Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Where is my desk?

The play is over (and what a success!), the quarter grades are filed, and I'm moving onto the next few projects (prom, speech, etc.)  You'd think in this lull I would be able to find the top of my desk!  I know it's under there somewhere.  Let's start sorting.

Here are those articles on vocabulary development that I wanted to read, but a student who was struggling with reading his nonfiction book needed me to read to him instead.  O.K. I'll put them back in the upper right-hand corner of my desk for perusal next week.

Why is this first aid kit on my desk?  Oh yes, paper cut during freshmen literature.  I'll just put that back on the shelf, but I know I should keep it handy.

There has to be over twenty post-it notes stuck to various parts of my desk.  This one is for the possible speech topic for my senior speech student.  Oh I can throw this one reminding me of the last week's haircut (which I never made it to).  Here's one reminding me to call that parent about the wonderful job their sophomore is doing in speech class.  Whew! I did that!  I have no idea what these numbers mean, so I better keep this one.  And so the sorting goes.

It seems that every teacher starts the school year with the lofty idea that he/she will keep up with the daily demands of education.  I know that I planned to get those papers corrected within one to two days of the students turning them in.  But then the year gets into full swing - the meetings begin, the play rehearsals take over, the students need help, and the to-do list gets longer and longer.  And I feel like a failure.  Why can't I get ahead?  Why does my to-do list carry over from day to day, week to week?  When am I going to get caught up!!! UGH!!!

I believe that's when educators need to say STOP! Take a moment, heck - take a breath - have a cup of coffee, watch a movie on Netflex, and relax.  Then tackle that desk - throw away that post-it-note that you have no idea what the numbers mean, keep those vocabulary articles handy, you'll get to them (while you're standing in the hallway monitoring passing time), and remember it's not about the clean desk, it's about EVERY student EVERY DAY.

Look at what you have accomplished so far this year.  You had a really good lesson on text structure in Literature 9.  You connected with a student that last year wouldn't even turn in his English homework.  You've had a student smile because you put a sticker on the top of his American Literature paper.  You got that shy kid to speak up in class (and maybe even go out for the play.)  It's been a good year so far.  Enjoy it.  You deserve to take a few minutes and relish where you are. You'll find the top of your desk...it might be May, but you'll find it again.

Has anyone seen my favorite pen?  I bet it's on my desk...never mind.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Recently our principal challenged us to create a one word goal as a form of a "new year's resolution."  Growing up in a household where my father preached the importance of goal setting, this immediately appealed to me.

Along with the one word goal, the idea was to incorporate it into an acronym.  As an English teacher, this added aspect further inspired me.  Who doesn't love to work with letters and meaning?

So after some reflection and "wordsmithing", my goal and acronym is E-V-E-R-Y.

E - Every student

V - inVested

E - Every lesson

R - Reach

Y - Yearlong

I'm really looking forward to the 2015-2016 school year.  So much is ahead of us - the fall musical, the district speech tournament in February, a trip to DC/NYC and of course - most importantly - learning to become better students better citizens.  

I know, like any "New Year" that the excitement can wear off.  I hope that I can hold onto the excitement that I feel today, and channel it throughout the year.

Happy New Year EVERY-one!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

An Old Dog CAN learn a few new tricks

As I prepared for a new semester, I realized that I'm not as stuck in my ways as I thought.  I just survived my first "Genius Week" here at George-Little Rock.  What is Genius Week?  It's a week where students choose a project that they work on for a week and at the end present their findings to a panel of teachers or community members.  Students worked on original music, original movies (which were posted to YouTube), started their own businesses, invented some really amazing products (a few that I would personally invest in), etc.  It was truly an amazing week of learning and facilitating.  When given a problem (one that they are passionate about), these kids will do amazing things.

I've always said that I hated change, but that's not true.  In the past fifteen years I've survived SMART boards, one-to-one classrooms, Moodle, Google Classroom, and now Genius Week.  Survival implies that these changes were out to destroy me...and upon reflection that is the furthest thing from the truth.  These changes have made me a better teacher - and a better person.  I find myself more flexible than I was twenty years ago.  

Now don't get me wrong - I still stress out if I don't think I'll get through my curriculum, and I hate seeing kids out of the classroom because of meetings, leaving early for athletic events, and generally missing class.  However, Genius week wasn't missing curriculum, it was giving control to the kids.  Something I need to do more often.

I realized that I struggled with facilitating.  I wanted to solve the problem or at least get in my two cents worth.  That was a valuable lesson for me.  Genius Week also made me think of how I could bring some of that energy to my regular course work.  What "problems" could I create in literature, government, or law that these kids could solve?  

Regardless of what people think of the 'old guard,' there are a lot of us well-seasoned teachers willing to look at new innovations in education and embrace them.  We can bring some of that seasoning into new philosophies and provide kids with some wonderful experiences.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The "End of My Time Off"

Tonight as I sit and work on grades, I realize that Christmas break has quickly come to an end.  Just like summer and any other breaks, the time flew by.  It was full of laughter, food, and time with family.  It was also a time full of speech practices, prepping for upcoming courses, and correcting papers.  I know that I chose to be at school for most of the break, but now that it's over, I would give anything for one more day to sit in my PJ's reading a novel.  

Most teachers use their "time off" for prepping for upcoming courses, grading papers, and recharging.  It always amazing that at least once during a break someone makes a sarcastic comment about a teacher's easy schedule.  I also know that this has been a sore point for a lot of teachers.  We somehow feel we have to defend our Christmas break or our summers off.  For 2015, I'm done.  I'm not going to justify the calendar any longer.  I know the schedule I have.  I know what kind of hours my colleagues log and the time coaches spend with their students outside of the school day.

According to the Washington Post, an average teacher works 53 hours a week. The article went on to say that if the teacher is also a coach of extra-curricular to add on eleven to twelve hours to that total. I once asked a previous superintendent if I could change my contract to be paid by the hour.  He simply chuckled and said no school district could afford to pay teachers by the hour.

If we truly stop to think about the disparity between the hours worked and the salary paid, is it any wonder that young people choose other professions rather than education?  I have a daughter that recently earned her teaching degree, and she is anticipating her first job.  I've repeatedly asked her if she was sure about her professional choice.  And I believe she's given me a great answer.

She didn't choose education for the hours or the money.  (None of which will play out in her favor.) She's getting into education for the look on a student's face when they understand a concept or when a sixth grade class thinks it funny when she sings a parody to "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" She's getting into education because a seventh grader said that he actually likes math because of her.
She's getting into education for the same reason I did 24 years ago - it's all about the kids.

So I'll sit in my PJ's tonight, watch the "Twilight" marathon, and continue to grade Literature 9 papers. All that because I'm excited to see the kids tomorrow!