Showing posts with label Thoughts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thoughts. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

First Year Mistakes

I've been thinking about some of the mistakes that I made as a first year teacher: partly inspired by a "Reflections" post I read over at Big Time Literacy (great blog, by the way, check it out!), partly due to an influx of emails I've recently received from FACS teachers preparing for their first year this fall. Why not share?  Here are three biggies that come to mind:

1. I assumed that students knew or knew how to __________.

The biggest mistake I made as a new teacher was overestimating what my students already knew or knew how to do; boy was this eye opening! Some examples:

  • Measuring spoons and eating spoons are different
  • How to tie a knot
  • How to use a microwave
  • 3/4 cup, teaspoon, tablespoon, etc = 1/2 + 1/4 
  • What "boiling" means
  • Trash goes IN the trash can, not in the near vicinity (okay, some snark in that one)
  • How to summarize (this planted the initial seed for eventually seeking a Reading Specialist degree)
  • What a textbook "index" is
  • How to properly open a container
  • How to wash dishes
  • Proper way to hold scissors
I could go on for quite some time, but you get the idea. Over time I learned to assume nothing - though I'd get the occasional "duh" or eye roll, it helped immensely in making lessons and activities go smoother.

2. I didn't think out/properly explain how exactly I wanted students to __________.

Alternatively titled "Woefully underprepared in the procedures department." This is huge in any classroom; in a FACS course it can absolutely be your undoing. Now we're all familiar with The First Days of School (really? You're not? Stop reading this and go order it from Amazon - I've even linked it for you), so I did have routines in place for the beginning of class, end of class, etc, etc. But when you're in the thick of things, you have to give directions for so many different activities during a single class period - again, especially in FACS - and you don't have lovely pre-made posters on the wall or previously practiced routines to refer to for everything. Think it through, boil it down to a few short clear steps, and repeat repeat repeat. Even if it seems like something is the most obvious common-sense thing in the world ("...put your trash in the trash can..."), include it in the directions. Incidentally, when I mastered this, I became a master at transitions, even on the fly.

3. I didn't have a plan for ALL THE PAPER.

I thought a few file folders would do it: a grading folder for each class, a handout folder for each class, then maybe a couple more for school documents and other things. Right? hahahahahahahahahaha. Seriously, that obviously didn't work. if you've spent time looking through this blog, you know that I became a paper Nazi. What worked most brilliantly for me was never physically accepting an assignment from students or utilizing trays/baskets/etc - once I moved to having them keep everything in their binders or folders life became much more sunshine and rainbow filled. This came in especially handy with those students who accuse teachers of losing their work. First of all, I've known a LOT of teachers who do frequently lose work (if this is you, some tough love: GET IT TOGETHER! Once you establish this reputation, you can never dispute a student who says you've lost something, even when everyone knows they're lying through their teeth! Also, you make life harder for the rest of us). But even though I don't believe I have ever actually lost an assignment, when you have paper everywhere (even if you somehow "know" your system) it does not inspire confidence, and kids can/will take advantage. When students have to submit all work in a folder or binder, this argument is null. An actual conversation from last year:

Boy #1: I turned it in, you must have lost it!
Me: (looking him straight in the eye, unflinching)   I.     Don't.     Lose.     Things.
Boy #2: She's got you dude. This one doesn't lose stuff.
Girl: No lie, look at this place. you know she's not like {other teacher} or {other teacher}.
Boy #1: (hanging head and sighing) Yeah, you're right. What did I do with that thing?

You can't pull that line off unless you have a seriously established reputation for organization.

There are plenty of other mistakes I made that year and in subsequent years, but fixing those made a huge impact on both my quality of teaching and quality of life. How about the rest of you - first year mistakes to warn the newbies about?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Don't You Miss Having Summers Off?

One of the first questions I'm always asked related to my former teaching career is "Don't you miss having summers off?" The answer is a resounding NO. Why? Pay very close attention...


