thoughts on the day.

Thank goodness the rain stopped for the fire dill. Dodged puddles and muddy spots. Got the kids out and back in quietly. Not too shabby.
Weekly team meeting, always a good time. Pick our students of the month.
Pretested linear functions. Turns out, the kids know almost nothing. But they know something. And some know less than nothing. And one kid knew almost everything. So now what? What do the next seven school days look like?
Stayed late (six-ish) to plan the linear unit for the next few days. Break through, big time. Stacking blocks like stairs and examining slope. Relating it to a graph. Trying to keep a nice flow in the day of me talking time and group working time. Want some choice and level differentiation in there as well... but.... time. Time continues to be my enemy.
Getting observed by new teachers tomorrow. What should I wear? Oh, and getting observed next week by my boss. Hmmm. 
Many little things not done. Forms to sign. Checks to mail. Emails to send. Things that get pushed down down down a list.
And tomorrow... tomorrow will take care of itself.


This morning at 7:15am I had no idea what I would be teaching that day. Then, after 30 mins of answering emails I still had no idea what I would be teaching. Then, after 30 mins of meetings I still had no idea what I would be teaching. With only a 45 minute plan period I scrapped together a pretty darn good day of teaching. I felt the benefit of being in this business for a few years now. I have a tool box. A list of lessons I can reach into and find something fitting and meaningful.
Still, a hectic day. Last minute copies, quick readjustments. Not really the way I like to do my work. The hard part- I have this VISION of what I want these two weeks before break to me. Stations, activities, review, new material, groups based on interests, groups based on learning levels, groups based on learning pace. Just... when do I bring it together? Hours. Hours to make really quality, meaningful stations. Today I had to bust out of school right after the bell rang so I could make an off-site meeting. Which means I'll be at school at 6:30am tomorrow, trying to write sub plans and get things in order, since I'm out tomorrow for ANOTHER off-site meeting.
At moments like this, time becomes my enemy. So many things to teach and days keep ticking by. So many things to plan and minutes become so precious. But somehow, it will get done. 


The new year

It only takes four years to stop feeling like a first year teacher.

That sums up my theme for this year thus far. Where did this change come from? This shift from overwhelming work loads and constant uncertainty to confidence and daily love for my work. Is it me? Is it my students? Is it my co-workers?
I suddenly realized this is the kind of year I WANT to write about. I have 108 students that make me happy every day. I teach on a team with two teachers who make each day fun and exciting. I have finally reached a place where I see best practices at work in my classroom daily, and I see the results from that in every student who sits in my room.
Trimester one ended yesterday. I spent the morning going through my grade book and assigning As and Bs and the occasional C. But, yesterday, with my new found organization, I found time to write a comment about every student. Every one.
"Sara is a strong math student. She asks good questions every day"
"John works hard in this class. He always has his homework done on time"
"Margret has made a real change since we spoke on the phone. She is using class time wisely."
"Sam is a nice young man who gets distracted by his friends from time to time."
That information, however brief, provides so much more to parents than any letter I could stick on a report card. A, B, C... what do those even mean?
Now I'm teetering on the start of a new trimester and a new unit, all crammed into the awkward two weeks before winter break. I have some thinking to do this weekend as I plot out the next 10 school days. And I look forward to it. The planning, the plotting, the decisions about how to create daily meaningful learning. It's what makes my job the best job a person could ask for.



I'm officially too busy to blog. But there is more to blog about that ever. What a year.


Back to School

I've been out of my classroom for a week. My injury prevented me from being on my feet and for three days a team of teachers helped put together a variety of lesson plans for a mix matched group of subs.
Thursday I walked in to my classroom, to put in one day of teaching and to get a better feel for what was happening during my bed rest.
I walked in the room at 7:30am.

I burst into tears.

I couldn't picture the day in front of me. I couldn't make heads or tails of the notes left by subs. I felt tired.

And then I started organizing piles. I made lesson plans for the day. I limped around my room and picked up papers that had been left behind, straightened desks, and got my feel for the room again.

