Sunday, August 30, 2015

Welcome to my room!

Learner centered is the buzz this year, and Sarah (my work wife) and I are embracing it. We had a little conversation last year about alternate seating and it grew into actual practice in our rooms. I finally got around to taking some after pictures, and I am just getting around to putting them on the blog. My students are enjoying the room (I think!). Their favorite things, so far, are the core balance cushions I got for their chairs. They inflate and they can sit on them and wiggle a little to get energy out during class. They are great for quiet writing because it takes unfocused energy and allows students to concentrate on writing. I got 5, but so many kids use them, I may need more!

Anyway, without further room (well, my room and the English room of about 130 students!)!

When students walk in the room they can see the date and day (A or B). The bathroom pass is on the board and the papers for the class are on the small table.
The board for class agendas and homework,

Reading area. A few bean bag chairs, a lamp, an area rug, and 4 clipboards on the wall to use if a student is writing.

The whole room.

Back corner. Teacher computer (no desk!), storage for students' supplies, a computer for student use, reference posters, and other student resources.

English 9 board for I can statements. Also showcases our GRIT program.

Another reading area. Looked so cozy in the sun. The pink storage units are for bags filled with markers, pencils, crayons, glue, scissors, etc...for each table group. The kissing pumpkins are a student project from 2 years ago. It depicts Proctor and Abigail Williams dancing on Elizabeth Proctor's grave...

Goals bulletin board...we haven't written goals yet.

My favorite area! Hanging file area, objective area, and info bulletin board. 

The OM letters were given by the principal for commitment to the school. The gold seals are for various programs I facilitated.

Seriously. This just makes me happy. Nerdy teacher happy. BUT SO HAPPY.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bye Bye Summer 2015

So, I sort of paused the reflective teaching challenge, but it's for good reason...I've been enjoying my last days of summer vacation. Friday we went to the National Zoo and hosted a get together with friends, yesterday we went to the family shore house, and today we played outside. This morning I got to spend some quality time with my computer while I took the final exam for my grad class. The hardest class I have ever taken is OVER! Of course, my next course starts in a week and a half, but that's at least a week to get my bearings at school before the class begins.

This summer has been wonderful. We didn't have a formal vacation, but we spent a lot of time with our kids and enjoyed being home. We went to the shore a lot, explored playgrounds with friends, played in the yard, did some gardening, ventured to Austin, read a lot of books, and just had fun. Being a summer stay at home mom is definitely fun. I am grateful that I get to have two worlds to enjoy-- my world at home and my world at work. The summer felt short, and it was, just 8 weeks, but they were 8 enjoyable weeks. I am sad to say goodbye to the summer, but I am also happy to say hello to school and autumn and a schedule (oh thank goodness for a schedule!). Saying goodbye to Lily and Jackson tomorrow will be hard, but I know they are excited to see grandma. 

Here's to summer 2015! Welcome fall!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Reflective Teaching: Day 11

How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?

Wow. Tough question. If I could envision what technology will look like in five years, what the landscape of education will look like...this question would be easier. I know these things for certain: I want to continue to learn and grow, 2. I want to include more technology in meaningful ways, 3. I want to stay current, 4. I want a truly learner centered environment in my classroom. I think creating a learner centered classroom will be an evolving process over the next five years. It will unfold slowly as I discover what learner centered looks like in a high school classroom. Over the next five years I want to continue to push my students by engaging them in discussion and debate. I want to learn to be more fearless and embrace positive chaos better. This school year is sure to be one where my style of teaching changes. I am planning on trying so many new things that I am hoping my classroom looks completely new and different to those coming through.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reflective Teaching Day 10 (1/3 of the way through!)

Still no room pictures. I am sure you are all waiting on the edge of your seats for those, but I still haven't transferred them over...

Anyway, moving right along to..."What is your favorite part of the school day and why?"

