I Decided to LIVE

A few months ago, I got word that someone I knew indirectly had died.  He was young.  Younger than me.  It struck me in the most peculiar way.  I posted the following to Facebook:

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I think we assume that we will have time.    For me, I was constantly saying, I’ll do this when I get here. . . . or when I get married . . . or someday.  The reality is:  life is short and I am more than a teacher.  That day I decided wanted to LIVE.  No more waiting for a travel companion, a friend who is open-minded, the perfect bank balance.  I want to live this life.  I want to love my friends and family hard.  I want to see the world.  I want to bless others.   I want to work hard, AND PLAY hard!

One of the decisions I made that day was to travel.  I spend so much of my money on frivolous nonsense that will not go with me when I die.    Why not spend it on living and traveling?  I made the decision that day to go to Ghana, no matter what.  Today, I followed through and bought a plane ticket.  It was worth every penny of “beans and rice” for the next two weeks (yuck).  Nevertheless, I am terribly excited. . . I will LIVE!

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PLP Reflections

Observations as my year in PLP draws to close:

1. I loved our project–a revamp of professional development. I hope to continue working with our Curriculum Director to provide relevant and useful PD to the school. There are so many new ideas we have had: 5 min previews, 60 second shares and reflection time.   We are moving away from a lecture-based, seminar style meetings to variety and discussions.

2. Leadership: I used my bossy! (Michele encouraged me, “In a man’s world you would be called assertive and a visionary). Under normal circumstances, I would not have taken on leadership. However, I was appointed leader by the team (after I made them get on task during our first group session). As department chair at my previous school, I loved organizing and facilitating. And believe it or not, I liked it this time as well. I love seeing our action plan come together. However, I realize that I am a bit controlling and from time to time, I struggle with delegating. What was wonderful about my team is that they often would say, “What do you want us to do?”   I am so grateful for their constant reminders that they would and could do what I asked.

3. Quick Scenes:  At the November PD, one the sessions I attended was led by our drama teacher. He uses an activity called “Quick Scenes.” Here is the method he gave us for this activity.

Quick Scenes Strategy

  1. Sort students into groups of 3-4
  2. Give a prompt    example: Boston Party set in the Wild West  (give them a crazy location for the content)
  3. Give students Requirements for the scene: strong intro, plot, conflict, vocabulary, etc.
  4. Give students 15 minutes to develop a scene.

I successfully tried this in class. I gave each group a topic that we had studied that quarter and told them they had 10 minutes and must use 3 words from the semester exam study guide in their scene. Using the drama teacher’s Quick Scene Activity, students were able to be creative and have tons of fun reviewing some the major ideas we’d discussed first semester. And it was really nice to end the semester laughing. Here are some of the scenes developed by my students.

 

 

 

Is School and Jesus enough?

Friday, a colleague asked me:  If you didn’t have work, what would you have?  He went a step further and said, if you weren’t able to work what would you do?   He was trying to emphasize that I work too much and need to have a life beyond teaching and school.

I didn’t have an answer for him.  I still don’t have an answer.  All I have is school and Jesus.  Thats it.  It really depressed me to realize this.

I like work.  I love teaching.  I love my students.  I tried online dating.  That was a bust.  I’ve been volunteering.  My only option if I want more than work is to go back home to Memphis.  There, I have family and friends and a small life beyond work.  But what’s wrong with work if it brings me joy?

Teacher friends, I ask you?  What do you have beyond work?  What should I be doing with my life?

Homecoming 2014

Homecoming was a success this year. I felt like the kids were more spirited and engaged than any other year.  I really enjoyed the dress up days and the Pep Rally.  However, student engagement cost me class time.  Next year, I will use the last couple of days of Homecoming Week to do a leadership lesson.   I attempted to teach my last last block How to DBQ in the hour before the Pep Rally. It was RIDICULOUS to expect Freshman who are having their first pep rally to focus on a skills lesson.

This year I have been focusing on teaching more skills.  So far this year, they are using OPTIC to evaluate documents, writing thesis statements, and learning to write a DBQ Essay.  This first DBQ is really easy because the DBQ Project has already done the groupings for them.  Additionally, students will not discuss POV due to the structure of the DBQ.  I am just exposing them to writing about documents and using the DBQ formula.

Before the next DBQ, I will add on POV.  I am thinking about using the football DBQ or the Brad Pitt DBQ to teach Point of View.  And eventually, I will give them documents with no guiding questions or they will write the DBQ in class as a major assessment.

