. This picture was not taken during the weekend, but on a Thursday in the afternoon. Although I am usually not a fan of summer time I do enjoy partaking in summerish activities. Mainly the ability to do whatever I want and not feel the need to accomplish a to-do list. In a few short weeks my Thursdays will take on an entirely new look and I'm okay with that. Bring on the new school year!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Top 10ish

During the last week of school I decided to have students create a top 10 list of the school year. After explaining what they were going to do I quickly realized that none of them have heard of a top 10 list (add this to my list of disappointments with today's youth). This prompted me to create a top 10ish list of my own.

Ms. Halls top 10 of this school year (I realize there is more than 10...now you know why I do not teach math)

1. Watching M receive his award in true Rocky form
2. Actually liking the group of 6th graders I have this year...they may be my favorite (shh don't tell them)
3. Shuperific
4. Watching E, S, M and D run their little hearts out
5. No longer going home to grade essays for hours because the FL writes is over
6. Realizing that Mr. Irwin is M's secret BFF
7. Watching M.C Skip down the hall at the end of the day
8. Peter Pan
9. Making students squirm during their IEPs
10. 2:05 on May 28th
11. Watching Ms. A show off her sweet basketball skills
12. Students trying to conceal their gum while they are in class...FYI I'm not stupid
13. Do you want to build a snow man
14. The fear in students faces when they realize their monthly articles are due that day
15. Secretly cursing in class but not really...look there's a water dam
16. Accepting the fact that S will never stop talking EVER
17. When I go an entire day without M touching my food
18. Being handed a citation because I had gum and didn't share
19. S busting a move
20. Listening to  B's non stop complaining...jk
21. J's hair
22. Freaking students out because I am eating something that looks gross
23. Dear Darla
24. When a student is being picked up in the office by their parent and I decide to have an impromptu parent conference
25. Public shaming
26. Throwing things at students (with their permission)
27. What are the people that eat other people...carnivals
28. What the Hell...