Thoughts from a teacher – Tuesday edition

I love my job. My students are amazing and ever so complex and I work with some amazing teachers who inspire me everyday. That being said, here are some of the thoughts that have gone through my head today and I’ve only had one class. (Inspired by the #BFC630 English chat on twitter that I read through.)

Where have all my pens gone?

Where is that smell coming from?

To do list – why are you growing so quickly?

How can I best utilise my space? (Which relates to my inquiry this term.)

Where have my whiteboard markers disappeared?

Why can’t students name their work properly?

What did I just stand in?

What part of silent reading don’t you get?

You’ve known about this for a week…

You’ve had four weeks to read this short story and I’ve read it to you in class…

Why are you checking your instagram?

Just breathe.

Actually, they did really well and this is why I love teaching!

So, by the end of the first lesson this was everything the students had told me to write down. Some of it was a little off but it was their work on the board. (With a little prompting from me.)

I think they’ve actually soaked in a lot more than I’d thought. Next step is to turn these notes into a stellar essay. Which I know that they are capable of.

Never Ending To Do Lists

I write many to do lists. In fact, I write them every day and every day I get some kind of weird pleasure when I cross everything off. The thing is, however, that I never finish the list.

I don’t know if it is a teacher thing or a me thing – though sometimes they are interchangeable. But, the new term has started which means new to do lists, new students (sometimes) and new stuff to further cram into my brain. All of this adds to the creation of radical ideas and, usually, ends with me ill because I try to do everything to the level of a perfectionist – something that doesn’t really exist in the world of teaching.

At the moment my To Do List looks like this:

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And this is the third draft because I completed the first two earlier this morning. Plus, this is only for my teaching side – my personal to do list looks a lot messier and complicated. I’m not going to show you a photo of that, yet.

But one thing I am proud to have completed/crossed off is changing my room to more resemble a Modern Learning Environment. It is a work in progress but I have removed the front of the classroom and I have endeavoured to use every available space.

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You might not be able to see it that well but I have writing on the windows and on many other spaces because I can…plus, the students seem to be responding to it.

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This is also part of my new Inquiry for this term – seeing how room layout and design effects students learning. There is more to it than that but I will write a proper post about that shortly – I’ve even got that written on my to do list.

My question to you, dear followers and fellow teachers, how many things do you get through on your to do lists? Do they help you?

Until next time, peace and pancakes.

xJaime

P.S. No news on the surgery as of yet.

Giving Students Choices

At school we are working on Teaching as Inquiry with each teacher looking at their teaching and choosing an area to focus on.

 

teaching-as-inquiry_referenceTKI Teaching As Inquiry (Where I sourced the above image and more information)

The basic idea is that we identify the outcomes we want for our students and then we look at different teaching strategies to help our students reach this outcome.

I think that the majority of teachers do this instinctively but we don’t always think about the whats, whys and hows, which is actually a great way to look at your teaching and look at the needs of your students.

So, my first inquiry of the year is looking at how to give students more choice within my classes. I want to focus on improving the self management of my advanced students while also allowing all students in my class find their own success.

I want to know if giving them free choice improves their self management and results.

I am focusing on my Year 10 class which is also a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) class and my form class – which is actually rather handy because I get to see them a little more than an average teacher would. There are 26 students, more males than females, and a mixture of Maori and NZ European students.

My intended outcome is to have students be able to choose from a range of differentiated tasks during our study of Romeo and Juliet.

The base data that I am starting with is the tracking sheets I have compiled that shows their Year 9 results (including eAsstle results), my goals for them and other baseline data.

I have also created groups for the students based on their Asstle scores – they don’t sit in these groups but it enables me to help with my differentiation.

We have finished reading the play and they are currently working on a Tic Tac Toe activity – there are nine different activities ranging from creating a wanted poster for one of the characters to writing a series of interviews with characters within the play to creating an alternate ending to the play. The students have to choose three in a row – though they have already tried to ask if they can do the three they like the most.

When I first introduced the task I had them move into 9 small groups and I gave each group one of the tasks. It was their mission to figure out what the task was asking, what the success criteria could be and see if they could find exemplars or explain what would make an Excellence, Merit or Achieved. Most of the students fully engaged though there are two that I may have to create more individualised tasks.

The first completed task is due this coming Thursday.

I’m still developing the ins and outs of my inquiry and thanks to the people who have helped me frame it so far. (You know who you are…) But, so far, the students are engaged and they are re-reading the play to get ideas about why certain characters might be wanted, or what songs would be on Juliet’s playlist, or, what would happen if Romeo received the letter in time.

And, they are helping each other, giving me a lot more time to sit with those that are struggling and giving immediate feedback to those who are looking to raise their grades.

I will provide more information as I continue to explore and develop my hunch…

Until next time.

xJaime

 

The One When I Had a Sick Day

Note: This is just a quick blog so I don’t fall behind. Next week will be a better post.