That is crazy talk that can only pass through the lips of people who have no idea what they're talking about. Summers off, p-shaw. Yeah, sure, except for:

  • All of the professional development we need that schools won't provide subs for during the school year (or registration fees, travel costs, etc)
  • Redesigning previous curriculum
  • Planning new curriculum
  • Studying up on new techniques, technologies, and standards
  • Coaching summer camps, leagues and tournaments (school coaches are tied up year-round, not just the regular season) - not to mention fundraising!
  • Packing/moving classrooms when you're unlucky
  • Deep-cleaning/re-organizing classrooms when you get to stay
  • Working summer jobs to make ends meet (some districts may offer to spread it out over a year, but remember teachers only get paid for ten months)
  • Getting in as much "quality" family and friend time as possible, because you won't see them much August-May
  • Mentoring new teachers
  • Reading, researching, repeating............
This is my second summer "working," and I'm telling you, it is not a big deal. I have no pressure to cram everything in before I lose all of my free time again. I am not constantly thinking about all of the prep work for the next year that I still have to do and am running out of time for. And, I don't have well-intentioned (and often very ill-intentioned) people saying ridiculous things to me like "It must be so nice to have summers off."
For all of you teachers out there, I hope you are fitting in some fun along with all of the work you have to accomplish this summer. You deserve it after all of the hard work and sacrifice of the school year!

For all of you non-teachers out there, stop saying stupid things about having summers off.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

PARCC, Social Media, AFT, and "Privacy"

So I'm taking a break from this (rather slow) description of my transition from teaching to the "other side" to ask this question: Why do people still believe that they have an expectation of privacy on social media???!!!! Perhaps like me you recently received this email from the AFT:

Warning: Rant headed right for you.

Now let me say straight up I am no big fan of Pearson or the PARCC, defending them is not my objective here. However, it makes complete sense to me that they would contract employees specifically to monitor social media for public posts regarding the test. This email (which conveniently provides no link to the original article by the way, including that hyperlink you see in the reference - it just leads to AFT's petition) defends the student by saying it "was nothing more than a tweet." It was upon reading that phrase that my brain began to bleed - TWITTER IS PUBLIC! 

Why do we keep waffling back and forth between telling students they need to careful about what they post on social media yet constantly defend their "right" to privacy? If you put something out there for everyone to read, then you have no control over who reads it. Period. You're "worried about a generation of kids growing up without a moment of privacy"? Teach them that social media is NOT PRIVATE! 

Really, how hard is this to understand, people? So no, AFT, I will not be signing this petition. Doing so would be agreeing that students don't need to think before they post, that they have a right to privacy in a completely public environment, that they need not be at all concerned about potential consequences of their actions. It would contradict everything I have tried to teach them about their online safety, which will just make them more vulnerable in the future.

And I realize that people will disagree with me on this, perhaps vehemently. I realize I may even get some angry responses. Why do I realize this? Because I understand that posting this in a public forum means that it is not private.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Job Description that Led to Quitting Teaching

This entry is part of a series explaining my departure from teaching. In previous entries I discussed my primary personal and professional reasons for leaving.

As I've mentioned before, last year was THE BEST teaching year for me ever. I was really happy with my school and my great kids, and was working hard to not only continue the awesome year but to make the following year even smoother by polishing up every lesson immediately afterward. You know, things like rather than make the quick notes about what to add/change/etc, I revised the lesson plans to include whatever spur-of-the-moment improvements I came up with, added the ideas I thought of later, and made sure whatever supplemental materials I created were edited/enhanced/laminated/color-coded/whatever and packaged conveniently for use next time.

So when my husband emailed a link to a job description to me asking "Is this something you'd be interested in?" I was really annoyed. Really, really annoyed. 

