• Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 484 other followers

  • “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers” — Isaac Asimov

  • Pages

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 120,573 hits

Reflections from Year 5, Week 2 of Teaching

Week 2 of my fifth year of teaching is in the books, and I thought I’d use this post to reflect.  After all, it is through reflection that I process and learn.

Every year, I tell myself that I won’t get off to a slow start…that I’ll quickly jump into the curriculum so I won’t “waste time” and get behind.

Every year, I fail at this task and beat myself up over it.

This week, whenever I started down the road of self-beratement, I stopped myself.

I had to give myself permission to do what all good teachers do – spend quality time practicing classroom procedures, setting up class norms, and fostering a welcoming environment where students feel safe to think outside of the box.  I had to spend time building relationships with my students…grounded in trust, humor, and dependability.

These things don’t happen in a day, nor do they happen in a week.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that two weeks still isn’t enough time, but I’m going to jump into my first “real” unit next week while setting aside snippets of time for more classroom bonding.  We’re off to a solid start, though, as evidenced by this sweet email one of my students sent me through our school email accounts (she had responded to a question I’d sent out to everyone)…

This week, I watched as my students excitedly selected books from my ever-growing classroom library.  They hesitantly asked if they could take them home to read, which of course I allowed after teaching them how to properly check the books out through a new binder system I’ve instituted.  They caught on quickly, and my books flew off my shelves with a waiting list for certain books forming.

This brought joy to my heart, as did book discussions that cropped up between students and myself.

Things I don’t think I did very well this week involved managing certain classroom behaviors.  I’m feeling a little stuck right now, trying not to alienate my students with quick write-ups yet feeling the frustration that’s coming from students aghast at behaviors they perceive as simply intolerable.

I’m trying to do a better job of picking my battles, but I think I’m erring on the side of caution.

I tried a new incentive this week, allowing students to earn minutes for free time at the end of the week if they heeded my silent signal.  Although they got better, upon reflection, I can’t honestly say that this is not going to be something I stick with.

I feel as though students need to more instant gratification, so I’m going to borrow a page from a teacher at another school.  Some time ago, I had purchased five small, magnetic white boards.  They’re individual-sized.

Because I don’t have a large whiteboard, I’ve stuck these little ones on my metallic wall.  I have five tables of students in my room, and each table will get three chances to keep a five-minute free time session I’ll set aside for the end of class.  I’m going to list the most often repeated behaviors from posters they presented on Friday (see a few examples below) on a sheet of paper and post it beside the white boards.  As students fail to adhere to class norms, I’ll quietly mark X’s on their respective groups’ boards.  Groups that accrue three X’s will lose their five minutes of free time and will, instead, write a paragraph explaining what led to the loss of this privilege.

My mentor, Cinda, is mentoring the teacher who uses this strategy, and Cinda watched her in action.  She said that students kept each other accountable, which made for easier management of behavior.

I like this idea because the entire class isn’t punished because of a few students.  Because tables have only four students (one class has two tables of five), the numbers are small.  I think that a lot of the behavior issues, which mainly involve talking, will diminish greatly.

Not only was the week filled with the ups and downs of actual classroom teaching, but I continued my mentoring responsibilities, sharing my reflections with Cinda late in the week.

I’ve come to realize that in my excitement to share, I share too much, thus overwhelming people.  Nobody has told me that, but I sense it in my heart.

I think that my love for students I’ve taught before makes me seem a bit overbearing when trying to help a new teacher.  I suspect that my passion for these sweet kiddos comes across as being overcritical.

I’m going to “turn down” as my students would say, take a step back, and start asking probing questions rather than leading my mentoring discussions with my ideas.  In other words, I’ll let my new coworkers do most of the talking.

Um yeah…that’s going to be a hard lesson for me but one that I must learn so people don’t start running when they see me headed their way.

Overall, I’m pleased with how the week went, but I realize that I have a lot of work to do to make things run a little quieter and smoother.  Teaching is a profession in which you’re constantly tweaking, making adjustments for the various classroom personalities and skills that emerge as the year progresses.

Wednesday Hodgepodge – A Labor of Love

I’m so glad Joyce is back with the Hodgepodge!!!  I won’t waste time, so let’s get to the questions!

1.  As August draws to a close, share what’s been your favorite weekend of the entire summer?

Honestly, the entire summer was fabulous…especially because I didn’t have to work!  I remember one weekend when the Mr. and I spent two days straight shopping and really living life in the moment without a lot of planning.  That’s not the norm for us, so it was quite enjoyable!