And I survived. My students sweetly expressed their worry for me. We caught up on assignments, I taught a new lesson on solving systems of equations with substitution. The day felt far from perfect. I couldn't move from desk to desk and answer questions. I reached a point of exhaustion by the end of day and had trouble staying cheerful for my last period. But I did it. I'm back.

I took off Friday, but I'll be back tomorrow (Monday) and ready to give it another try.


Sub Days

Missing school- NOT WORTH IT. I hate missing school for a sick day. Really for any day. I spend over an hour putting together sub plans, making sure seating charts are in order, and getting my classroom organized and ready. Some sick days make getting it all organized impossible, meaning there is a BIG ol' mess to clean up upon return.

Today though, I'm truly testing my ability to put down work and walk away. I will be out for at least the next three days, due to an injury. I can't get to the building. I can't get everything in order for the teacher coming in. I can't even get a sub I know, because of the last minute nature of this. And for all the smart people I know of with teaching degrees.... there are a lot of freaky subs out there. And in the end, nobody can deal with my kids quite the way I do.When my science or humanities teaching partners miss a day they can email in plans and have some movie sent down from the library. I'm discovering, math doesn't work that way. There is no wonderful movie to take notes on, no easy lesson to leave in case a non-math sub shows. I need to get worksheets printed, I need to guess how long each activity I have planned will take. No "press play" lesson here.

So, I got my plans in for day. Some equations worksheets. But there is still tomorrow. And the next day. And however long it takes to get this all back in order. grrrr. Just wish I was there in the classroom, dealing with all my wonderful 8th grade monsters.


The shortest month...

...seems the longest. February.
Will spring ever be here? Will the days ever be longer? Will we ever all be cheerful again? I just get exhausted by this month, and it surprises me every time. Well... so we're on to March. Lions and Lambs. Spring break. Renewal. The final third of the year.

Right now I'm waiting on some huge transitions. I have students ready to run with Algebra- quadratics, multi-step equations, systems, and such. I have other students still unsure how to graph a linear function or what a variable is. In the last third of the year we will split classes and group students according to the skills they still need to be ready for their high school classes.
Up until now, my school does not track students. We do not split up math classes according to ability. The idea is that all students have access to all the math, but we provide scaffolding for students that need it. As mentioned in my last post, I love this system. Students that might struggle with adding fractions still have a chance to learn the Pythagorean theorem.
But in 8th grade, we have to split students eventually. Not all students go to the same high school class. So, each student has a different set of needs. And I'm feeling it. I'm looking forward to taking my group that seems so lost right now and working with them, creatively and carefully to find the key to their math learning success. I'm looking forward to racing through the big scary Algebra book with the other group.

Yup, it's February and things are getting stale. Time to start new with a new term and the joy of spring. I'm ready.


Reaching higher.

Today one of my lowest and slowest and most confused students combined like terms.

On his own.

With the distributive property.

This sums up why I believe so strongly in my school's decision not to groups student by ability or math level groups, but instead to differentiate the material to all students. Every student of mine has a chance to work with variables and and algebraic patterns. Some master it. Others struggle. But they all get to try. And sometimes, for even the lowest, some amazingly difficult topics become accessible.

So I watched my student, with his little white board, puzzle through the distributive property and combine like terms and make equivalent expressions. Will he know it after the weekend? I doubt it. But for a moment, he had it. And if we split up students by level, he never even would have had the chance to try it. He may not master it this year, but he will be all that much closer when it comes around again in Algebra next year.

And now, as I'm finally writing again, I feel why I need to write every day. I'm suddenly flooded with things to write about and topics I've let slide.

So let the blogging begin again. It may not always be poetry, but it's something.


When the outside world comes in.

I knew, always, that I would work in public education.
There are special challenges that come with working in public education. Our doors are closed to nobody. In my classroom I have students with learning disabilities, autisim, high intelligence. Students who live in five bedroom homes, and students who live in shelters. My challenge, and my JOY is meeting the needs of each student. We don't select students based on applications or ability to pay.