But during my lunch that day I had time to pull up the description and look it over, and had to begrudgingly admit that okay, maybe I was a little interested. The job was in the Instructional Technology dept at the local community college (the same one my husband works at) - essentially, teaching teachers how to use technology to enhance their classes. After looking it over and later drilling my husband for what additional details he had, I figured what's the harm in applying?

While I was definitely enjoying the year, I still knew that being a classroom teacher was probably not going to be my long-term plan (for all of the reasons that I discussed in my previous posts plus more); I was thinking maybe another two years, then it would be time to start seeking a support position, most likely related to my Reading Specialist degree. That this opportunity was coming a little earlier than expected, well, we plan and God laughs, right?

I received an invitation to interview shortly after applying. I actually enjoy interviews regardless (which I understand is somewhat of an oddity), but this one was extra fun because while I was truly interested in the job by the time it came around, I had nothing to lose - if it was offered to someone else and I had to continue teaching at my current school, I was perfectly fine with that.

Coincidentally, that interview was exactly a year ago. Today we conducted a training for dual credit instructors from the local high schools (including two districts that I have worked for), which has given me plenty of prompts for thinking about the differences between my teaching life and my current life. Tune in next time...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Best Year of My Teaching Career

First, note the difference between January 3rd of this year, and that of last year:

A difference of 51 degrees - holy cow!

Now let's look at an even bigger difference between this year and last year...

Last year (2013-2014) was hands down the best year of my teaching career. After the horrid year I'd had before, I fell in love with teaching all over again. My kids were fantastic, the school I was working at was great, the kids were amazing, I felt renewed confidence and energy... and did I mention the kids?

On June 2nd I turned in my signout sheet, my gradebook, my lesson plan book, my summer maintenance requests, my keys. That day I walked out with the wonderful feeling that I'd had the best year possible. And that wonderful feeling of freedom - not the one of being done with the grading, the planning, the paperwork, the phone calls, the test scores, the data. I had the one of simply being done. That day I quit teaching.

We all know how high the turnover rate is for the teaching profession, and chances are many of you are either seriously considering or beginning to consider leaving teaching yourself. Over the next few days I'll share my personal and professional reasons for my decision, and what life on "the other side" has been like for me.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Anonymous" Teachers

I follow a LOT of teacher blogs, and a LOT of teachers on Twitter, and it's interesting to look at the differences between the ones that are "anonymous" and those that choose to reveal their identities.

Going all in is risky business, so props to those of you who take that full on. All it takes is for one parent/community member/school board member/whathaveyou to take issue with something you post, and it may very well be career-ending. Going "anonymous" gives you a little more freedom, especially when you need to share a less than sunshiney story about your classroom.

I keep placing "anonymous" in quotes because hopefully we all realize that there is no such thing on the web. Sure, I do all of the common sense things - don't give my full name (or use students' real names), edit my name and face out of pictures, edit students' faces out of pictures, so on and so forth. But, realistically, if someone really wanted to, they could find the real me.

And sometimes being the small world that it is people just stumble onto you. I've had people who have subbed for me find this blog ("I recognize those monkeys! And the stencils on that wall!"); I've had students say "Hey, I saw folder holders that looked exactly like these on Pinterest !" (though luckily they didn't follow the pin to my blog); it even turns out that my current boss's sister is a FACS teacher who reads this blog. And I know that this doesn't just happen to me - one of my favorite blog posts this year was when two bloggers I follow met serendipitously at JCrew - Sneaker Teacher and Roxanne from Books That Heal Kids.

We should all be careful, whether using legit names or not. At the same time, there are several posts and tweets (tweets especially) I read every week that are absolutely laugh out loud hilarious, but things you would NEVER say if your real name was attached to it. We all need people to be that brutally honest at times, because teaching is not all rainbows and kittens. It is hard. It is frustrating. It is overwhelming. And heartbreaking, and maddening, and infuriating. And the only people who get wanting to pull-your-hair-out-and-scream-and-cry-but-you're-too-exhausted-so-you'll-just-slink-away-and-find-an-alternative-to-the-copy-machine are others who have experienced the same thing. And the only people who get why you're so excited in August after what happened last year are others who have experienced the same thing. And the only people who get how much you still love that kid six and a half years later after he lifted a ball of yarn from your classroom and weaved it up and down the staircase blocking everyone and creating a total fire hazard are others who have experienced the same thing. And the only people who get how sad you still are five years later that that same kid didn't survive that car accident are others who have experienced the same thing.