Sorry for not blogging on Monday but I had to have a sick day. I woke at four with a blinding headache which I quickly recognised as a migraine. I couldn’t turn my head without the world spinning and there were definite squiggly things in my vision.

I proceeded to get ready for school (because I’m me and I’m bloody stubborn) but decided, at 6.15am, that it might not be the best idea for me to go to school. Instead, I went in, briefly, to set up relief.

Relief is something that I hate doing. I hate having days off sick because it is often more of a hassle to set up relief than it is to actually teach a class when sick. I know that I’m not the only teacher who thinks like that, either.

Anyway, I went home and slept most of the day a way. I couldn’t even attempt to look at my computer for longer than a couple of minutes.

The benefit of the sick day is that I got extra sleep and, as someone who doesn’t get sufficient sleep anyway, this is always good. It also allowed me to come back into school in a better frame of mind.

I’m not going to lie. I have days were I question why I became a teacher. Not because I think I’m a terrible teacher (though I have those days as well)- but because I feel like I can never do enough. I plan lessons, spend hours researching ideas and theories and even more hours reading about ways to make myself a more efficient teacher – a more effective teacher. Still, I always feel as if there is more that I could be doing.

My average day:

5am – wake up and do some stretches and get the coffee ready

5.30-6.30am – Drink said coffee, check emails, mark some essays, eat breakfast.

6.45/50am – Arrive at school and begin organising my classroom, do more marking, prep lessons and so on

8.25am – Morning Briefing

8.40 – 3.15 – Teaching/planning/duty/brief breaks

3.15-4.30 – Still at school most days – sometimes I have a meeting sometimes I’m just trying to get work done.

5pm – Hopefully home and sometimes still doing work.

Now this is just my average week and I’m not doing a thing where I’m all like – look at the hours I work – I’m stating my day. And, having that sick day, helped me put some things in perspective. (No guarantee how long this will last)

Writing down what I do helps me remember that I also need to acknowledge what I do as a teacher and as a person. It also reminds me that I like smiling and I like helping students and fellow teachers. Teachers have a difficult job and, although most people realise it, we don’t always acknowledge it.

So, to all my fellow teachers:

You are wonderful, brilliant, amazing, powerful, educated and strong. teacher-motivational-quotes-2

And this lovely Buzzfeed list about teacher memes

Nerdy Teacher Building Relationships In the Classroom

So, I was rapping the verse from “Satisfied” from the amazing Hamilton Musical in class the other day and some students heard me. They were impressed. And this got me thinking about how the students view me. Cause, let’s face it, I’m pretty white. (Regardless of my ancestry I present as white.) Plus, I don’t speak with the typical kiwi accent. I can blame that on years of speech therapy and travel. I guess that this makes it hard for students to categorise me and, if they haven’t been taught by me before, they can often be confused or, at the very least, a little intimidated by me. (Trust me, I find that strange as well. I mean, I’m a short, stocky, nerdy gamer girl who drinks far too much coffee and has a tendency to lisp…oh let’s throw in the glasses as well…who can be intimidated by that?)

But what I found more interesting was the fact that the students seemed interested in the musical and the fact that I like rap music, (from the late 80s/early 90s mainly…)  which leads me into my main point – building relationships in the classroom. I tend to get along with most people, regardless of my introverted nature, I can talk to people from most walks of life. I just need a lot of alone time to make up for it if it goes on for too long. However, the students often find us, as adults, fascinating. Whether they are looking for some kind of inspiration or someone who they can respect I don’t know.

Building relationships is one of the key elements to creating a safe and powerful learning environment. Students have to know who you are or, at least, have a small sense of who you are in order to listen to you for four hours a week. And it is through these relationships that respect begins to grow.

Some of the ways that I build relationships between my students and myself are as follows:

  • Being honest. (To a degree, obviously.) I always try to be myself and, if I’m having a bad day I let the students know and then I move on. Students are smart – they pick up cues that others miss. It’s fascinating.
  • Being myself – this is part of being honest. I’m a huge goofball and nerd. And it shows in my classroom from the Tardis Cookie jar to the Literary puns that adorn my walls to the pop culture references in my lessons.
  • Allowing them to see that I make mistakes. Teachers are human, contrary to many beliefs. Making mistakes is important to show them that it’s okay.
  • Being passionate about my job. I truly love my job though it’s stressful – paperwork aside I find much of my time consumed with worrying about my students. And questioning if I am doing enough to help them. (This is something that, I’m told, is a sign of a great teacher…I don’t know if I agree…)
  • Talking to students. Actually sitting at their level and talking about things that they are passionate about.
  • Showing them that it’s okay to like things – i.e. video games, musicals, anime – students often feel so isolated that they often love the fact that adults also have likes and dislikes – who knew that teachers were actual people, right?