But now, I am feeling the sting of being a public servant. At the whim of government budgets, suddenly I am preoccupied with measures that will directly effect the quality of education I can provide. Ballot measures are up for a vote and they will decide millions of dollars for already strapped schools. And I'm stressed about it.

The campaign against any tax increase always takes on a fierce and nasty tone in this state. Lies stream through the radio, villifyin public workers and government spending. I take it so so so personally. I AM that public worker. The running of schools is the government spending. These are not imaginary things. When people say they are voting no, I feel it deep in my heart. How could they NOT belive in public education? Why did I get that deep feeling of pride, while others only think of saving $140? (Really, that is what bussinesses would save in a year... and my district loses 19.2 million). I know some of the No votes are just misunderstandings of the law. But the rest just STINGS. It stings.

I love my job. But more than that, I am so proud to be working with each of my students, no matter what their strength or challenges.

It hurts when the public speaks against my work. These measures might pass... but the sting of the advertising and reporting against these measures stays with me for much to long.


And, we're back.

School started again today, and I survived.
When I first arrived, everything seemed unfamiliar. Little messes from before the break were sprawled out on counters. Oh yeah, I remember, I ran out of here the moment the bell rang... over two weeks ago.
I started cleaning up the glitter. The glue. The yarn. The left overs of a pre-holiday snowflake project.
I couldn't find my planner. The next unit, every lesson, in there, planned out... but where... I slowed down. I thought. THINK THINK. There, in the crate, yup, the planner.
I made copies, I tracked down team mates, caught up on winter break stories, figured out when I have meetings (before school tomorrow, after school tomorrow, half day meeting during school Wed, after school Wed, then no more until next week. WHEW!)
And suddenly, there were students in the hall. New clothes, new toys, they come bouncing in, hugging friends they haven't seen in days. No real greetings to the teachers, just the occasional "I forgot my locker combination."
So the day passed by. A little glitch here, and little there, but mostly the kids are so tired (did any of them get to bed before midnight?) it's a quiet day, that first day back.


Just a few more hours

I have first day of school jitters! I do! In bed, my mind is racing with things I need to JUST LET GO:
School wide scheduling: SUDDENLY I have solutions for more plan time, more teaching time, better elective offerings, blah blah blah. In the morning light I'll realize I scheduled 6th grade lunch at the same time as 6th grade band class.
My project journal: didn't my aunt give me a journal to keep track of my craft projects in? Where did I pack that? must find it
That DAMN new kid: already suspended, but will be back on Wednesday. What will we do with him??
Jasper moved. Hmmm, good kid, will miss him. That's one more seat in the room.
SHIT- seating: I need to assign new seats when I get to school.
myyyyyy back Huuuuuurts. What did I do to that muscle? Should I go to spin class this week?
BIKE! I told my sister she could have that old bike in the garage. I should dust it first.
SKIIIII BUUUUSSS. Shit. Need to get that organized.
oh yeah, math department, I'm co-head now, don't we have a meeting this week? What did I say I would have done for that?
I wonder what my desk looks like? Can't remember.
Meetings!! I volunteered to host one at my super messy house. CRAP.
Valentine's day, looked at the cutest project... but should save it for a less hectic year. WHERE is that journal my aunt gave me? I bet it's on that bookshelf by the computer. I may as well get up to look.

And on and on and on and on and on.

I must sleep. But who has the time?

hey- there's that journal. now back to bed.


New Year, New Start... same old kids...

In just a few days I'll be back in the classroom. I'm rested, I'm ready, and I'm hoping for a snow day. That's just the way it goes.
The week before break proved to be as hard as every year. Something about THAT week, beyond all other weeks, just exhausts me. These two weeks off keep me sane. I rest. The students rest. We come back with new energy and enthusiasm.
There will be plenty to write and reflect on in the new year.
We got a new student before the break that will provide plenty to write about. Five days into his time at school and he has already been out of school suspended.
I have a student I want to get more special services for-- but it's going to mean some battles with red tape.
We have ballot measures that will determine how many days the doors of the school will stay open. (VOTE YES- 66 and 67.)
And always, there is the unknown. 2010--- here it comes.