So "anonymous" or not, do protect yourself, but do continue to share what's real - the good and sometimes also the bad. We all need to know that there are others out there who get it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gah! Why We Need Home Ec, Part 3

That is NOT A DRY MEASURING CUP, Uncle Ben's!

You can't measure the importance of teaching them to cook? How about the importance of teaching them to measure? And shame on you Food Network Magazine for printing this!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Favorite Dinosaur & Shared Absurdity

I make my students do A LOT of drawing. Not only that, I often require that the drawings include dinosaurs.

This is for a few reasons:

  • By making the last question of a quiz/test a random dinosaur drawing, it helps them to relax a bit and maybe remember the answer to that question that was just beyond their recall.
  • By making the last question of a quiz/test a random dinosaur drawing, it forces them to slow down a bit rather than rushing through - and more likely to look back over their answers before considering themselves finished.
  • By making the last question/part of an assignment a random dinosaur drawing, it forces them to slow down a bit rather than rushing through - and more likely to look back over their work before considering themselves finished.
  • They enjoy it. Even the ones who complain about it are quick to point out in disappointed fashion when I don't include a required dinosaur drawing.
  • The shared experience of absurdity draws them closer together - there is actual research on the shared experience of absurdity, check it out people!
  • It makes the course more memorable (remember that child development teacher we had freshman year who always made us draw dinosaurs?).
  • And of course, my own personal amusement!
All this to introduce one of my favorite dinosaur drawings of the past school year:

I love when they draw me! How great is that?

It's also nice to know that clearly I strike terror into the hearts of all, even dinosaurs. Love the look on this dino's face.

And now that I've drawn you in (hopefully), here's a little TED talk on that shared experience of absurdity research - watch it! Trust me, it's worth it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"New" Home Ec

Read a nice article about specific FACS courses being offered in a variety of states - check it out here!

I have two trains of thought on this article. The first one is that I like some of the ideas in it - a combination strength training/conditioning/nutrition class would be fabulous! I work the topic of physical activity into my foods lessons quite a bit, but we don't engage in any REAL physical activity as part of the class. It would be pretty great to sincerely combine them all. Something else that caught my attention was a free curriculum about the food system developed by Johns Hopkins University. I have not looked at it yet, but going over it is definitely on my to-do list. The food system is another one of those concepts I incorporate along the way but feel like I should be doing more with it - and when you say FREE that tends to get my attention!

Here's the second thought. It's beginning to annoy me to see so many articles about the "new home economics," how it's "not just for Suzy Homemaker" anymore and that the students do "more than just bake apple pies" (quotes from various articles over the past several years, sorry not documenting). Um, this is WHAT WE DO! It's not some brand-new, new-fangled, revolutionary idea that just popped up in a couple of schools over the past year. Seriously, what's with these "journalists" who can't do an iota of research about what's really going on in FACS classrooms and instead just write from a place of their own general impressions and stereotypes? I'm thrilled that these classes are in the news and that the ideas from them can be shared, I  just wish that the "news" world wouldn't perpetuate outdated schemas about "home ec."

Regardless, hope you enjoy the ideas and resources from the article!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Core vs "Elective" Courses: Misperception #3

Misperception #3: Testing doesn't affect you.


Now while testing certainly does not affect us the same way it does, let's say, English teachers, it most certainly does affect us.

Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Which classes are students taken out of for benchmark testing? (Hint: electives)
  • Which classes are students taken out of for make-up/extended time benchmark testing? (Hint: electives)
  • Which classes are students taken out of three to five days a week for RtI as a result of benchmark testing? (Hint: electives)
  • Which classes are students dropped into mid-semester due to changes in their schedules prompted by their benchmark test scores? (Hint: electives)
We sit in the same meetings as "core" teachers do going over lists of juniors, discussing their PSAE "potential" and brainstorming possible interventions to implement in every class.

We are required to implement the same PSAE-prep and intervention measures as all other teachers.

We get the same thinly-veiled, ominous threats from administration as all other teachers as we approach testing season.

We get the same foul attitudes and lack of motivation from students as all other teachers during testing season.

We get the same vilification in the press as all other teachers when test scores are released.

We experience the same sense of temporary relief as all other teachers in mid-May.

Come on people, it's 2014; no one is unaffected by testing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Core vs "Elective" Classes: Misperception #2

Misperception #2: Foods 1 is a "Gourmet Culinary Arts" course.

Note: I work at a very small school; we only offer one year of Foods/Nutrition.

Just a sampling of the comments I hear in this category:
"I'd love to teach your classes - I'd just have them cook all the time."
"It must be great to have the kids making your lunch every day."
"It must be nice to just sit back and watch the kids do all the work."
"You should start a catering service/cook for in-services/run a student cafe/etc."

Here are some facts that seem to escape my colleagues:

  • I have a budget. It is not impressive. We do not cook all the time, not even close.
  • Most students come in with very, very, very little background knowledge. I literally have to start with lines like: "This is a measuring spoon. Measuring spoons come in different sizes." It takes a long, long path of baby steps to get them to the point where they can process even a basic recipe on their own without extensive support from me. 
  • Prepping novice "chefs" for lab takes an extensive amount of planning. Recipes have to be broken into chunks that will fit within class times, then further into tasks that can be dovetailed. We have to go over the recipes in detail, because they don't yet know basic terminology ("boil," "level" teaspoon, "whip," etc). I  create demonstration videos so they can see exactly what they are supposed to do. I set up the lab table to make ingredients as easily accessible as possible. This doesn't happen on its own.
  • My classes, just like yours, are only 49 minutes long. In that time we have to review the recipe, set up the lab, cook, possibly eat (most of our labs are stretched out over two or three days, so they don't eat every day that we are in the kitchens), and clean. This will not happen if I don't actively manage these novices.
  • And who do you think does all the grocery shopping? That would be me, outside of school hours.
  • And let's not forget that as little as they know about cooking basics, they know even less about food safety. This has to be addressed before they can cook - and also explains why I never have my students prepare my lunch.
  • Probably my personal favorite would be the co-workers with grandiose ideas. Last year an aide was using one of my microwaves as I set up for our first lab of the year. When she asked me what we were making, I replied "Biscuits." Her response was "Biscuits and?", then proceeded to lecture me on how these kids need to learn how to cook. At which point I tried to explain to her that just the biscuits would take us two days, and getting the kids cleaned up and out the door each day this first time around was going to take every ounce of my focused attention to accomplish. She just shook her head and walked out the door.
Starting the year with kids who can barely prepare Ramen noodles and getting them to the point where they can read and accurately execute a recipe is extremely rewarding, but in today's world of microwave snacks and dinners from a box this does not come easily. Remember that the next time you start to tell your Foods teacher how easy and fun cooking labs are.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Core vs "Elective" Classes: Misperception #1

Elective teachers are often misunderstood by teachers of core subjects. Don't get me wrong, I hold nothing against core teachers, nor do I underestimate their challenges - I am married to a math teacher, and my best girlfriend is an English teacher. I've just noticed that as a whole, teachers of those subjects tend to hold some rather inaccurate perceptions of what life is like for elective teachers. Hence, I thought I'd put together a mini-series on these misperceptions.

Please don't misunderstand my intention: this is not meant to be a rant, just a clarification of a few issues in response to the bizarre statements we tend to get.