It's going to sound typical, but I love the end of the day. The reason why, however, is not what you might think. I think the typical answer would read something like, "because the day is over! FREEDOM!", but I look at the end of the day differently. When the day ends my day isn't over. I move from teaching to coach class, or meetings, or practices, or advising a club. The end of the day is the time when I decompress. I regroup with my colleagues and go over my day. I recall my successes and my not-so-successes (they aren't usually failures, but sometimes things just don't go the way I planned!). I hear about what my colleagues did. I might run through plans with my grade level team (so, Sarah). The end of the day gives me time to center myself and settle myself. I get ready for the events of the afternoon and the next day. I clean up my room. Change my objectives. I get ready for my next new start. This is the really wonderful thing about teaching. Not only do I get a whole new school year EVERY year, but I get a new start EVERY day. That's pretty magical.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Day 9: About me.

Today's task is a long one. For Reflective Teaching Day 9, I need to:

1. Share five things about myself
2. Share four things on my bucket list
3. Share three things that I hope for this year (as a "person" or educator)
4. Share two things that have made me laugh or cry as an educator
5. Share one thing I wish more people knew about me

Here we go...

1. Five things about myself...

  • I have 2 beautiful kids, Lily and Jackson. They are my motivation to be the best teacher that I can be. I want to be the educator that I would want them to have.
  • I coach the varsity volleyball team. I coached for 3 years before I had Lily. I am in year 2 of my second stint as coach.
  • I try to be a runner. I have gotten better about running as I have gotten older. I am going to be running in a team relay in October.
  • I function best when I am on a schedule. This might be one of the reasons why I love teaching so much.
  • I met my husband at work. I also met my wife there. (This is only sort of a joke.)
2. I don't even think I have a bucket list...but these are the things that I would like to do before I turn 100...
  • Visit more states. I don't want to say all 50, but I just wanted to see more of the country.
  • Travel to Europe. Specifically to England. Specifically to stalk literary sites.
  • Be happy, always.
  • Keep in touch with the people I love. (So, maybe the last two are a little lame and aren't really concrete things to go do, but as I was doing this I realized I don't have some long list of things I feel like I HAVE to do.)
3. Three things I hope for this year...
  • That my learner centered classroom works beyond my expectations.
  • That I stay balanced at home and at school.
  • That I get Jackson fully potty trained and sleeping in his bed all night long.
4. Two things that have made me laugh or cry as an educator...
  • One crying moment: I had a really tough co-teaching experience that just wore me down. I was carrying my load and the co-teacher's load and it was just a huge burden. I definitely broke down crying in my classroom when that was happening.
  • One laughing moment: A lot of things make me laugh. One moment isn't particularly educational, but it is funny. When I was pregnant with Lily one of my students who was sitting in the front row of the room blurted out, "OH NO! I am in the splash zone!" I replied, "What do you mean, splash zone?" He replied, "If your water breaks! I AM IN THE FRONT ROW!" I told him I would get him a raincoat.
5. I wish more people knew that I work so hard at my job because I believe the students who I teach deserve a fair chance at a good, solid education. I also believe that each student who I teach needs an adult in his/her corner. Sometimes balancing my job and my home life means late nights and long days, or dragging my kids to school for another function, but I believe it's worth it. I don't believe I am sacrificing one thing for another by being involved at school. I love my work. I love my family. I am so lucky that I can make both worlds work.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Day 8 of Reflective Teaching...and no pictures yet...

Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).

I really had to think about this one. Probably my greatest accomplishment was being named the OM Teacher of the Year this past year, but after that was in the newsletter, most of my colleagues know that (although, you all might not know that!).

I think my biggest accomplishment was getting through my 11th grade class this past year. It was a tough class. I had a really challenging 11th grade class of mostly boys. They all knew each other, they were all (mostly) friends, and they liked to push buttons. It took the entire year to really figure out how to best handle those guys. I worked so hard for that class. I changed lessons, modified EVERYTHING to try and break through to them. By the end of the year I had kids asking to be in honors. I moved at least 3 students up to honors, and I am happy to say, almost every student passed (the ones who didn't were attendance problems)...and they didn't just pass with Ds...they passed with Bs and As. There were days when I felt like I could walk of of my room in tears, but I pushed through each class and worked my hardest to teach them. In the end, it all worked out. I forged some really solid relationships with some of my students, which is really the greatest accomplishment. I think my biggest accomplishments and successes are the ones where I can break through with a kid. Those are the moments that truly count.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Reflective Teaching: Day 7

Guess what? I still haven't uploaded those pictures! I am clearly on my A-game with this...

