January 19, 2015

The Best Job in the World: Being a Mommy

So, I got started back to blogging with the new year, and I’ve done ok this first few weeks with joining up to linky parties and posting more regularly.  But, as it will, life got in the way of my progress this weekend.  On Wednesday night, the stomach flu hit our house and didn’t ease up until today, Monday.  Now, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that when your children are taking turns puking (occasionally on the carpet, no less) and you have a fever and churning, burning tummy, that blogging, much less anything else) is the last thing on your mind.  I spent Saturday alternating between the couch and my bed, with two sickies snuggled up with me.  I kept telling myself that at least it was a three day weekend, that I could be productive on Sunday and Monday.  And here I am, Monday night, on the eve of going back to school for finals week, and I’m disappointed to say that the productive spurt I was hoping for this weekend never hit.  But, on the other hand, I had the chance to love up my boys, take care of them when they weren’t feeling well, and spend lots of quality, albeit low energy, time with them just enjoying each other’s company.  It wasn’t a pretty weekend, and far too many bodily substances ended up outside of the body instead of inside where they belong, but it again reminded me that my impact as a mom goes way farther than any grading, planning, or cleaning ever could.



January 13, 2015

Time for you to take a Learning Walk

Today I was invited to participate in a Learning Walk on campus.  If you’ve never been on a walk, it’s an opportunity for small groups of teachers to visit other classes and observe what the teachers and students are doing.  Instead of being evaluative, it offers a rare chance for busy teachers to see their colleagues in action (many of them teaching students that you also have in class) and then reflect on their own teaching practice.  If you’d like more information, check out the article from Instructional Leader, “Using Teacher Learning Walks to Improve Instruction” here: http://www.nassp.org/Content/158/pl_jan14_instructldr.pdf 


When our Lesson Design Specialist began implementing these walks three years ago, I honestly didn’t get it.  I felt it would be awkward to walk into other classes, and I wasn’t convinced that I’d gain anything from seeing lessons taught in other subject areas.  I did, however, consent to my own classroom being a learning lab for other walkers to visit.

As the years passed, and I had several groups of teachers visiting my room, I started to wonder more about the value to the walkers.  I realized that my initial skepticism was easing away and I was curious about the reflective process.  When our LDS invited me to participate, I knew it was something I needed to do.

So today, in a small group of four teachers, I walked around campus, visiting eight different classrooms, focused on eight different subjects with eight different teachers teaching with eight different styles.  And it was eye-opening!

First, I was so impressed by the quality of instruction and the engagement of the students.  But that’s not the point of the walk – it wasn’t about them, it was about me and my personal reflection on my practice.  After each 7-10 minute class visit, our small group met to discuss what we saw and then used “I Statements” to reflect on our own teaching.  This interaction forced up to hone in on what we could take away from each class to better improve our own teaching.  Seeing different ideas that I've read about or seen on Pinterest, now became tangible strategies that I could employ in my own classroom. I know that I offered “I would like to challenge myself to give students more control over their learning” and “I was reminded of the importance of calling on more students to participate, rather than falling back on the regulars that volunteer” among other contributions to the discussion. 

What I didn’t realize before heading out on this walk, though, was that watching other teachers would inspire me to be better.  I’m an English teacher who visited Finite Math, Physics, AP Chemistry, Business Accounting, Art, Woodshop, and Special Education, and from each class, I picked up on something valuable that I can add to my own teaching toolbox.

I am no longer a skeptic, but a devoted fan of the Leaning Walk!  I hope that if you haven't, you get the chance to take one, too.

And because I was inspired, I created this handout that teachers can use to reflect on their own teaching.  You can download it for free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Just click on the image.
   

January 11, 2015

the Sunday Scoop

Today I'm linking up with the Teaching Trio with my Sunday Scoop.  This weekend we've lucked out with a rainy, dreary two days.  I know I'm spoiled by my Southern California sunshine when I look forward to the occasional rainy weekend where I don't feel guilty about curling up in sweats with a book and not doing anything productive.