One of my big struggles this year in classroom management is getting students to begin working as soon as the bell rings.  Honestly, its so frustrating to remind students every day of what they are supposed to be doing.  I think maybe I will create some sort of reward system for being on task and silent when the bell rings.  I was thinking about making it some sort of competition.  Like giving out tickets and the person who has the most at the end of the quarter can exempt a homework/daily assignment.  Or maybe, include working when the bell rings into their participation grade in Class Dojo.

It seems that my first year of teaching in Houston was about adjusting to the culture and climate of my new home.  Last year was clarifying who I am in this new culture and restructuring the course  This year, I am focused on building strong skills because in the long run will they remember Cyrus or Sennacarib?  However, they can take with them using evidence to make a good argument and that is the job of any good historian.

 

Taking Control of My Internet Presence

So, I joined PLP and the kick-off session was today.  I’m excited about the journey and being a more connected teacher.  Everyone knows I love good PD.  A few of my takeaways:

  • Why be Connected?  Reduce Classroom Isolation & gain the Wisdom of Crowd.  Years ago when I started blogging, it was for this very reason.  I loved being apart of online communities and growing and learning from them.  Without Carson and Duez and Dede and Margaret and Amy and Kristine and Kary and Tamara and Marcy and Jessica and Lisa (and so many others), I would not be the teacher I am today.  They read my posts and offered improvements for my lessons.  Honestly, it was the best collaboration I have ever had.
  • The facilitator said we should “Transparently share with others once I contextualize what I’m learning.”  Even more, she told me that I should take control of my presence on the web.  For me, this is extremely challenging.  I have been “Teacha” for years.  Desperately trying to hide my real name and picture from my online activities.  Most of it was because in public school, contact with the press could get you fired.  What if the paper/news found my blog?  Then, I made the move to a Conservative Independent Christian school.  I was even more frightened. What is hilarious about all of this fear?  Technology coordinator said that they knew about my blog years ago when I accepted the job. I am not as anonymous as I thought!  So now I face this inner debate:
    • keep this site and use my real name allowing this site to become “personal” and less anonymous.
    • or take my old school website that has my name on it and make it my new online presence.  And this site would be my personal space to blog about my life.
  • “True leaders replicate themselves” and create more leaders.

 

 

Decisions. . .

This afternoon, as I was searching for new utility provider, I had a thought:  “I need a husband.  I’m tired of making decisions.”  Don’t get me wrong, I love being an independent, single lady.  I like that I don’t have to clear my girly whims,  share my schedule or discuss the budget with anyone else–I can do what I want, when I want.  But I am just so tired of making all of the decisions.  Why can’t someone else to do it for me?

I am a VERY slow decision maker (one of the reasons I could never be a principal or head of a company).  I like to mull things over, pray about them, make lists and more lists.    When I finally make my decision, I am often pretty happy with it.  Spur of the moment decisions, not so much.  When I applied for the teaching position in Houston; I knew about the opening for a month before I decided to submit my resume.  By the time I decided to apply, I thought the position would have been filled; however, they were still interviewing.  When the school called with a job offer, I knew I could say yes.  I’d been praying about it, mulling it over and making lists for approximately two months.   On the other hand, I bought a car once because my mother said I needed to. . . just showed up at the dealership with nothing in mind except to get a car.  I never really loved the car, hated the car payment and from day one I knew that the deal did not benefit me–but I did it because my mom said so.  Last story, I have been looking at apartments and comparing prices since December of last year.  My lease expires at the end of July.  Over the past six months, I have visited complexes, read reviews and talked to residents of ideal choices (yes, honey, I drove around the complex, stopped people and asked questions.)  I involved friends in my comparisons and doing the “math.”  I feel really, really good about my choice and I am really excited about the move.

So back to my thoughts earlier today.  Sometimes, I just wish I could let someone make the big decisions for me.  It is exhausting making decisions in my personal life…I want leadership I can trust (sounds like one of those Republican commercials). Although I know that singleness may be God’s gift to me, a girl can still hope for man, right?   *sigh*  Maybe one day, God will do the miraculous and when he does, in typical Teacha fashion, I will make a list, mull it over and over and pray fervently.  For now, I need to select an electric company and I have less than 5 days to do it.  Decisions. And way too many choices.

Random Stuff

In my classes we debate today:  Which was the better society, Sparta or Athens?  My students love debate.  They like the opportunity to argue and persuade someone to see their perspective.  After the lesson, many students asked “Can we do this again?”  I am so grateful for their enthusiasm.

