Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Joy of Work

Here we are, the last day of September!  One month down, nine more to go.  The irony is that technically, this is only our first full week of school.  I am sitting in a local coffee shop, as I usually do on Wednesday afternoons, before my meditation class, and as I reflect on the first month of school, I can't help but look back and think about this quote by Nick Offerman, from his comedy show, American Ham:
I first watched his show and heard this quote earlier this year, and man did it force me out of my comfort zone.  A few months later, I would make the decision to look for another teaching job because I was losing my joy and passion at my current job.  My old job wasn't bad, but it was time for a change.  So as the sun sets on September, here are some things I have reflected on about my life as a math (and art) teacher...

I know for a fact that I am doing more work.  How do I know this?  I am teaching/ lesson planning/ grading/ two grades, as well as two electives.  Yet somehow,I haven't fallen behind yet.  I have time to do this (yes, I know technically we're not even done with our first full week yet) but it's been work.  And yet, I find myself grateful for the fact that I am teaching new material (6th grade), and confident about what I do know (7th grade).  Routines are finally feeling more natural and I am enjoying learning new things about my students. 

Every Friday, I also get to end my work week with my Math Club and doing art!  I was terrified of being the art teacher at first, but I am having a blast (and learning quite a lot about Pop Art, I might add).  

I even enjoy lunch duty.  It gives me a chance to observe my students in a much different environment than the classroom.  For example, I have a student who would completely shut down in math class, but I noticed how she was at lunch and saw that she seemed to be good friends with another girl in the class, so the next day I moved her to a group with the her other friend, and she was much more open in class, still not 100% but much more than I had gotten before, and this is something I might not had ever known had I not observed her during lunch.

Lastly, this morning I got an email from one of my former students and it made my day!  She is doing so well and I am so proud of her, and it warmed my heart to realize that she thought of me <3

I am one lucky teacher, and I am really lucky that (at least for now) I have found "something that I can tolerate or love." 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Baselines, Lesson Timing, & Electives

I wanted to be good and squeeze in a quick post tonight...

Baselines:
The new school year has been going well.  I finished grading my student's baseline assessments today.  I'm gonna look over the data formally on Monday with my AP, but the data is definitely interesting.  I created the baselines using old state test questions, and assessed my 6th graders on 6th grade standards, and my 7th graders assessed on 7th grade standards.  I predicted that my students would do OK (I teach at a city-wide G&T) and most of them did.  I even had one student get everything right, in other words, they would have already passed the state test for this year!  That's not the case with everyone, but this is definitely a new challenge for me.  From what I've observed these first few weeks of school, most of my students will do anything I ask them, in terms of work, but I need to always have extra work.  A challenge I've had is finding that balance between really challenging their thinking, while making sure everyone is mastering the material.

Lesson Timing & Resources:
Another challenge I've encountered is changing from a 55 minute period to a 42 minute period, as well as not having the same kind of technology as my old school.  We also haven't had a full week of school yet, so that has made getting into a rhythm not easy (my brain is still on semi-summer mode) but that will change next week.

Math Club & Teaching Visual Arts:
Something that I have gotten more excited about as this year has been unfolding is having a Math Club elective and teaching Visual Arts.  It's been fun because on Fridays we teach our electives, and starting up my Math Club again is always something I look forward to.  I love my group of mathletes!  Also, the more research (aka mostly Pinterest) I do, the more excited I get about teaching art.  I even took a free painting class and free drawing class at my local Michael's earlier this week and got some good ideas!  I am learning a lot and am feeling much more confident about teaching art!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The First Six Weeks of School, Electives, & Advisory

Week 1 of the new school year is in the books, and what a year it is shaping up to be!  I know we are still in the honeymoon phase, but if the next 39 weeks are half as stress-free and fun as this, then I will be a very happy teacher come June.

