Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Student teachers

I had my first student teacher this fall, and I found myself growing and thinking deeper about every aspect of my teaching. She started on the first day of school, along with every new student for my 10th year as a teacher. To me, it seemed more logical for her to start in the spring, but as we worked together through the beginning of the year classroom strategies and routines, I realized that starting at the beginning of the year was ideal.

Because I  endeavor to start the year with structure and intention, I modeled teaching for her every minute of my day. I learned students' names much faster than in past years because I felt pushed to be the best role model. I could not ask her to accomplish tasks I was not already modeling, and I had to be clear about my examples, questioning, and relationship-building. I used down time to work with students or work on planing or grading. It was exhausting. It was also the best teaching I'd done in a very long time.

I had more than the eyes of 20-30 students (multiply that times 5) on me. I had a future teacher who would go on to touch thousands of lives, just as I have already in my career.  Her future students would see where I shaped her as a teacher.

Over the course of the semester, I made mistakes, and she made mistakes. The best part was constant discussions and reflections on how to make it (whatever "it" was) better. We also started projects I'd wanted to start, but couldn't manage by myself. I was also always caught up. It took two of us to keep up with all of the administrative work teachers are required to do.  We could pass back graded assessments quickly. We could conference with students in double the time.

During the days that I handed full responsibility over to her and worked in a teacher workroom, I was approached by many teachers.  I can't say many had had good experiences.  I also saw some refuse to give up full control unless absolutely required. What is the experience for? A student teacher needs to teach and learn how to manage a full day. My student teacher had a lock down drill in the middle of a supervisor's evaluation. She did great. She also took the students out for fire drills. She needed every bizarre and random experience that teachers might face in the classroom.  She needed to face them when another teacher was still nearby and responsible for helping oversee the classes.

When my student teacher left, I definitely needed some adjustment time. I had to get used to being the only adult in the room.  I didn't have my confidant and comrade-at-arms by my side all day. I had to teach all the students all day long.

And now, we've moved into a new normal. I have to fight some of my own bad tendencies and lazy habits.  I'm also already behind in grading. I'm worried about missing some report or important email because it's only me.

I was blessed.  Having a student teacher was a great experience. I grew, and I could observe my own strategies knowing another teacher would follow my path.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Best day ever!!

On March 7, I went with our school librarian and another teacher with 9 students to the North Texas Teen Book Festival #nttbf15. 

It was the BEST DAY EVER! We don't have to mention that it was on a Saturday or on the first day of our Spring Break.  We don't have to mention that there would be no compensation for this day.  We don't have to mention that food options were scarce (one tiny, tiny cafe on site and NO walking options). We don't have to mention that it was roughly a 9 hour day.  It was the BEST DAY EVER!

There were over 50 authors of middle grade and young adult books. There were something like 3000 participants, mostly kids. There were kids running and screaming.  But, they were the best behaved kids I've ever encountered. They were so happy and so excited.  It was a very geeky, fan-girl day for me.  Kids came away with books, posters, t-shirts, buttons, and more. They got to get stuff signed by authors, pictures with authors, and to talk with authors.  

I could not have asked for a better way to start my Spring Break.  It's been a long time since I had an entire day of no-stress fun. I enjoyed every bit of the day. I enjoyed time away from the school with my peers and students.  I was really enjoying life. 

Thank you to all of the organizers, vendors, volunteers, staff, etc. It was the best day ever.

Next year, I want to take my mom, my daughter, and my niece and nephew. I can't wait for next year. It'll be the best day ever! #nttbfest

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pushing students out of their comfort zone

I've had students blogging about their books of choice for several years now. It's SO much better than telling me in some way, creating some product for a class report, or even standing in front of the class.  None of those strategies brought about real discussions about books. Blogging does. Adults and kids all over the world blog about books. They put up reviews and recommendations, and that is real for my students.

This semester, I am pushing them. I've asked them to find an article about ANYTHING that relates back to something they've learned in one of their classes this year. I want them to know that math is relevant in the real world. Science is relevant; history is relevant; all electives are relevant. I want them to see that adults are writing about those topics, and my students rose to the occasion.

I've also asked them to find an article about social issues. A few people warned me off the assignment - it could go south.  But, my students rose to the occasion. We also talk about how to disagree and how to have conversations that still respect others.  Even when students had opposing opinions about hot topics, they were respectful.  I'm proud of them.  We will take some of those issues and have them go further with research and calls to action in the next few weeks.

Lastly, I asked them to be creative in a post. I wanted it to relate to anything about this 8th grade year for them, but they could create poems, songs, raps, and word clouds. They've talked about lunch, stress, procrastination, and what high school will be like.   They rose to the occasion.

They got to talk and share with each other in different ways, and it was great.  The best part is that we'll do it all again in this next six weeks. In future years, this will be my new blogging norm.