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.

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

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?

The One Where I Attempt to Justify My Absence…

::*::Dusts off the blog::*::

I do have the best intentions of keeping regular posts on this blog but have found myself rather busy over the last few weeks. This is actually a terrible excuse because I should take the time to blog regularly for many reasons. One of which is that it is a great way to reflect on what I have been doing with my time and to share my thoughts on teaching.

Teaching is not as easy as people would like to pretend it is. There is a lot of paperwork…often more paperwork than there is actual teaching. And, as those in the profession know, there never appears to be enough time to do everything that needs to be done.

Anyway – as a quick update – Three weeks of term have passed and everything seems to be going as smoothly as it can. The Year 12 class that I have taken over is doing well. They are settled and seem to be adapting to my quirky nature. Thankfully I have taught some of them in previous years so they know my quirks. Our look into the world of Vietnam is going well and they have taken to the novel quite well.

My Year 11s are getting through Catcher in the Rye though they are struggling with the fact that “not a lot happens” in the novel. Plus, they really just want Holden’s hat to just be a hat.

Year 13 – Finished their first internal and have moved onto their second. I keep trying to get them to think outside the triangle and look at the world critically so I will keep you updated on that.

Year 10 – this is a lovely class. We are doing an Independent Novel Study and they have taken to it. Some are reading The Help, one is reading Silence of the Lambs and another is reading Carrie. So I am definitely going to have some interesting essays.

Finally, my Year 9s. This is my very mixed class with some kids on various spectrums. Our look at conflict has been popped on hold for the time being as I start teaching them about essay writing. I am teaching them TEXAS.

Topic Sentence

Example

eXplanation

Analysis

Statement

(For those who hadn’t heard of it before.) So far it’s going slowly but I always say good things take time.

This week, however, I will be away for two days as I get to join my HoD and another teacher from the English department on a field trip to Auckland for the Reader Writer Festival.

That is all for my update today. I will endeavour another update after I get back from the Field Trip.

End of Term Funk…

It’s been a busy term and the end is nigh…near. I feel more drained than I normally would at this point of the year so I thought I would put up a list of things that I do when I find myself feeling that funk that comes with teaching.

Here is one of my student’s response to writing an essay to get this list going. And to remind me that students are also feeling the stress of end of term.

This list is in no particular order…

One: Pinterest. I love pinterest and I have so many different boards for different ideas, places and so on. Two of my favourite boards are: Just Plain Cute and Humour Me. I have other boards as well, for education and inspiration and more. Just looking at cute pictures makes me smile and, sometimes, that’s all I need.

Two: Dance. There is nothing I love better than playing cheesy pop songs from the 80s and 90s (and even some from today). For a few minutes I am the world’s best dancer…then I accidentally trip or forget where I am and end up bruising or denting myself.

Three: Talking to someone. In my case I ring my mum (thanks mum) and she puts up with my stressed ramblings. And having friends at school that you can just unload to. The hardest thing for me is remembering that I can talk to people. I have to remind myself that I can’t do everything and talking through problems can actually help. (At this moment I hear certain people laughing at me…I give great advice but so seldom do I follow it…)

Four: Take time out for myself. This is one that I struggle with but sometimes the marking can wait an hour or even a night.

Five: Scheduling/To Do lists. I love to do lists and after getting a Passion Planner I have found it so helpful. It acts as a constant reminder of how much time I work each week and I use it to schedule time for me. Check out the link because I’m finding it really worthwhile.

Six: Playing video games. Yes I’m a 32 year old woman and I play video games. I am challenged by students all day who can’t believe that their English teacher could probably best them at Batman: Arkham City or Bioshock Infinite. It’s a great stress relief.

Seven: Writing. By doing something totally unrelated to school I find myself able to de-stress and refocus. Both key things. Even if it’s just writing 100 words a day.

Eight: Going for a run…or a juffle (part jog part shuffle). It’s a great way to go through your thoughts and organise them and it helps with the exercise aspect. If not a run definitely a walk.

Nine: Leaving work at work…this is a hard one…and I often struggle with this. I also feel that a lot of teachers, regardless of them being new or established teachers struggle with this.

Ten: Having a nap. Just because…

So, what do you do to help refocus? Leave a comment below.

The Small Pleasures – or an Incomplete List of Small Pleasures…

I still consider myself a new teacher even though I’m nearing the end of my fourth year. And, in ways, it has gotten easier but it is still a hard job. It can be unforgiving being a teacher – and it isn’t just the teaching part. I’m not going to complain about the amount of hours because we all know that. We know that teachers in all facets of school work really hard. I’m more focused on the small things that make everyday great – and yes, most of it revolves around teaching. I have used this prompt in class and it has worked well with students:

I’m sure I saw this on writingprompts but there is also the URL to the author’s blog down the bottom.

The junior students really loved it and we shared our ideas in class. My seniors, however, were confused. They didn’t understand what a small pleasure was and were reluctant to buy in. I ended up having to share my list – and I made them write nine of their own – because the number nine, to me, is an incomplete number.

So, here is my list:

  • the sound of gentle rain in the middle of the night
  • the smell of fresh cut grass
  • the first cup of coffee in the early morning
  • seeing the trees change in autumn
  • talking to my nieces
  • finishing a book in a day
  • a nice cup of tea
  • fresh strawberries in yoghurt
  • crawling into bed after changing the sheets

You may notice that there are no small pleasures from school but you must remember that this is an incomplete list of small pleasures. There are many things that I enjoy about being at school. The joy on students faces when they learn something new is a popular one but a new favourite of mine is the fact that students come to my classroom to say hi. Or lean in my windows and shout out my name. Or who sneak into my class and expect me not to notice that they are juniors in a senior class or vice versa.

So, the purpose of this post was to remind each of us to look at the small things that bring us joy. Especially when we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Sometimes, the small things remind us that the big things will come when they come but there are always small pleasures to help us through our days.

Leave your incomplete list of small pleasures below…if you want to.

Peace and pancakes.

Edit: I wrote this post on the 15th of March but had to back date it in order for it to post. Sigh. I will figure out this glitch, I promise.

What are you passionate about?

Parent: “You seem so passionate about your subject. What else are you passionate about?”
Me: “Oh I love reading and gaming and using these ideas in the classroom. I really want students to understand that they have different options with regard to…” 
This is a typical interaction that I’ve had with various parents over the last few years of my teaching. The whole idea of discussing what I’m passionate about scares me at times. It means that I am giving voice to something that I keep hidden and, once it’s out there, it’s real…

When I find myself thinking about this question or being asked it I often pause and quickly deconstruct two things: the person asking and the question itself. Maybe deconstruct is not the right word but it is the right sentiment. What do I mean by this? Well, my answer will differ depending on the person who is asking. Not by much but by tone, gesture or even by exaggeration. I also have to think about what I am truly passionate about. And, does the person asking truly want to know or is it a filler question – the kind of question that, as a teacher, I have fallen back on when trying to get students to focus or when trying to identify the students who may be struggling. Filler is the wrong word, focus is the “F” word that I am looking for.

I need to know about the person asking and what their motivations are in asking such a question. And then I need to decide which of my pre-prepared answers will I spring on them. We all have these answers – I’m passionate about running or I’m passionate about saving the environment. Broad answers that sound correct but may not be entirely accurate because to truly reveal what you’re passionate about to people involves trust and knowledge. You have to trust them with the truth and hope they add to your knowledge rather than leach it away.

One other thing to consider – think about on what you were passionate about ten years ago, five years, one year? My passions have changed. And this reminds me that my students passions will change – subtly or in broad dynamic strokes as they begin to realise who they are as a person.

So, what am I passionate about? Depends on who’s asking but I will give you my filler lists and, maybe someday, I will give you my real list.

Learning. Classic teacher response but I love learning new pieces of information, filling up the filing cabinets in my mind with random knowledge that I can whip out at a whim. I have been toying with the idea of attempting my Masters degree but we’ll see. Sometimes fear gets in the way of the passion. But everyday I like to find out something new. Something interesting that might not mean much to others but means something to me. I’m definitely a magpie or a crow.

Travel. And my students know this since I remind them constantly that one of the best things that they can do is travel – nothing like eating crickets in Cambodia or tasting tea in Vietnam or downing a churro at Disneyland. I have a bucket list in my mind and I will continue to tick things off as I go. There is something about going into a new place and finding myself completely disoriented and then finding food. I quite enjoy food.

Sharing knowledge. Not just the knowledge needed to pass tests but the knowledge that there is more to the world than school or the town they have grown up in. I constantly share knowledge – even if it isn’t wanted. I guess that’s partially why I enjoy teaching because I have a (sometimes) captive audience who challenge me every day to extend them. I want students to share in this love of knowledge and learning.

My challenge to you is to think about what you are truly passionate about. Have you done anything to develop that passion or, like me, have you put your true passions on hold while you try to figure out if they are what you really want?

I also want you to think about your students and what they are truly passionate about and how we, as educators, guide them and also show them that it is okay to be passionate about maybe collecting toy dinosaurs…

Peace and pancakes…