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My pacing is off this year.  There were a lot of changes to the schedule and we lost time.  My struggle has always been how to teach a large amount of material in a short period of time.  I know I should focus on big ideas . . . but implementing it is so difficult.

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Today, I was talking to a colleague about dating. Colleague says you have to put yourself out there.  I asked how does one do that.  “Well, you can’t be here all the time working.” “You develop routines and have a face that says that you are open and friendly.”  When I leave school, I’m tired.  But if I’m thinking about dating, I’ll need to develop activities that put me “out there”after work.  So, I signed up for a church social this Friday.

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Thankful for the gift of laughter with my students, an evening on the red couch reading and playing games, I am thankful for the Lord’s provision.

Taking it personally. . . (a whining, pity party post)

Do you take it personally when kids overwhelming fail a test or quiz?  I do.  The rational part of me says, “they don’t study.”   I know they don’t.  They admit they don’t.  The same kids that always do well on tests and quizzes did well on today’s quiz.  Largely grades are Cs & Ds and the sad thing is that half of the answers were on the board.  It makes me sad. It makes me feel like a failure.  What can I do so that they perform better?

Add to this, the kids keep whining that the other teacher is easier.  “They don’t have to read the book . . . why do you make us read the book?”

Student evaluations came back and my feedback just was not as good as I hoped.  Teacher next door scored better than me and was upset.  After he sat in my room and complained for 10 minutes, I told him to close the spreadsheet and never look at it  again. That is what I have done.  In the future, I will not even open it.

Why do we take it so personally?  Why do our feelings get hurt by criticism.  Is it because we work so hard and it seems we do not see any fruit?  Where is my “hood” skin?  Certainly, I had tough skin at old school.  At old school, I didn’t care.  I knew I was doing my job and I was good at it.  Here, there are so many wicked smart and talented people.  Makes me feel insecure.

On up note, Algebra lady knew I was upset by the the quiz results and would not let me go until she prayed with me.  This is certainly something I appreciate about New School!

Random Thoughts on Saturday Night

  1. I don’t know why I stopped blogging.  It could be fear (since I am no longer anonymous).  I don’t feel like I have much to say anymore. I am not trying new or inventive things in my classroom.  I will say this:  when I blogged more frequently and read other teachers work, I was certainly more excited about teaching.  I am having a great year with my students, but I miss the enthusiasm for sharing the happenings in my classroom.
  2. Using QR codes:  I have wanted to use QR codes in my classroom for a while now.  I have read several articles about teachers who have used them for scavenger hunts.  Students use the QR codes to gain instructions for an activity, read a website or watch a video and then are pointed to another QR code.  When students come back to the classroom or whole group instruction, they complete a reflection activity.  I have been encouraged my administration at my school to be adventurous and try new things.  Maybe, I should really look into this more. . .I am in love with idea, just struggling on HOW to implement it.
  3. My students ARE reading the textbook this year, at least more than last year.  So my strategies with reading quizzes and requiring notes are working. Whining about reading is growing, but not as loud as last year.  I think this is because the book is easier for them to digest.  I will need to give students a survey at the end of the year to determine if this was good book choice for students.
  4. In all of my teaching and planning and adjusting to Texas, I forgot how much I LOVE reading.  I’ve been listening to audiobooks when I take walks or am driving, but outside of prepping and reviewing for school, I haven’t been reading the way I used to.  (Minus the summertime and Christmas break–I devoured several books during the breaks)  We had a snow day and I started looking into digital book subscriptions services–reviewers call it the netflix of books.  I signed up for trial version of Scribd and I must say, I like it!  I don’t like the layout of the book on my Ipad (i’m spoiled by kindle), but that’s forgivable.  Here is what I like about service:
    • I don’t feel like I’m spending tons of money.
    • I can read several books at once–yes, I’m I engrossed in about 3 different books already.
    • I’m not waiting for that email from the public library telling me that the e-book I want is available.  Seriously, I’m 17 out 48 on the waiting list for one e-book and I’ve been waiting for about 2 months.  I was on the waiting list for the Sonia Sotomayor autobiography forever. Now, I have something I can read while I wait.
    • It will give me the opportunity to explore a variety of authors.  When I’m spending money for individual books, I’m usually pretty selective.  I dislike buying a book and then hating it and I have never tried to return a bad book.  I usually end up donating it to Goodwill.  Now, I can try books I would not typically pick.

So maybe, I will keep the service at the end of my trial period.  We’ll see!