Misperception #1: "Students CHOOSE to be in your classes, so they really WANT to be there."

Oh, if only. Here are the students that "choose" to be in our classes.
  • Kids who actually read and understand the course description, have an accurate understanding of what the class entails, and are interested in learning the content. 
  • Kids who sign up for the class with completely unrealistic expectations. For example, they sign up for "Foods and Nutrition" thinking that it is a snack class/second lunch, that we will eat every day, and that we will prepare steak and Hot Pockets with regularity.
  • Kids who sign up for the class because they think they can just show up and be given an A without doing any work.
  • Kids whose parents/guidance counselor/caseworker sign them up for the class because they think the kid can just show up and be given an A without doing any work.
  • Kids who think that the classes won't require any kind of reading, writing, math, or, well, thinking.
  • Kids who are transferred into the class mid-term because of "issues" in another class. A line I have heard ad nauseam over the years: "He/she was causing disruptions is his/her English/math/social studies class, and because of his/her first quarter grade he/she can't possibly pass that class anyway, so we're going to move him/her into your class." 
  • Kids who have no other place to go due to their special ed schedule. I have at least one section each year stacked with students with IEPs well over the designated ratio without an aide. One year I had four students with behavioral disorders whose IEPs specifically required that they be placed in small classes due to their aggressive/violent tendencies and triggers; not only were all four of these students placed in the same section together, it was also my largest class of the day. And also contained several students who were frequent fliers on the suspension list due to violent offenses. Not to mention needles, scissors, knives, fire...
  • Kids who didn't even know what the class was, they just circled randomly on the form.
These are the students who CHOOSE to take my elective classes. From there it's up to me to figure out how to get them to actually WANT to be there - just like my "core" subject counterparts. My motto at the beginning of each term as I look over my rosters: Challenge Accepted

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Through random teacher-blog-stalking I stumbled onto #Nerdlution, and I thought what the heck? I'm in!

For 50 days straight (starting yesterday, Dec 2nd), I'm committed to writing in my 10 year journal every day. What's that, you ask?

An AMAZING journal in which each page is dedicated to one day of the year, you write just a few lines, then you come back to that page the next year and add a few more lines. Hence, you can easily see what you were doing on that day the previous year(s). Love this! Purchased it last December and could hardly wait to get started! And then... well, my last entry was March 14th, which was the point at which I admitted to myself that things at work were just not going to get better and I just did not want to remember the details of it in the future. Unfortunately, once I gave up the habit I didn't get back into it later, so here I am in December again and while I should have a full year completed I only have a couple of months or so.

And thus I am getting back on the horse! Every day for 50 days I will make sure to write my entry. That way when Dec 2, 2014 rolls around I will have a full year completed.

I discussed the whole #nerdlution thing and the 10 year journal thing with one of my classes, and I've got one of them hooked on the #nerdlution idea and a couple of them are really interested in the 10 year journal. Love it when I can get kids excited about stuff I'm excited about!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quizzes and "I'm Done!"

Kids are usually good about staying quiet they are finished with a quiz/test until the rest of the students finish as well... actually, until the last two or three are finished. Then they start to get squirmy, then someone whispers, then... well, you know. So over the years I've tried a few different techniques:

-Being very specific about my expectations of their behavior .
-Having a short assignment for them to work on after. Usually this assignment would either be related to what we would learn next or a current news article about what we had just learned. 
-Allowing them to read or work on other classwork. 

These all worked fairly well, but there were some kinks. The slower test takers would become anxious about not having time to work on the assignment if one was given. Not everyone brought reading material. Allowing them to work on items from other classes inevitably led them to ask each other questions about the assignment. And so on.

