A well run project

Some days, it just goes right. The perfect project is one where I spend hours and hours preparing it, but when put in the hands of the students I do almost nothing. If I've planned it right, if I introduce the project correctly, students get to take control and run with it.
Today, it worked. Students moved around the room, asking survey questions they wrote about topics they picked to other students in the room. From my highest students to my lowest, students were gathering data and finding success. I sat back and watched. It felt so so so so so good.


Sweet September

September slowly slips away. This sunny weekend will be the last in September. September holds so much for me; high emotion, anticipation, beginnings, introductions, successes, and mistakes. September also brings so much more- sweet sun, mild weather, new school supplies, the last breath of summer. I love September.
This September has been, by far, the best of my teaching career. The feelings of being a "first year" have slipped away (it only took three years...) and I have enjoyed this feeling of confidence as this year has slowly moved from "just started" to "full swing".
Is it the students or is it me? This year, from day one, has felt calm, organized, and productive. I know it's a little of both, but truly, the students this year, as a whole, make a nice group.
So, for this last September weekend, I will enjoy this feeling. There will be time at the farmers market, time cleaning house, time grading papers, time relaxing on the couch. Through all of this, never far from my mind, are thoughts of my classroom and Monday and lesson plans.


Back to School Night

The preparation. The anticipation. The stress. All for one night.

Back to School.

This is THE night. I think about what message I can give parents about the year in math in 8 minutes . I place handouts at the door and sign ups for volunteers. Two days ago, students filled out schedules to take to their families. Heck, my team even bought door prizes (at the dollar tree, we only can give so much) to raffle off to our lucky parents.

Tonight, 30 minutes to launch, the power blows. Poof. A frantic call to the power company. Two hours, we're told, before power can be restored. So, we are sent to doorways and to the parking lots to direct parents back to their homes. Sorry folks, guess we'll meet you another night. I, personally, breath a sigh of relief. As the math teacher, I'm usually the one attacked at back to school night. Parents are sure if they don't get the math part of schooling situated JUST SO, their child will fail life. They want to talk and talk and question and on and on, and I just want to go home and sleep so I can teach the next day.

But, I'm not out of the woods. We've been told all will be rescheduled. So, another day of preparation. Another day of anticipation. Another piece of stress.

Also worth noting, I'm always amazed how quickly teachers can throw together an impromptu "let's get a beer" when the time calls for it.


I see their True Colors shining

Every class has a personality- the whole, the group, the mass. How does that happen? How does the group take on unique traits?
Today I had students find their True Colors. Students rate this and that, likes and dislikes, add here and tally there and suddenly a color appears and students split into four nice personality groups. I love this activity. I wait for it every year and see if my take on each group can be matched by the colors---
My morning group - from day one, sweet, full of inquiry, polite. We have class discussions and people raise hands and offer insight. We finish right on time. When we get out planners to write homework, I see busy pencils filling in the blank next to math. This group has the most BLUES . Check!
My after lunch group- little noises all the time, if I'm not careful they'll soon drive me crazy. High energy, full of chatter. Every comment from me sets off 10 separate conversations around the room. They do better in groups. Note taking days will be like pulling teeth. This group has mostly REDS. Check!
My last group of the day- they get it done. Yes, energy, but mostly focus. They want directions, they want the work, and they want to get going. Class discussion falls short, people don't want to raise their hands, they just want to get ON with it. This group has more GOLD than I've ever had. Check!

Who knows what the kids take from this. We talk about group dynamics, knowing yourself and knowing your classmates. For me though, this is a treasure. I have numbers to back up my gut. When I plan lessons I can remember my REDS, and include something active. I can remember my BLUES and plan group sharing time. I can remember my GOLDS and have directions on the board, ready to go when they walk in. It gives me the power. Power. Without letting on to my students that I hold the strings.


Laying Down the Law

By the end of the first week (day?), students know what they can get away with. This might be my biggest challenge. In the first week I have so much to get DONE and to just get through. Learning names, passing out important papers (if you don't return this, you will never go to high school) , seating arrangement, schedule changes, broken lockers, lost 6th graders.
So, in class, as I look over all the new faces, letting little things go seems like the easier solution. Okay, so a kid calls out a goofy answer in the middle of discussion. Laugh a little, move on... Okay, so that kid got up in the middle of a presentation and sharpened the pencil. I'll just pause until he's done.... Okay, so that kid keeps whispering to his neighbor. I can talk over that... and suddenly, I have a problem.
This year, from the start, I'm on it. Okay, that kid calls out a goofy answer.... I hold him for a few minutes after class to talk about expectations. Okay, so that kid sharpened his pencil... I use that time to talk to the class when I expect students to take care of those things. Okay, kids keep whispering in class... I stop talking. I wait. I wait. The whole class waits. I make it clear, we don't move on until the whole class is listening. The whispering stops.
Today, I held my first two lucky winners after class. Hopefully, three minutes of my time lets them know that I a)notice their behavior in class and b) I expect better. So today, I drew the line. Day Two.


First Day

First.... Day.... Done.



So, when do I know I'm ready?

Friday, Friday, Friday. In theory, on my desk right now, a weeks worth of lesson plans are waiting. Copies and materials for the week are lined up on the counter. I've looked over class lists and learned some of the names. I have back up plans if things run short. My grade book is uploaded into the computer. My systems are all in place and ready to go.

In theory.

Reality: Twenty post-it notes are stuck to my desk with lessons I want to teach and estimated times. Hopefully, all will find their way into a lesson plan book eventually. Copies have been made... but I'm missing some. Materials have not been found. I need to review the first week schedule, because it is different EVERY DAY as we throw the kids back into school. I still haven't labeled homework turn in baskets. I'm still learning the new grade book program. BUT, I feel SO CLOSE to being ready. Tables are in place...class list just keep changing, so I have to stay flexible. I know what I need to teach in the first week... but the first week schedule keeps changing, so I have to stay flexible. My desk is almost clean... but then, if I had it completely clean it would seem weird. So close, but I am a bag of NERVES as I go into this three day weekend. I'll be in the building a time or two before Tuesday gets here.


One Week

How do we bring all the pieces together? I've been preparing for this year with trainings and readings and thinking about what makes GOOD teaching. I'm full of ideas! Then, suddenly, here I am, the week before school starts, and I'm scrambling to get desks in place and plan for the first day and suddenly I feel all those great pieces slipping away.... seeing the big picture can be tricky when I'm just trying to see my way through the first week.
Class numbers just keep going UP! Last week I checked and I had classes between 29 and 31. Today I looked and I'm at 34 a class! I need to create a whole new seating group SOMEWHERE in my classroom and find more chairs so I have seats for everyone on day one. Yikes! I'm worried I will become a zoo keeper rather than an encourager of higher thinking.

Two more days to prepare and think and plan and get ready... and then, no looking back.