Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Where Does a Year Go?

The answer to that question is that I have no idea.

My teaching life has taken over almost every other aspect of my life. This shouldn't be a complete shock. I've been teaching for 37 years.

I was trying to figure out why blogging has been on the back burner for the past few years, and it finally dawned on me that the blogging is directly proportional to the change in job assignments.

1. For the past six years I have been directing at least one show a year. (That knocks out three months a year for each show.)

2. Two years ago, I changed rooms and teaching assignments so that meant new preps.
            Actually, my job seems to be constantly changing, so I am having a new class to prepare for almost every year.
            Five years ago, I was teaching five hours of Sophomore English and a class called Exploring Teaching As A Career.
            Three years ago, I was teaching five hours of Sophomore English and an intervention class called Reading Strategies.
                   That was the year, I made the switch to Standards Based Grading. (More on that later.)
            Two years ago, I started teaching three hours of Sophomore English, and one hour each of Speech, Drama, and Forensics. Three new preps and I was still directing.  For Forensics, I was also attending weekend tournaments from February through April, meaning life got quite a bit crazier.
             This past year, I taught three hours of Sophomore English, Speech/Reading Strategies, Drama, and Forensics. Speech is a semester class so I picked up a Reading Strategies class second semester.
              Next year, I am teaching three hours of Sophomore English, Stagecraft/Speech, Drama and Forensics. AND, my brother and I are directing the fall musical instead of the spring play. So the changes continue.

             Confused yet? I am!

3. Standards Based Grading took a considerable bite out of my time. I like it and believe in it, but WOW!
               Essentially, each standard is evaluated and re-taught if needed. There are two practice evaluations and then a final evaluation.
               If students are struggling, we put them into tutoring hub, where they can be re-taught and/or re-tested.
               If they just aren't doing the work, we put them into academic lunch. (A forced lunch with an administrator where they complete missing work.)
              There are 9 literature standards, 10 informational text standards, 10 writing standards, 6 speaking/listening standards, and 5 language standards. (Each of them to be evaluated at least 3 times.)

           Now, there is no way that I evaluate all of those standards in one year. Our State and our English department have designated that some that need more emphasis than others, so those are the ones that receive the bulk of my class time. Since State Testing is sophomore year, I spend quite a bit of time on the State emphasized standards. (Looking back, I evaluated around 20 standards--and some of them were evaluated both first and second semesters.)

          For finals, students choose between 2-5 standards that they want to re-evaluate. (Kind of a cafeteria plan where they pick and choose.) We have written an evaluation for each standard covered in the semester. They complete the evaluation to see if they have mastered the standard yet, and their performance can change their grade for that standard, which in turn changes their grade for the semester.

         And then vacation comes and I collapse in a big heap...!

One of these days I'll figure out how to teach and have a life outside of school. I'll let you know when that happens.

Right now, I'm just happy that I am on summer break. Hopefully, that means I'll have time to catch up on this teaching blog. I have a list of things I want to share.

On the other hand, I don't want to spend too much of my summer thinking about school. I need the brain break.

I sound like a student, don't I? They've taught me well.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Cards a la Teacher Style

I used to send out between 25-50 Christmas cards/photos/letters every year. Back in the good ol' days.

And then our school started ending the 1st semester before the winter break. Finals, finishing grading, and semester grades took over and held my life hostage.

Now, I am lucky if I can pull this together for blog world on the Scribble Lite app that my grandkids love.

Year #1

Year #2 was actually drawn on my whiteboard at school.
Year #3
Year #4
Pathetic, I know. Stick figures are my forte.

My aunts are starting to hate me. 

The upside is that my grades are finished.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Just Don't

I don't care how many times they beg, don't put a countdown to break on your board. Students bounce off the walls, and now I am too impatient for break to arrive.
I never do this. This year I succumbed to the begging. I am an idiot.

You have been warned.

On the upside, there are now only five school days left until break. *sigh!

Hanging on by a thread...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Magic Moments in the Classroom

After a slow start to this year, the last few weeks have been so much better. I like to call it classroom magic. (Magic because it just happens. I can't really plan it.)