Because of my lack of picture uploading, I will move on to the next Reflective Teaching challenge. My reflection today: What's in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?

Haha. This makes me laugh. Which drawer? What time of year? When I was pregnant with Jackson, I tore through my desk in the office and cleaned it out right before period 1. I didn't finish. I had to leave it a mess and go teach. I did finish during period 2. Nesting at its finest.

Anyway, that wasn't the question. If you look in any of my desk drawers you will find some assortment of the following:

Post-it notes
Binder clips
Hall passes
Staples and Stapler
Tape and dispenser
Tide To-Go Pen
Gum and/or mints
Tylenol or Motrin
Stamps and ink
Keys (coaching keys, usually)
Masking tape
Hair product
Small brush

I am sure I am forgetting things, but you get the gist. I have a lot of school supplies and a lot of medical and beauty aids. So the school supplies are fairly self-explanatory...I teach...I need things to write notes on, to write with, and to generally keep the administrative side of my job together. I have medicine because sometimes you just don't feel well, but you still need to get it together and work. And, secret, it's easier to go to school sick than to make sub plans. If I can pull it together, I will be at school. Most of the beauty products come out when I have parent conferences or back to school night. After a long day teaching I generally need a touch up before meeting with parents (or other important people). The Tide-to-Go is because I spill things. The Band-Aids are because I get a lot (and I mean a lot) of paper cuts.

Now, I do have all of the things I need, so I suppose you could say I am always prepared; however, they are in total disarray, so I am a little disorganized. I find my desk drawers are where that ends. I try to keep (and generally do keep) everything else fairly organized and in place. At the beginning of the year, my desk drawers are usually clean and organized, but they devolve over the course of the year. Honestly, I rarely venture in them unless I really need something. The things I need (pen, classroom key, ID, etc) are in my bag or around my neck. If they aren't...that's means I left them at home...and that is when I really have a bad day!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Reflective Teaching: Day 6

I still didn't upload classroom pictures, so I am tackling the day 7 question for day 6...

Who was or is your most inspirational colleague, and why?

This is one loaded question. I have so many current and former colleagues who I really admire and respect. It is hard to narrow my answer down to one colleague. I can only pick one colleague, though, so I will do just that. The colleague that is and was the most inspiring to me is Cindy. Cindy was the long-time health/PE teacher at OM. In addition to teaching, she coached the allied teams and advised SADD. She retired this year after a long recovery from a car accident. Her spirit will be impossible to replace- she exuded enthusiasm, joy, and happiness. Her students loved her. They trusted her. She is the teacher that you remember long after you graduate; and, if you become a teacher she is the one that you point to and say, "I teach now because of her." Cindy was simply amazing and extremely inspirational. I am so glad that I was able to be her colleague for eight years.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Reflective Teaching: Day 5

So, I had to switch days 5 and 6 because day 5 asked me to post pictures of my classroom, which I haven't uploaded to my computer. I will do those tomorrow when it's not 10:00 at night. That said, tonight my question is:

What does a good mentor "do"?

A mentor is a person who can guide another in the right direction. She provides support, and that support can take many forms-- academic, social, emotional, etc... She can see strengths in the person she's mentoring and bring out the best of those strengths, but she can also see the weaknesses and help fill those holes. She knows when to push and when hold on a bit longer. She is honest. This might be the most important trait. Honesty can tell a person when they are in over their head. It can also tell a person when maybe the job choice isn't the right one. A mentor needs to be able to have these conversations because without them, the mentor would be leading the person they are mentoring down the wrong path.

I mentor my students, I guide them through my English class, and I also think (I hope) I give them guidance through their dramatic and complicated (sometimes truly complicated, sometimes teenage complicated) lives.

I also mentor new teachers (well, teacher interns who will be new to the job). This is definitely the harder mentoring job because I have to help prepare new teachers for the workforce. I have to know when to give them a push, or hold on a bit longer. I have to be really honest about their work and their performance. It's such a delicate balance, but it very important work.

