Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Not-So-Inspiring Post

I was going to write a really super sappy blog post about teaching, how much I love it and the students I teach. I was going to create this beautiful ode to teaching that would inspire everyone and share my love of this career I chose.

And then my 3rd hour College Prep Lit class walked in the door.

And I was reminded that teaching is not always perfect and inspiring. Sometimes it resembles a Welcome Back, Kotter episode....

In the space of ten minutes today, I:

  • Listened to complaints about how hot my room is and explained they could sit in the hall and work
  • Repeated the directions for the day 19 times (Once for each student. Because you know it only counts if you say it directly to them)
  • Explained 19 times that the assignment for the day was also on Schoology---our LMS (This is besides the fact that I also handed out a a calendar with the work for each day)
  • Reminded one he needs this class to graduate and to get to work
  • Again, listened to complaints about the heat. Again, suggested the hallway
  • Explained that the work for this assignment needed to be worthy of the 20 points (a point for each word, right?)
  • Regretted telling a student she could use the "B" word in her letter when describing a character. That opened the door for negotiations with the others. 
  • Again, reminded senior he needed to get some work done
  • More complaints about the heat
  • Told students I was rewriting my blog post. 
  • Explained that John Travolta was hot--- in 1975---when I was 18.  They just shook their heads and had no clue who I was talking about until a bright girl in the corner reminded us he was in the movie Old Dogs.
Finally, class ended. 15 of 19 turned in their work. 
Here comes 4th hour...

"Geez. It's like a sauna in here."

The lesson? Some days--heck, most days--are more like Kotter than any of us want to admit. This group I have 3rd hour are smart, they discuss and argue and back themselves up with facts. Most of them read a lot. 

And somedays, they like to push my buttons. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

My Last Lecture

"How exactly, do you catalogue your childhood dreams?"   Randy Pausch

In 2008, Randy Pausch, along with Jeffrey Zaslow, wrote a little book entitled The Last Lecture. It's a book that has stayed with me for a long time. In fact, I'm rereading it right now. Although it's an extension of a lecture he presented at Carnegie-Mellon, I really look at it as his love letter to his kids. You see, at the time he gave the lecture and wrote the book, Pausch was dying of pancreatic cancer, and he had three kids under five.

Well, I have a love letter I want to write also. A love letter to my school family, my kids, and teaching. As of today, I have nineteen days left with students and one more inservice. I've begun purging my room. Throwing some things, giving some things away, and wondering what in the heck I was thinking in keeping some of them.

And as I purge, I've reflected and remembered.

And so, in this month of lasts, I'm going to write and remember and share.

Friday, March 31, 2017

{solsc} 31/31 #sol17 The Final

It's day 31 and the final day of the Slice of Life Challenge.  The last couple of years, I quit. Didn't finish. Failed.

I let the "I'm too busy" excuse convince me it was OK to accept less than my best.

Want to know the difference this year?  

My kids.

I've always tweeted out my blog posts. And I knew people read them---I just never thought about my students reading them. But they'd come in and comment on something I'd written.  This Time Next Week was a post that was shared by a few of my speech kids. It hit us all that speech was over and my time with them was going to be done.  

A former student tweeted me and said when she saw I had posted she secretly hoped the post would be about her :)  I haven't yet, but I will.

The thing was, when I knew that a few of them were reading them, I didn't want to miss a day. I expect them to write every day (to be fair, I share a prompt with them in case they can't think of anything to write about), so I couldn't give up!

So congrats to everyone who wrote every day. And congrats to those who didn't. You still wrote more than you would have if you didn't join the challenge.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

{solsc} #sol17 30/31 Hey! Isn't This Your Last...

"Hey! Isn't this your last....."

Fill in the blank. National Honor Society induction, Speech contest, semester, conferences...
Whatever it is, yes. It's my last. Come May, I will be shutting the door to my classroom for the last time.

It's my choice. But as I have written, it's a bittersweet time in my career right now. And that "Isn't this your last..." not my favorite--especially when I say it.

"Hey! Isn't this your last?" suggests that I am a short timer, that I am counting down the days and hours until I am done. It seems to say that I don't care and have quit learning new things. This is far from the truth.

I've been working on Standards Based Grading for a couple of years---just this semester I created a SBG rubric for class discussion that I've been using in my College Prep Lit class. It isn't perfect, but I keep tweaking it every unit and it's becoming very workable.

I also have standards and I can statements for most of the classes/units I teach. Our district is in the midst of going to standards-based grading and I will not leave my classes with nothing for a new teacher to start with. And besides that. It is something I truly believe in. I'm not short timing this!

I continue to change every class I teach based on the kids in the class. I've always done it. Why would I change now? My Contemporary Lit class this semester is very different than the first one I taught. I've developed it for several years. And next year's teacher will have notes and ideas to begin with.

Because that's the other thing. I know it's the last (but I'm working on it being the best), I've left all my plans for this year in notebooks. Day by day plans. Because I still remember my first day on the job:
"What do I teach?" I was hoping for some ideas, a syllabus.  But no.
"Anything you want," I was told.

Next year's teacher will still be able to teach anything they want, but at least they will have a place to start.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

{solsc} 29/31 #sol17 Today

I wish for warm sun
with a gentle breeze coming off the lake

I wish for empty days
with time to fill as I wish

Today I wish for golf games
concerts at the park
and grandkid giggles as they splash in the lake.

the end of school 
and the promise of summer
seem an eternity away 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

{solsc} 28/31 #sol17 Saying Good-bye

Tonight was my last speech awards night. I needed to say good-bye....

10 years.

“When does speech start, Mrs. Day?”

I’ve come in early and stayed late. Read scripts and planned rehearsals
“Remember, you need to plan a beginning, middle and an end”  But what do I know?
“Don’t be inappropriate”

I’ve listened to kid after kid
Slow down
Speed up

I’ve ridden more school buses than a 60-year-old should have to
I’ve locked keys in buildings
Blown out projector bulbs
Raced to the gym for forgotten ballots
Wiped tears, hugged and consoled, and given a million high fives.

I have beamed with pride as the nervous performed and they know they’ve done their best and I’ve celebrated excellence at All-State.

It has never been about me.
This has never been my speech team.

It is yours. It is as successful as you make it.
Juniors, you are now the leaders.
Step up.
Talk to Mrs. LeFebvre about what you want to do. Help her out at rehearsals. Help the newbies. Recruit!

Next year won’t be the same--for any of us.
But it will be what you make it.

Make it a good one.

Monday, March 27, 2017

{solsc} 27/31 #sol17 All-State

I spent today with some of my speech kids at the Individual All-State Speech Festival. It is an amazing day full of outstanding performances from high school kids. And even though I coach some of them, it still amazes me that these are high school kids.

And then, I feel like a fake.

Because here's what I know. I don't really have a whole lot to do with how good my students are when they perform.  Oh, I offer suggestions how to interpret things. I tell them if something isn't working. I help write introductions. But the hard work?  That's the kids.

The really good ones, come with a piece that they have found and believe in. They find time in a really busy schedule to practice their piece one (or two) more times before they go home. These kids, they're never satisfied, it's never good enough.  They constantly try new ways to say and do things, they record themselves and watch it back, and they ask, "What about if I do it this way?"

And they deliver. They are all in. They share their pieces with pride, passion and poise.

You can't coach that.