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My apologies for the rushed blog. For the sake of honesty, I’ve had a headache for most of the day so actually came straight home after school. Now I’m trying to prep for tomorrow, write this blog and tackle my to do list.

Anyway, what do you do to help foster a safe learning environment? Sing Disney tunes to your classes? Dance around the room? Do dinosaur impersonations? (Guilty of all three…)

Peace and pancakes,

XJaime

Passion, Purpose, Pride and Performance

Every Monday our principal provides us with a bulletin/newsletter of sorts that outlines the week, gives us some thoughts to ponder and reminds us where we are in the grand scheme of things.

Today’s bulletin had the following questions attached at the bottom so I thought that I might answer them.

Question One:

What is your purpose as a teacher in 2016?

You may be wondering why I struck out in 2016 and that’s fair enough. I have my goals for the year, which have been mentioned in other posts and I’d like to focus on that main part of that question – what is my purpose as a teacher…? To answer that I would say to share my love of learning. To help students view the world around them through multiple perspectives while they strengthen their own.

My purpose as a teacher is to guide students – it is not to do the work for them but to allow them to find new ways to do the work themselves. As I constantly remind my students – I’m here to guide and facilitate their learning. Hopefully, I’ve started the year off well with that line of thinking.

Question Two:

What performance goals have you set yourself in 2016?

I have numerous goals but the one thing they have in common is that they rely on the students and their engagement with the topics chosen. I don’t have precise statistics on where I want my students to be but I have expectations.

I expect students to aim for their best.

I expect students to challenge their idea of their best.

I expect students to attempt every standard offered.

I want students to find their own strengths in English.

I have already started a class website which I am updating weekly with mini progress reports. From that I want students to critically engage with the world around them in order to improve their general knowledge.

I know that every one of my students can pass and my aim is to help as many do that as possible.

Question Three:

What passion and energy will you bring to your purpose in 2016?

I know that I will have off days. I know that I will have days where I am anxious and that I feel like I am failing my students but I hope that they will always see the passion I have for the topics I teach.

I will have a multi-media approach to everything that I teach, from performing in front of my class to giving them scaffolded assessments. I with bring my passion to help fire up their own.

As mentioned before I already have my website and, in combination with Google Drive and Edmodo I hope to create stronger connections to students and their families. It is through my website and (of course) my teaching that I hope to show my passion.

Question Four:

Be proud to be a teacher at Trident High School in 2016.

I don’t think it matters what school you teach at. If you are happy in your work, see and enact positive change then you should be proud. I am proud of the accomplishments my students do, regardless of whether they are for Trident or just goals for themselves. I am proud to be part of an established community. I am privileged to be allowed to teach about the things I am most passionate every day…although I get tired and stressed and feel lonely at times, I truly love my job and am proud to do the job I do. After all, it is the students who come first.

Until next time – here is a look at the beginning of my class decorations. Just cause photos are fun.

 

 

What are my goals? Classroom Edition

goals

As week three hits I’m already well into deciding what goals I have for myself and my students. These are not to be confused with the goals I have for my self care and looking after myself – rather, these are with regard to my students. The ones that I see in front of me on a day to day basis.

This year my timetable is a little different but I still have individual goals for each of my classes.

My timetable is roughly this:

Level 3 Internal – One main class and 2 one hour relief lessons. (So 3 level three classes in a way.)

Level 2 General

Level 1 Advanced

Year 10BYOD

My goals for each class are as such:

L3 – Critically engage with written and visual texts in order to make meaning with the world around you. And, think about the impact that you have on those around you.

L2 – Think critically about how texts can manipulate you. Think critically about your place in the class and in the world.

L1 – Critically engage with the world around you and think critically about the texts that we study.

10BYOD – Build on your general knowledge and expand your vocabulary in order to improve deeper level thinking.

These goals are all very similar but each is actually very important. I think the overall skill that I want students to improve on is deeper level thinking. There are so many connections in the world and I’d hate for students to miss out when we have a wealth of information at our fingertips.

In order for me to help the students meet these goals I have started a class weebly that the students and parents can check on to see important information and weekly updates. Although it may seem that I’m doing extra work I’m actually hoping it will cut down on unnecessary time spent sending letters or emails – but we’ll see how that goes.

My personal goals in my classroom include:

Regulating my voice more. I don’t like raising my voice and, although I very rarely shout, I have a tendency to fall back on a loud voice to get attention.

Focusing more on my teaching rather than everything else that I need to get done. (To Do lists are my friend.)

Allowing students more time to discuss and develop their understanding. I want them to build their growth mindset and I have to continue to build mine in order to help do that.

As for my self care – if I am honest I haven’t been as good to myself as I could be. Even as I type this I feel as if I haven’t done enough, though it is just Monday. This is something that will always be a work in progress.

What goals do you have for your classroom? Life? Day?