Plans for the Futur {part 1}

A student approached me with a black spiral notebook today. "This was left by someone." I grabbed it without paying much attention. My priorities lay in getting class started, greeting students as they come in, and just catching my breath between groups. As I headed to my desk to mark attendance in the computer, I glanced down. Etched into the front in ball point pen were the words, "Jennifer and Robins plans 4 the FUTUR" (yes, without an "E")

Further reading led to some of the most hilarious and, in many ways, the most touching student document I've ever had my hands on.

First: the Table of contents. Colored coded. Of course.
Did you see the key at the bottom?

Now. The serious Stuff. Page one. General ideas.

 A little background. A week ago the science teacher took a note between the two girls. Robin was explaining to Jennifer what is great about college and what a "masters degree" is. It's this thing where you can study different topics, like art or computers. And Jennifer should get one. And they should get an apartment together. Etc. Etc. I believe from that note, this journal was born.

And this is just part 1. More to come. And don't you forget to visit YOUR friend's Grandma's every once in a while.



Oh my goodness. I am tired. I am tired all the time. And I'm so behind. How am I so behind? I was caught up just days ago, but now I feel months behind. I'm at school early every morning, but the first hour is eaten by emails and such for the 1,000 too many committees I'm on. Department head. Content Facilitator (that means I go to lots of district meetings). Ski bus organizer. East coast trip leader. Team leader. Building Union Rep. District Union Rep. Math articulation team (that means more district meetings).
And when that part is done- I still have a classroom to take care of and teaching to do. And it's finally catching up to me. It's 8:00pm and I'm going to bed.


Yup, this is what I'm meant to do.

"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Alice in Wonderland.

Yes. This week came together so beautifully. So splendidly. So wonderfully. And yes, I have fantastic students this year that just go with things and work hard and get the job done. But even so, I'm going to take most the credit for this week. Because this week, in my classroom, I proved why not just anyone can do this job. Why it takes training, practice, and specialization to really teach and to really teach well. Yes. I'm tooting my own horn. toot. toot.

This week I looked across a room of 30 some students and for five days each student worked on assignments tailored for him or her. Every student worked at his or her own pace. Every student got attention from me. Every student showed growth. And it seemed to me that every student felt success. Even I, with all the planning I put into this week, never thought it would go THIS well.

A little background. This is 8th grade. At my school every student takes the same math and learns the same things until the very last trimester of 8th grade when we split students based on the high school class they are going to. Many students will go on to Geometry next year, but about 40% who have struggled with the math this year will take Algebra next year. This does not reflect poorly on the student. Geometry is considered ahead of grade level. My school paves a different path than other schools by pushing every student to the highest level until the last moment possible.

But the fact remains, I have one class(those students that are bound for Algebra) that now has a WIDE range of abilities and has ALL of my lowest students, where before those students were spread out in all my classes. I have students that are behind by many grade levels and students that are almost geometry ready but just need a little more practice to get the foundations in place.

It presents a challenge. The greatest kind of challenge. The kind of challenge that any passionate teacher should get excited about (even if they get exhausted by it) HOW DO I MEET THE NEEDS OF EVERY LEANER? How to I let the high kids fly ahead and explore topics deeply? How do I provide the review and concepts for the students who struggle not just with math but with reading, writing, social skills, motivation, etc, etc. And how do I do it in a way that allows me to keep my sanity? I can't sit down at 4:00pm every night and make 35 lesson plans. But at the same time, I need a system that allows for 35 different abilities.

And this week I did it! The unit was solving equations. I made use of every resource I have. The help I get for 20 minutes three days a week from the ESL aid. And the help I get from the SPED teacher for 30 minutes three days a week. They were kept busy. I sent out a call for computers sitting in classrooms and managed to put together a "mini lab" of five ancient computers that I start up when I first get to school because they take 20 minutes to boot up. (Not to mention, they are squeezed into a corner of my packed classroom... but they are there! And working!) I had files of assignment choices at all levels, every student had a plan that was partially taylored by me based off of pre-tests, but also allowed for choice on his or her side.

Yup, this week felt great. It all worked. Crossing my fingers for success again next week. But seriously. I wish I could show this to the public. The careful planning, the execution, the work that goes into a truly successful classroom. I am public education. Hear me roar.