2.  Labor Day is marked in the US of A on Monday, September 1st.  What paying job have you held that you’ve loved the most? Liked the least?

Although I am very overwhelmed and stressed right now, I’d say my current profession, teaching, is my favorite job that I’ve had over the years.

My least favorite was a short-term job delivering phone books.  It was miserable and not worth the couple hundred dollars i earned delivering phone books in the middle of the summer in South Florida…horrid!

3.  Does the new school year start before or after Labor Day where you live? When do you think it should begin? There is much discussion now about older students having later start times to their school day…your thoughts?

Schools in Florida always begin before Labor Day.  We are currently in our second week.  I’m happy with the timing.

Over the last two or three years, my school district has instituted later start times for high school (I teach at a high school) with the philosophy that older teenagers need to sleep in because of the jobs they work late into the night and their circadian rhythms.  Personally, I don’t like the later start time because we get out later.  Ugh.  I don’t know if the kids are doing better with the new time.  We shall see.

4.  What’s something you’ve worked at recently that could be deemed a ‘labor of love’?

I think that getting my classroom ready for the new school year has been my biggest “labor of love.”  My students have walked in eager to begin reading books from my extensive classroom library.  Creating a space that is warm and inviting is very important to me so that my students will be comfortable and will trust me to have their best interests at heart.

5.  Which of the following work idioms can you most relate to right now…’A woman’s work is never done.’, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ ‘Many hands make light work.

I’d say that all work and no play makes AuburnChick a dull girl.

This is my life right now.  My teaching responsibilities consume me for most of the year because I don’t want to let my kiddos down.  It’s difficult for me to break away and relax…something I’m trying but not consistently successful at.

6.  Crab or lobster or thanks, but no thanks? Favorite way to have your choice prepared?

In my meat-eating days, I had no preference and didn’t really care how they were prepared.  Now that I am a vegan, I forgo these critters.

7.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, ‘Three rules of work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.’ Which of the three do you consider to be the most important? Share one of your own ‘rules of work’.

I think that the last part, “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” is the most important part of Einstein’s quote.  I think we need to look for opportunities to grow even when a job is difficult.  We can grow professionally and personally if we allow ourselves to be challenged and not become discouraged.

My personal rule of work is do it right the first time or at least try your best.  I despise shoddy work and wonder why people even put forth the effort if they are going to allow crap work to represent them.

8.  My Random Thought

In honor of yesterday’s National Dog Day, I thought I would share pictures of my fur babies…

Gambit barely humored me in this selfie photo…

He quickly forgave me though…

Pele and Molly were unwilling participants to my selfie madness…

Never far from my thoughts…my sweet Aubie. Thinking of her still brings a watershed of tears. We lost her fifteen months ago, and it still feels like yesterday. I pray the Lord allows dogs into heaven.

 

Getting Them Hooked on Reading

Mondays are not always fun…can we all just agree?

They mark the end of relaxing weekends and the beginnings of long, tiring weeks…especially when you are a teacher!

That is why I was pleasantly surprised when my Monday went swimmingly yesterday.

Although we’ve been in school a week now, I had yet to get my students reading.

Oh, they were starting to get excited, mind you, looking at the books on my bookshelves, but I’d held them back so we could review procedures and get to know one another better through various activities.

Yesterday was finally the day, though…the day when we did our Read Around.  You might know this as a book pass.

I filled five baskets with books, and students had a minute and a half to two minutes to preview the books in the basket.

I had given each student a copy of a Read Around form from the book, Igniting a Passion to Read, by Steven Layne…a reproducible he provides in the book.

I had instructed my students NOT to keep any books for the independent reading we would be starting today.  They were simply to preview, list the titles of any books that interested them, and when the time was up, pass the baskets around to other tables.

Now, I must be doing something different because ALL of my classes got very excited as they began previewing books.

I don’t know if they had been skimming from the enthusiasm I’d been showing since Day 1 for the various books around my room.

It could have been that as I walked around and provided bits and pieces of various plots, gleaned from personally reading the books, they grew even more enthusiastic.

MANY begged to be allowed to check out books, but I had to hold them back.

I had to have enough of my better books to share with ALL of my classes.

So the first two classes reluctantly agreed.

Then, my sixth period came in, and Lord Have Mercy, but you would have thought that Christmas had arrived.

I could not keep myself from being pulled in, so I spontaneously announced that I would allow them to check books out.

I explained that as my last class of the day, they would probably find themselves getting what was left over from book chats I’d be doing throughout the year.

To make up for that, I let them have first dibs on my books.