Hope today is the start of a great week for you!  Head over to the Teaching Trio to see what other teachers have going on.

January 10, 2015

I'm a California Blogger

Today I linked up with Fifth in the Middle in her Bloggers by State series.

So excited to get my I'm a California Blogger button! 

And now, I'm going to enjoy this drizzly Saturday stopping by the MANY California blogs that have linked up.

January 8, 2015

5 Ways to Clear Classroom Clutter

Hello and Happy New Year! 

I hope you had a fabulous holiday season and are back at it, full of renewed energy.  I’m back to blogging, (first post since October), and, like all new year’s resolutions, I’m planning to stick with it this time…you know, best intentions and all.

There’s a lot that I’m planning for 2015, but before I get going with all my goals, there’s something at the top of my priority list…Clearing the clutter from my classroom.



 

So, I have a confession…I’m messy, a pile maker, and someone who keeps waaayy too much.  
This isn't even a terrible day for my desk, yet look at the clutter!  The spray bottle is for waking up sleepy kids who like to put their heads down during class - I do teach high school after all!

I think that’s something common to many teachers – we’re loathe to get rid of anything because who knows when we might try that lesson again, or maybe we’ll switch grade levels, and who wants to start over from scratch?  But, there comes a point when I just can’t take the clutter anymore and I have to do something, which is where I am now.  So here are my 5 ways to clear the clutter from the classroom:

1. Get rid of all extra copies.  I admit that when I’m making copies for classes, I always make about 10 extra for students that lose them, for my files, to share with colleagues, etc.  But here’s the thing, I inevitably have several sheets left over that don’t get used, so I just stick them in my filing cabinets…and my files grow and grow year after year. Rarely, though, do I go back and use up the extra copies. So, why do I keep them?  Do you do the same thing?  This year I resolve to recycle all the extras and declutter my files.
See this stack? It contains a sample MLA format handout I shared with my students...in 2009!


2. Create subject binders.  I actually started this before, but never finished the job, so I think that now’s the time.  I started by breaking down my typical year by the units/standards I teach (and I started with only one prep at a time, because this is an overwhelming job).  Then, I put a calendar in the front of the binder and all the materials that I use in plastic sheets behind that.  I took the handouts from my newly decluttered files, and was able to throw a bunch of ratty file folders away.  Then, of course, I decided that I wanted to do this by literature piece, too, so now I’m really in the thick of it.


3. Replace my hanging file folders in the file cabinet with my newly organized binders.  This step did double duty.  It made my cabinets neater and my materials easier to find, and it cleared a big spot on my shelves where the binders were previously stored.


4. Find place for everything.  The top drawers in my desk had long been filled with personal items - tylenol, extra mascara, a lint roller, mouthwash, you get the gist.  But, that wasn't the best use of my desk space.  So I got a 3-drawer plastic cart and placed it under my printer table.  I filled the top drawer with my personal stuff, the middle drawer with snacks, and the bottom with plastic cutlery, napkins, etc.  Now I have all the things I need out of my drawers and cabinets, and I know right where to go for what I need.

And, speaking of plastic drawers, I picked up several of the smaller, 3-drawer sets and use them to store work to be returned and work to grade.  I assign one drawer to each period, and I'm set.  Here's the work to return set:


5. Donate, sell, gift, or, gasp, toss old books.  I have stacks and stacks of books that, as good as they are, I will never read again.  Many of these are teaching guides, practical manuals for new teachers dealing with class management, procedures, and curriculum.  I’ve been teaching for 15 years, and am pretty confident in my style.  Some are ratty novels that my classes have loved and devoured, and are now missing covers and pages.  Others are books that I’ve inherited from retired teachers that date back before my birth (in the ‘70s).  These books take up so much needed space, but I’ve always hated the thought of getting rid of books – I’m an English teacher after all.  But, it’s time, and I’ve allowed myself, in the wise words of Elsa, to let it go.


It may not yet be a perfect system, but I'm working on it.  I hope that you, too, see success on your resolutions, and maybe, that these 5 tips can help you too.