A few years ago a guidance counselor mentioned that she knew of a teacher who always ran all of her tests/quizzes like a standardized test: when students were finished, they simply turned their quizzes over, kept them at their desks, and had to wait quietly until time was up. Just for the heck of it I gave it a try one day with a particularly short quiz. It worked like a charm. Apparently still having their quiz right in front of them made them more mindful of not talking or even whispering, because they didn't want to look like they were cheating. There was no shuffle of books or papers as they got out something else to work on, no questions or requests for help... just respectful silence. And a few nappers. I began trying it with longer quizzes and tests, and still consistently received good results. An unexpected result was that they spent more time double-checking their answers, as there was no benefit to rushing and finishing early. Also, as they were sitting there waiting for others to finish, a few students would suddenly think of an answer they were stumped on, and since they hadn't handed their test in yet they could go back and fix it.

The con for me was that since I didn't collect their work as soon as it was completed, I had less in-class grading time (always trying to reduce that take-home load!), but the benefits to the kids obviously outweighed my inconvenience.

The con for the kids was that some of the early finishers had quite a bit of time to stare into space. Although, since I always require some kind of drawing of a dinosaur on my quizzes/tests, I started getting some pretty darn elaborate sketches.

As I was writing my first quiz of this school year, I had a brilliant-why-didn't-I-think-of-that-years-ago moment, and I put a puzzle on the back. I made sure the kids knew that it wasn't part of the quiz and that it was optional, and the results were amazing! After finishing almost everyone worked on the puzzle intently, keeping them occupied past the time when the last student finished. Success! So I will definitely be doing this with all future items.

The puzzles I've included so far have had a wide-range of purposes.

One included vocab words that had been introduced but we were still learning:

One was simply a word challenge:

One was a review of past information we've covered:

All of these were created either in MS Word or by using a free online puzzle generator - there are dozens of good ones to choose from.

This may be my favorite "new thing I've thought of" for this year so far. If you think this would work for your kids, give it a try and let me know how it turns out!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Good Criminals Have to Follow the Rules

I just read a news article about a guy who was busted with over $22K of heroin in his car when he was pulled over for speeding. My question is: if you know you have a small fortune worth of heroin in your vehicle, WHY WOULD YOU SPEED? That's like transporting a dead body in your trunk and rolling through a stop sign. It seems to me that if you're going to be a good criminal, you've gotta follow traffic laws, don't you think?

Watch me connect this to teaching.

I've taught in two different districts with substantial gang populations. One was a high school, and the gang members really didn't cause issues in school - in fact, some of the most respectful kids I have EVER taught were Latin Kings. The other was a junior high, and those kids were always in trouble.

And here's the difference: the high schoolers knew it was about conducting business, while the junior high schoolers thought it was about acting like a punk. The high schoolers understand that you can't sell the drugs when you're constantly being sent to the office and being watched because you're a repeat offender; the junior high schoolers don't quite grasp this. So again, to be a good criminal you've gotta follow the basic rules.

Yet, I don't think I'll go over this in class.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Plan B...

Yep, this is how you want to start your day:

Plan B it is!

But I'll tell you what - my IT gal took care of the issue in record-breaking time. Something like this would have taken WEEKS at my last school. Soooo great to be back here!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Feeling Like a Rock Star

Not gonna lie, I am feeling like a rock star this weekend! For one, it was a GREAT first week of school, fun even! Two, my readers are definitely making me feel loved. I got a shout out from M over at Teenagers Are Ridiculous. If you don't currently follow her blog you simply must check it out - she is HILARIOUS! You can totally picture all of the absurdity that she reports from her classroom. Also, Mrs. S over at The Crafty Raider offered to send me a Snoopy flag that she is not using. You know I love me some Snoopy flags! (Not so much grammar, apparently, but it's Sunday!) So thoughtful!

I've got lots to share, but for right now I've gotta make sure I have everything ship-shape ready to go for tomorrow - the half-hour preceding 1st period is booked full of 504 meetings, so there will be no time for any foolishness in the morning. More to come about back to school adventures in the following days!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

And That's My New Philosophy!