They.

Went.

To.

Town.

I have a new procedure this year where I have a checkout binder in the back of my room.  It is divided by class periods, and students can fill out the form to let me know which books they have and when they checked them out.

I have often found myself unable to locate certain books, uncertain which students are reading them.

My sixth period class could not get a hold of the binder quick enough, and it made the rounds from one table to the next with quite a few of the eighteen students checking out books to take home and read…

Many of my Allison van Diepen and Jennifer Brown books got checked out.

My name will be mud with my second and fourth period classes.

In fact, one young lady had pitched a fit earlier in the day because she insisted that she HAD to read Thousand Words.

I was so nervous about the yelling she was sure to do that I stopped by Books a Million to buy another copy of the book.

Unfortunately, my store had a crappy supply of Brown’s books…

There was ONE freaking copy of her newest book, which I refuse to pay $18 for.  I’ll wait for the paperback.

There were a few copies of Hate List on a display, but this was not the book my students were fighting over.

I’m peeved at the sucky supply (do you like my alliteration?), and I made a suggestion to the cashier that they would probably be inundated with young ladies looking for these books, and that the store needed to put them in stock.

*Ahem*

I did pick up a couple of books on the clearance shelf…

My teacher discount allowed me to get these books for under $5.

I’m hoping I can coax my students to try some different authors like Jay Asher, John Green, and Neal Shusterman.

I have a feeling that, unlike previous years, I won’t have to beg my students to read during their silent reading time each day.

I’m excited just knowing what we are all in store for!!

Back in the Swing of Things

Whew!  What a busy week I’ve had!

When last I posted, I was getting ready to embark on a brand new school year, and I was nervous because of additional responsibilities.

Heading out for the first day back!

Well, the first week is finished, and I thought I would share a few of my thoughts.

First of all, I am beginning my fourth year of teaching Intensive Reading.  It’s my fifth year teaching, overall.

I’ve wondered, at times, if the impact I’m making will be long-lasting.  Well, those doubts were answered on Tuesday, the first day of school.

I scarcely got my classroom door unlocked before I was visited by the first of what would become a steady stream of former students.

My first visitor was a precious young man I’d taught two years in a row.  He had come by to tell me about a new Divergent book that he wanted me to order.  The book is a collection of short stories that gives background information about Four, the lead male character in the series.  As soon as my student left, I ordered the book from Amazon…my first book order of the new school year.

His visit was followed by one of the most precious young ladies that Barb taught in middle school and I had the pleasure of teaching last year.

She told me about how she had kept the picture I’d taken the first day of school with her wearing a cap and gown…one of the motivational tools I employ to get my tenth graders to think about the prize at the end of high school.

She said that she had made a poster for her room listing her goals and had placed that picture on the poster.

Oh boy, but I started tearing up.

She then showed me a list of goals she has begun keeping in her backpack as a reminder of what she needs to focus on.  She allowed me to take a picture of it and share it…

Oh.

My.

Word.

I was stunned, to say the least.

This young lady visited me the next day and told me that she and another young man who had been in our class together had discussed how they had not appreciated me last year, when I was annoying them, but how they now realized what a good teacher I had been.

I’ve asked her to come back and speak to my classes next year when she is a Senior.

Wow!

She was not the first student who echoed the same sentiments, and boy, was I humbled.

I reflected and saw how much I had grown from my first year as an Intensive Reading teacher…when relationship-building was not my primary focus (day-to-day survival during what I refer to as my second first-year).

Some of my toughest students from last year visited me last week…more than once…with huge smiles on their faces.  This was so powerful!

Then, there were my new babies who walked in the door…each a new face for me to learn…a new history to discover.

Boy, did we make headway into the latter as some students opened up immediately about some of the many challenges they have already faced during their short lives…fathers lost to tragic circumstances…people putting them down for their dreams.

My heart is already breaking, and I want to adopt a few of them.

I’m not kidding.

I gave my students the assignment of describing a new thing to learn or a new experience to have, the obstacles they are facing in the pursuit of said thing, and a plan for overcoming the obstacles.

Folks, I learned even MORE about my students through this exercise.

Take a look at the beautiful opening one of my students began his assignment with…

Dreams, people, dreams.

I can’t say we did a lot in the way of reading “instruction.”  I did teach my students Barb’s “P” Before You Read strategies and demonstrated them with our new Read Aloud, Allison van Diepen’s book Vampire Stalker

By the time we finished previewing the book, students were begging me to begin reading it!!!  We came up with a couple of questions for Ms. van Diepen, and I was shocked when she responded to my Tweets, sent after work, almost immediately!