Magic Moment #1:
Students read part of the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and then searched for ten photos that showed people enjoying those rights or people denied those rights. (One student took it a bit further and showed people protesting for those rights.)
The next part of the assignment was to merge slides with a classmate. Together, they searched for a song that shared the theme of their photos and turned it into a musical slideshow.
To say that these were powerful would be an understatement. "The Sound of Silence" by Disturbed, "Imagine" by John Lennon, and Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" and "We Are the World" were just some of the songs backing some pretty haunting images.
Magic. (It didn't hurt that the students were pretty proud of their work.)

Magic Moment #2:
My classes memorize "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrea for Veterans Day. We study the structure, rhythm, and rhyme of the poem, but mainly we study the significance of the poem for Veterans.  Tiny Town High has a close relationship with the military in our community and many military kids attend our school.
Anyway, the students have been practicing the poem daily. Today, I had my classes on the stage in my room for another activity. When they finished that assignment, I had them recite the poem in a darkened room with only the stage lights. There was a haunting quality to this every hour, but 7th hour gave me chills.
My small 7th hour class has nine boys and no girls. These young men gathered in a tight group and this is part of what they recited:
   "We are the dead, short days ago
          We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
             Loved and were loved, and now we lie
                In Flanders Fields.
     Take up our quarrel with the foe,
            To you from failing hands we throw
                 The torch, be yours to hold it high
                    If ye break faith with us who die
                       We shall not sleep though poppies grow
                           In Flanders Fields."

Those nine young men could have been the soldiers of the past and some will be the soldiers of the future. Those youthful faces made the poem so much more significant. I don't know about them, but I will never forget that moment.

I'd like to think that I control the magic in my classroom, but I don't. I think magic just happens, and these are the moments we teach for.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

End of the 1st Nine Weeks

We are already 1/4 of the way through the school year, but it doesn't feel that way.

For some reason, I am just starting to feel comfortable with this class. It has taken me awhile to figure out the dynamics of some of my combinations. Usually, I feel this way by week three.

If I weren't so buried in grading, I'd think the year had barely begun; but no, my inbox tells me differently. Or it would if I still had an inbox for papers.  (Google Classroom has made my classroom nearly paperless.)

The end of the nine weeks always gives me a pain in the neck-- a real pain in the neck. It comes from too much grading and too much computer work.

Throw in a rotten head cold that my students (the darlings) have shared with me, and I am tempted to pull the covers over my head and have someone wake me up late next week.

If you have any great tips for getting through the end of the nine weeks, please feel free to share. After 37 years, you'd think I would have figured it out. *sigh

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Choosing a Play

I am the All School Play director.  (Nonmusical!) Directing is fun, but I HATE choosing the play.


1. I need shows that can cast quite a few students. (Small casts are easier to find.)
2. I need an equal number of girl and guy parts. (Most HS plays are heavy toward girls.)
3. We have no counterweight system (a tragic oversight of administration when they built the new school), and building sets is a pain.
            A. If you have a show that changes scenery, everything has to be on wheels.
            B. The traditional box set is a nightmare.
4. There are quite a few shows out there that are written for big budgets.
5. In a fairly conservative community, there are quite a few shows that border on inappropriate.
6. I need a show that will bring in large audiences.

Did I mention that we have almost no money?

So, what have I done so far?

*Curtain Going Up
*Our Town
*The Outsiders
*Three Musketeers
*Father of the Bride

Father of the Bride was probably the best show, but The Outsiders had the largest audience.

Where am I headed this year? No idea. And I have a couple more weeks until a decision needs to be made. Gulp!

I have seen so many play scripts that my head hurts. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Seating Arrangement #237

The title of this post is an exaggeration, but I do rearrange my desks frequently. I keep playing with arrangements and discover some that work well for some activities, and others help me separate some problem areas. (OK! The talkers!)

I am trying this for the week.
This is a huge open rectangle. I should be able to see every face from my desk. When we are using the board or the document reader, one row will have to have chairs moved to the opposite side of their desk.

Is this going to work? Stay tuned.