If you're a fan of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," you know that the title of this post comes from Sally's big number in the musical. It's been going through my head a lot this week, the reason for which you will soon read.

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY! Kids come on Tuesday! We had our first of two Institute Days on Friday, so it is GAME TIME, PEOPLE! I've been working hard at getting my room ready to go, as well as organizing all of my classroom materials - just like the rest of you. Unlike the very few of you non-teachers who read this blog either because you know me and I told you to, or you... well... I don't know why you would read this if you don't teach and you don't know me. Must be my winning personality! Anyway, here's a peek at what I've been doing.

First, a big scrub-a-dub-dub of all five of my new kitchens (thank you, mini shop vac!). God bless my new principal, who gave the okay for me to use the school's industrial dishwasher in the cafeteria to speed wash and disinfect everything!

What would have taken me DAYS to do by hand took about 90 minutes. Yes! So it wasn't long before my kitchens began to look like this:

Still have labeling, shelf lining, etc to do, but since we won't be in the kitchens until several weeks into the school year this was a good enough start.

I livened up my entryway, since it's the first impression my students will get of my classroom. My doorway is at the end of a hallway directly across from the stairwell, so they'll see this as they climb the stairs.

My Snoopy flag was of course a given, and will be changed out with the seasons - as will the apron. The red sign on the left is my daily schedule of classes, and the yellow is a sketch that a student from this school actually drew for me 5 years ago of a possible logo for outside of my door to replace that little chef guy - the sketch has Snoopy sewing and baking!

While the standing chalkboard in the classroom was charming, it was not nearly as practical as a whiteboard - especially since I'll be adding a projector to the room! Luckily there was a 4' x 6' whiteboard attached to the recessed wall past the flag (where no one can really see it, wha???), so the maintenance crew was extremely kind and moved it from the wall and attached it to the chalkboard at my request. It has of course been Snoopified with bulletin board border found at Joann's!

My desk has also been Snoopified in the same manner:

We're required to post a large display of our classroom rules (which I'm in the habit of doing anyway), so I took advantage of $1.60 engineering prints at Staples to make these:

After reading the "Whole Brain Teaching" book I added #6 - I love how it covers all of the loopholes you could argue for the rules! I made a really big schedule because I much prefer pointing rather than constantly answering the "When do we get outta here?" questions. In April. Hmf. On the back is our late start schedule, so I can just flip it over on days with a different schedule.

This year I've decided to also post "Class Philosophies" in addition to the class rules. These are the things that I say over and over and over again to the kids, to the point where I only have to start the sentence and then they finish it. I'd rather focus on these concepts than the rules, so they are much bigger in the classroom:

1. "Take Care of Self, Take Care of Others" is a phrase I learned through Link Crew, which I think encompasses the whole "respect" idea, as well as all the dangers that a FACS classroom has to offer - needles, scissors, knives, fire, etc. The language is a little less PBIS-y as well.

2. "Go Slow to Go Fast" is another tenet of Link Crew, but has been a mantra of mine since well before I encountered it there. I learned very early on that if you have students go too quickly nothing will sink in and you'll have to start all over. I say this every time a kid is rushing and will clearly have to redo or start something over, or when they complain that it takes us too long to get to the "good stuff."

3. "Say I can't YET." Gets rid of the whole "I can't" business.

4. "Make it AWESOME." I am still a huge, huge fan of Kid President's Pep Talk, so I think about this a lot. I've also found that "awesome" is a whole lot less subjective than you would think. This is my response every time a kid asks me "Is this good enough?" When I ask back "Is it awesome?" the answer is usually a pretty obvious "no" and it's back to work for him/her. I'll mention my sister thinks I should have made it "AWESOMESAUCE," but that's a lot of letters... : )

So this year I am going to try emphasizing these "philosophies" over the rules, in an attempt to make the classroom culture more positive.

And that's my new philosophy!