I am not an author stalker…I promise…even though I would fall out flat if Neal Shusterman ever favorited, retweeted, or responded to a Tweet of mine.

Heck…Jay Asher and I had a conversation last night through Twitter.

I am in awe, and my students will be too when they learn that I “talked” to the author of 13 Reasons Why.

But I digress…

What we mostly focused on was getting familiar with my procedures, developing some new ones together, and engaging with one another in meaningful conversations.

I know, from experience, that if I don’t spend quality time doing these things, I won’t have students coming back the next year…lessons firmly planted in their hearts.

It was a completely wonderful and exhausting week…one that ended with me sleeping thirteen hours on Friday night and only now feeling refreshed enough to begin anew tomorrow…grading complete and new seating charts made (when you hear yelling, it will be my students doing it).

Oh Friday, how I love thee.

How I spent Sunday…grading…

Week One is in the books…with many, many more ahead of me before June arrives.

Year 5 of Teaching

Today marks the first day of my fifth year of teaching, and I couldn’t be more excited.

The sadness of the summer ending has been replaced by an eagerness to greet new-to-me students.

Last night, Rooster asked me if I was ready, and I could honestly answer in the affirmative.

There’s something different about this year.

I have more confidence in the lessons I have prepared for the week.

Although I’m nervous about having enough time to finish what I have planned for today, I know that it will be okay if I don’t…that I possess the wherewithal to adjust my plans, perhaps between classes, to make things fit.

I also have a better understanding of how important the first few weeks of school are…especially the first day…as far as setting up myself as a person who commands respect.  Classroom management is won or lost in these crucial days.

I suspect that some of my confidence stems from the mentoring I am already doing.  I feel good knowing that I’m helping new teacher babies learn their way around school, how to look up course descriptions, and how to begin the process of lesson planning.

Yesterday, there was a certain energy at the school, and I couldn’t help but get excited.

I’m blessed to work with incredible staff.  We really are a family with one goal in mind…making a difference in the lives of our students.

Yesterday, while shopping at Office Depot after work, I met a young man who attends the private school I taught at my first year.  As we chatted, he asked, “Why don’t you come back to teach at my school?”

I couldn’t keep a huge grin from my face as I explained how much I love teaching at my current school…how much I love the subject I teach, Intensive Reading, and how great the kids are.

If you know me in person, then you know that what I say is genuine and heartfelt.

Although I am nervous about preparing my students for a new State reading test, I know that all I can do is my best.

It was with that thought in mind as I left my classroom yesterday afternoon.

I’m ready to welcome my 59 students (as of the latest count).

I’m ready to become their teacher mama.

I’m ready to begin developing relationships with these kids who are desperate for love and acceptance.

Bring on Year 5!

Evolution of a Teacher

Today is the final day of prep before students arrive on Tuesday.

Although I nearly finished getting my classroom together on Friday, I still have a few final touches to add…folders to hang, labels to print, agendas to place into frames.

Click to embiggen

I’m especially grateful to one of my fellow reading teachers.  She gave up precious planning time to hang bulletin board paper and borders for me.

These are things they don’t teach you in the alternative certification program, and after wasting a few hours trying on my own, I called my friend for help.

My bulletin boards look AMAZING!

I actually did the two small boards all by myself. :)

I don’t know why I took this at an angle. The bulletin board is straight. :)

Because my room is ready, I will spend some time waiting for a copier to become available.  My lesson plans are ready for the week, and I want to get all of my handouts set up.

After that, I’ll be checking in on a couple of our teachers.  There are quite a few new teachers at my school, and I’ll be mentoring a couple of them.

It’s an interesting thing…this teaching profession.  Teaching is cyclical.  To learn how to teach, an educator must become a student.  As skills grow, support from mentors is lessened until one day, the teacher stands on his/her own.  Gradually, that teacher turns around to become a mentor to another teacher-in-training.

This is where I am right now, and I’m a little scared.

This will be my fifth year teaching…my fourth as an Intensive Reading teacher.

I’ve been blessed to have experienced educators as mentors and friends.

Barb is one of them.  She set the example by working long, hard hours.  She taught me how to build relationships with students…how to teach a classroom of boys who couldn’t attain for more than ten minutes…how to put the perfect book in the hands of a reluctant reader.

Cinda, another mentor/friend, taught me the art of reflection.  She modeled lessons that engaged students and required them to take ownership of their learning.  She is still in the process of teaching me to take lessons to a higher level.