Sometimes, I think (I hope), I mentor my co-workers. Maybe not through everything, but through the areas that they might need help in. I know they mentor me. Teaching itself is evolving learning. Every year, every day, really, I evolve as a teacher. By mentoring others, I am learning. By accepting guidance from my peers, I am learn. I live for that stuff. I love to teach, and I love to share it.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Reflective Teaching Challenge: Day 4!

Day 4 challenge: What do you love the most about teaching?

I love my students. I love that they challenge me, surprise me, and encourage me. They can be crazy and silly or they can be serious and studious. I come to work every single day because I know my students need me to be there. Now, they are teenagers, so they can push my buttons. They know how to drive me crazy and make me mad and can definitely frustrate me.

But they are also kind. And caring. And smart. And talented.

Some of my students have experienced hardships that I cannot even imagine. Some of my students are gifted beyond measure. Some of my students simply surprise me at every turn. I love being involved at school because I know I am working to make the experiences of my students, better ones. Experiences that they deserve to have.

My absolute favorite teaching moments are when students engage in fantastic, thought-provoking conversations, or when they execute the perfect homecoming decor, or when they win a tough volleyball game. I love watching them grow and learn and dream. I love watching them graduate.

So, my students. They are what I love about teaching.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Reflective Teaching: Day 3

Day 3: Discuss one observation area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

So, in my school district our evaluations are made up of two parts: our SLO (student learning outcome) and our actual evaluation based on the Danielson framework. I do fine on the evaluation and regularly get effectives and highly effectives in each of the domains. This year, had I gotten one point higher on my SLO, I would have gotten a highly effective overall, but, alas, I did not. SLOs are just not my thing. I am really good at tracking data, but it's hard figuring out the appropriate percentages for the SLO and to even figure out what the SLO should measure. 

In English, I find it really hard because I measure so much on growth. I might have a student start really, really low, but grow a lot of the course of the year, to somewhere in the middle. Our SLOs are supposed to be rigorous and push our students (and ourselves) to do better. Sometimes, though, for my students doing really well, doesn't look rigorous on paper. 

My summative year was last year (read: year that counts for my evaluations), so that gives me two years to really work on writing SLOs. I want my SLOs to be rigorous and to be meaningful (there are teachers who create ridiculous SLOs that have no rigor and don't hold students accountable for anything just so they can get highly effectives). I think that working on this area of my evaluation will be one of my major goals for this year. I also hope to be a department chair in the near future, so working on this area will be helpful when I am working with my future department.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Teaching Reflection: Day 2

Day 2

Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why. You might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration.

This year I am going to try integrating Google Communities into my AP class as an online forum. I want my class to be able to communicate about texts outside of the classroom and I think the format of Google Communities will allow them to do just that. I hope they will integrate video, text, images, etc...into postings about pop-culture, novels, pieces of non-fiction that they are reading, etc...into order to create community and work on writing (and analyzing). I am hoping to truly extend learning beyond the classroom in a meaningful and engaging way for my AP students. I also think it will be a lot of fun to see what they can come up with!

Monday, August 3, 2015

I am stealing from Sarah. What's new?

Hi guys! I am back. That's right...two days of blogging IN A ROW. I just put the finishing touches on a presentation that I am giving tomorrow, so I decided to not think about how nervous I am by blogging...

My BFF/work wife Sarah is doing a teaching reflection 30 day challenge over on Grover's Corner. I am totally stealing it. Teachers are extremely gifted at stealing, so I figured, why not? Seems like a good challenge to prepare and focus before I head back to class.

Reflective Teaching (here is where Sarah stole from...)

Day 1: Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you'd like to be!

1. Find balance. This year, especially this fall, I am going to be really busy. I coach volleyball, co-advise SGA, and am running two committees. Fall is a big season for SGA (homecoming, spirit week, etc...) and volleyball obviously eats up a lot of time during the first quarter. Finding balance with teaching, grading, planning, coaching, advising, parenting, wife-ing, always a bit of a challenge. I know I will find balance and hit a groove, but I need to maintain some sanity while in the process of doing that.

2. Launch enrichment. This year, I am helping on a teacher-led committee to launch an enrichment program at school. It's a big undertaking, but I am really excited for this opportunity. I think my school will benefit so much from the program and hope it launches the way we envision it.

3. Get learner-centered. Sarah and I started musing about this last year, and we continue to discuss the ways we want to manipulate our classrooms. Elementary classrooms are so vibrant with stations and reading centers and comfy seating. Then, you get to high school where things are, well, not like that. I want to create a space that students can really make their own and feel comfortable learning in. I also want to work on creating centers where students can work cooperatively. I think this is definitely do-able, but I need to find some resources in order to execute the vision. Sarah and I are going to be hitting Ikea soon to scout out some deals on ways to transform our rooms. I think step 1 is getting rid of the good old teacher desk...which means cleaning out said desk...

I always hate saying goodbye to summer and my days as a stay at home mom, but I love welcoming school because I thrive on a schedule. I also love getting back into my classroom (and seeing my friends...). I am hoping this year sets the tone for the direction in which I wish to take my teaching. I can't believe I am entering my 9th year!

See you tomorrow for day 2!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Exploring Austin, Enjoying Summer, and Back to Teacher Mode...

I have been quite the lazy blogger this summer. I love blogging, but I love spending time with my family even more (and leisure reading, I love that, too!), so the blog has taken a backseat. I have been busy lately, enjoying summer, but also preparing for the new school year. This summer feels like the shortest summer I've had (as a teacher). From July 22-25 I was in Austin, TX at the National AP Conference. I teacher AP English Language and Composition, and attended the conference last year. The idea of traveling to Austin was exciting and I loved the conference last year, so I knew I wanted to go back.

To start-- we (my husband, who also teaches AP traveled with me...and we went with a group from our school district) were scheduled to take off at 1:10pm. We pulled out...and pulled right back in. The airplane had a maintenance light turn on and it needed to be checked. That check turned into a hour delay, which meant we were bumped to a later non-stop 9:50pm. This later flight meant we got to really got to know the airport. Southwest did give us food vouchers and flight vouchers for the inconvenience. While the delay was annoying, it did give us the opportunity to get to know our colleagues, and that was very nice.

Austin itself was a beautiful city. It was very warm (ok, hot), but the city was open, uncrowded, walkable, and interesting. We enjoyed two awesome dinners (Stubb's BBQ was amazing!) and walked around the eclectic area of South Congress. We also enjoyed Gourdough's doughnuts, which were delicious (I had the Nutty Valentine-- a hot doughnut with Nutella and strawberries). Austin is definitely a city I would love to travel back to and really have time to explore. We really snuck in time between sessions and after the conference ended for the day. I could really use a few days to fully explore everything.

The conference itself was really good (again!). The keynote speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, was engaging and interesting. His thought provoking keynote about education and creativity really set the tone for the conference. I tried to vary the sessions that I attended, and enjoyed each one for different reasons. My favorite session was on the power of 2. Basically, getting a 2 (out of 5) on the AP exam indicates that the student is possibly qualified for college. The teacher who led the session teaches in the inner city and most of her kids get 2s. She teaches an extremely challenging group of kids and has to fight to get counselors to put kids into AP. Her students get 2s, but almost all go to college and do extremely well. She spoke about the importance of having the opportunity to just take an AP course and how the challenge of the course prepares students for academics beyond high school.

The conference was excellent, yet again, and got me thinking about what I want to accomplish this year with AP. Continuing with my preparations, I went back-to-school classroom shopping with my BFF/work-wife, Sarah. She is going with a chalkboard theme for her room, I chose a paint/rainbow theme for mine. I am really excited to put my room together this year. I am working toward creating a student centered learning space, so I am thinking beyond desks and chairs and traditional, and looking toward stations, beanbags, exercise balls, standing centers...etc...I am really excited to pick up a few more furniture items for my room. I got my class lists, and, right now my classes are definitely manageable (for now...I know this will change). I am really looking forward to the year and the changes it will bring!

I will post tomorrow...I have so many other back-to-school things to share. Lots of changes will be happening this year, but they are all very exciting!