Our kids found out their advisory classes today and this afternoon we had our individual first advisory periods, and I am proud to say that after three days of school, I knew all my advisee's names, which checks off the first goal from my "The First Six Weeks of School" list.  I am happy about that, and next week when we formally start to have classes, I hope to fully accomplish the other six goals.  September is so broken up this year, we only had three days this week, and the next two weeks.  Believe me, I am not complaining, but it does make planning and pacing a little challenging.

I am also happy to report that I have decided on my Visual Art elective!  At my colleagues suggestion, I have decided to go with Pop Art as my unit, partly because it's something I want to learn more about and I think it'll be fun.  (FYI my other Friday elective is Math Club, which I am super excited about).

As for Advisory today, I had my kids start working on their coat of arms (an activity that I brought over from my old school) and it was really great to see it coming together.  Earlier in the day, before we split up into advisories, my co-teacher and I had them create their own individual coat-of-arms and I was just so impressed with what they were coming up with.  It's going to be a great year!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The most important of all the "firsts"...

This post will be short because after all tomorrow is the most important of the all the "firsts" - the first day of school.  The halls and rooms and desks will all be full and I will meet my new kids.  It's been a long day, and I am definitely physically tired, but I can't help but be mindful of how relaxed I am.  It's a far cry from the day before my first day of school at my old school, where I almost had a mental breakdown at Staples) and definitely a far cry from my first day of school ever, nine years ago.  I was stressing out a bit last week, but decided to do a short meditation instead, and it really helped - I'm so glad that I will be doing Mindful Schools and Yoga Ed with my kids this year.

I had a thought as I was leaving my classroom this afternoon.  I was reminded of this scene from The Office, as I turned around and took in my empty classroom that will be filled with my new kids tomorrow and who knows what sort of adventures over the next ten months, I thought "This is *my* classroom.  And we're gonna be great." <3

 To all my fellow educators, may you have a wonderfully inspiring new school year with your new students!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

First Day Back

I had started writing another post here yesterday about my first day back, but I thought that that would be more appropriate on my personal livejournal, so I put it there.  It's basically about my first two days at my new school.  Not only did I change schools, but my school moved buildings, so the last two days have been spent unpacking boxes mostly.  Unpacking has been OK because our rooms and hallways are supposed be be painted before school officially starts next week, but as of this afternoon it still hasn't happened yet, so I can't really hang things up or set up my classroom, so it's mostly been organizing than decorating the past two days.  I'll probably go in at least one other day this week to get some more stuff done.

One of the things we talked about during yesterday's PD were our school's values, inclusion, inquiry, and responsibility, and specifically focused on inquiry-based teaching.  That talk seemed to solidify my decision to go with CMP3 as my main curriculum this school year.  I had been debating it a lot this summer (and last school year), but the truth is, I really to believe that it is the best way to learn mathematics.  I had a lot of fun when I taught it two years ago, and my scholars really became mathematicians.  It's still going to be a learning process for me, and of course no curriculum is perfect, but I am happy with my decision, because in my teacher gut (at least for right now) I know that it is the right one.  I think I'm gonna pilot using JumpRope for standards-based grading, mostly because it's free and I have some exposure using it already.

I also decided to steal a page from my 6th grade colleague last year and make my baseline assessment (IA #0) and end-of-year assessment the same.  In other words, I will test my 6th graders on 6th grade standards, and my 7th graders on 7th grade standards.  My reason for this will be to give me the pre-assessment data that I need for each unit right away, so that I can see which standards I need to focus on (based off student mastery) and what standards, if any, I can hold back on.  I'm also going to use Khan Academy again for skill practice, which will hopefully complement the inquiry-based classwork.

Well that's it for now.  I'm sure I'll have more to update as the week goes on.  Hopefully I can keep this up as the school year goes on.

PS It's been two days, and I still cannot believe that I can actually walk to work now (no more hour plus long commute each way for me)... that alone is already making this year pretty darn sweet ;)