I’ve enjoyed soaking in their knowledge and rising to the challenge of thinking deeply about my teaching.

That’s why I feel sad because Barb has been assigned to another school in town.  I am happy for that school and my friend, Carol, the principal (another mentor/friend), but I also feel like a fish floundering around in shallow water, not sure where to go for my life water.

I don’t do change very well.

It’s at this time that I’m being asked to step up and use the knowledge I’ve gained over the last four years to help new teacher babies.

I love helping people and do it without thinking, but I’ll admit that I’m a little scared.

For the last four years, my sole focus has been on learning how to properly run a classroom and how to write lesson plans that encompass all learners.  I’ve also spent hundreds of hours completing work to obtain the various certifications I need to teach reading.

I can’t say that I’ve taken much of a leadership role at school, preferring to follow the paths that others have set.

I can’t do that any more.

Heck, if everyone stayed in their comfort zones, society would never experience progress, eh?

That is why I’m gong to pull up my big girl pants and dig into the new challenges I’ve been presented with.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I’m also going to be the lead reading teacher…the liaison between the district and our school…responsible for relaying information about District reading mandates with staff at my school.

Talk about nervous!!!  Whew!

This year promises to be an interesting one, let me tell you, what with new standards, a new and very difficult state reading exam, and new responsibilities.

I’m going to have to be like my students, learn as much as I can, and dream big…all the while keeping my eyes focused on the sole purpose I got into teaching…helping the precious babies who will walk through my door stretch their thinking in order to reach the potential that lies inside them.

The poster I bought at Michael’s and placed on my door

Waking Up to the Hodgepodge

It’s time for this week’s edition of the Hodgepodge!  It’s hard to believe that by this time next week, I’ll be getting ready for the second day of the school year.  I’ve already been looking at my rosters, which just got released to us today, our first teacher workday back, and I’m trying to start lesson planning.  My body and brain are rebelling after a restful summer, but it is what it is, and I’m sure I’ll get back into the routine soon enough.  Meanwhile, here are my answers to this week’s questions!

1.  The best part of waking up is____________________________________.

The best part of waking up is seeing the potential in a new day.  What a beautiful gift!

2.  Given a choice, which animal interaction would you most like to experience (or for those non-adventurers…which would you dislike the least?)- Swim with the dolphins at one of several locations in the Florida Keys, a lion encounter ten minutes from Victoria Falls (Africa), or a day at a remote base camp high in the Big Sur wilderness via the Ventana Wildlife Society helping track California condors?

I love animals, so either the swim with a dolphin or a lion encounter would suit me to a T.  Bird watching isn’t really my thing.

3.  What is something you fear about ‘old age’? What is something you look forward to?

Something I fear about old age is becoming a burden to others.  I’m very independent and pray I am allowed to grow old with a decent amount of health.  I just can’t picture Chicky being super pleased if she has to change my Depends.

The thing I look forward the most about growing old is retirement and the time to indulge in my hobbies without stressing about going to work.  Summers give me a taste of that life.  I will eager embrace it.

4.  Hot sauce…are you a fan? If you answered yes, what’s something you make/eat that must have hot sauce? On a scale of 1-10 how hot is too hot?

I absolutely love hot sauce!!!  The hotter the better!!!!  When I was pregnant with Chicky, I attended college classes at night after a full day of work.  I started thinking about buffalo chicken wings while I was in class each night, and the Mr. HAD to take me for dinner…even at late hours…to get my fix for the hot sauce.  You’d have to ramp it up to a 15 before I’d think something was too hot.  :)

5.  It’s been said that children learn what they live. What do you think children learn at your house?

I pray that my children learned about loving the Lord when they were under my tutelage.  I see evidence of this in both of their lives, and I praise my heavenly Father for that.  I also hope my children learned how a parent should love a child.  I wasn’t a perfect mother, but I was always there for them, and I continue to shower love on them.  I pray this example will carry over to when they have their own children.

6.  What’s your favorite movie with a number in it’s title?

What a toss-up!

I like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.  What a delightfully funny movie!

My favorite, though, has to be 13 Going on 30 with Jennifer Garner.  The Thriller scene makes me cackle every single time I watch it!

7.  Saturday (August 16th) is National Tell a Joke Day…share one here.

Q:  How do you make a tissue dance?

A:  You put a little “boogey” in it.

heehee

8.  My Random Thought

I have been known to stand in a chair to grab my students’ attention…because I saw this man do it in a movie that continues to inspire me.  My heart is so sad.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 484 other followers

%d bloggers like this: