Monday, March 28, 2011

What I can and can't control's the buzz word of the day.

We have our state assessments coming up, luckily we moved them back after having Snowmaggedon 2011, so we had more time to prepare. In a lot of ways, I feel like they are ready. And I am excited to see how they do. I know for a fact that my students know those root words, prefixes and suffixes backwards and forwards.

However that doesn't prevent me from being slightly nervous. I feel the pressure of my students doing well on assessments so much that I am losing sleep and just plain exhausted all day long. In talking with my students the other day about the tests coming up, I wanted to make sure that I communicated the importance of them, but not to stress too much.

Perhaps, I am need to hear that as well! But this is what happened during that conversation.

"Will you be mad at us if we fail?" -Student
"No, I won't be mad at you, I might be frustrated with myself that I didn't teach you want you needed to know to pass." -me
"Why would you be frustrated at yourself, it's not your fault if we fail. We probably just didn't pay attention in class, or do our homework, like you wanted us to." -other student (the rest of the class pretty much agreed with this statement)

They are right about one thing, there are lots of things that go on with my students that aren't my fault. There are a lot of factors that go into these state assessments that I have no control over. Once they begin these tests, it is out of my hands. I can't control whether a student is distracted by what is going on at home, what just happened in the hallway, the bad grade the received in another class, the fight their parents had the night before, or the cute girl/guy that is sitting next to them.

But up until that point when they start the test, I can work as hard as I can, plan as much as I can, and teach as well as I can so they can be prepared to do their best! I can control what I do for them on a daily basis to prepared them, and as well teach them that life isn't just about an assessment but about learning how to work hard and learning as much as they can everyday so as to prepare them for whatever they want to do in the future.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


"What do we get if we do this?" "Can we just play games instead?" "Can I earn claw cash or candy if I do this?""How many points is this worth?""Does this count for a grade?"

I am always trying to find how to make learning fun, I am pretty sure all teachers try to do this. This is just one of those ideas that I have tried out recently. Every week I will post something I have tried recently.

I can't take all the credit for this idea, one of the other teachers used to this idea as well but in a different way. We had an extra day before we started our 10 Days of review before assessments so we needed something that was review but fun as well. Fun is pretty necessary for the first day after spring break!

Reviewing Root Words, Prefixes with BINGO.

I used this website to create my own Bingo cards, using the definitions on the cards allows me to call out the Words. The students have to know the definitions to be able to cover the squares. There are plenty of other ways that you could do it or use Bingo in the classroom, but I thought this website was great for helping create it.

I borrowed some counting chips from a math teacher and we played for most of the hour.

It was a success, the students loved being able to play a game, and I loved the fact that it got them using the root words. My students this year can be so competitive but I am trying to teach them how to be gracious losers and be accepting of the fact that isn't necessarily about winning but about learning something too...pretty unrealistic, but maybe some of it will stick.

What other topic or content could be reviewed with Bingo?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Feeling Inadequate

As a second year teacher, in many ways I feel like I am just getting my feet on the ground. However, right now I am feeling pressures from all around me to start thinking about the future, not my students' futures, but my future as a teacher. I feel the pressure to start grad school soon, to get additional certification and to start thinking about my next steps. However, the more and more I think about it, I really want to enjoy my time in the classroom right now. I want to be present in the moment not thinking about the future.

After a lot of talks with friends and with mentors, it is very evident that I have a lot of fear about making a commitment to teaching long term. I am not naturally a fearful person, but perhaps it scares me to think that getting my masters is going to trap me into a profession that I am not sure of right now. Perhaps, I am fearful of the financial commitment of a masters.

Being a perfectionist doesn't help my decision making process at all. I want to make sure I am making the absolute best decision on this. I feel like in the past I have made rushed decisions based desire to please others and be comfortable. Now, I want to spend time looking into programs, comparing the benefits, looking to the future of what different licensure and degrees could result in later on.

Even after looking into programs, I still have lots of questions. These are some of the things I will be thinking about in the next couple of weeks.
1. Do I want to remain in the classroom forever, or can I see myself taking on formal leadership roles?
2. Of the people I work with, who can I talk to about different degrees and what sort of paths those lead down?
3. What areas do I feel like I need to gain more knowledge in or be challenged in?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Before a Break

What do you when the weather is changing or it's raining or snowing or doing something outside, or when you have a break of school coming up and all the kids are acting bananas? All this plus, you are expected to keep to a curriculum, prepare them for a state test and keep them entertained as well?

Do you throw up your arms and bury your head in your stacks of papers to grade? Do you pop in a movie and hope it keeps them quiet? Hand them a worksheet and read out of the book for two days straight? Or in my case try to fit it all in, plus an end of a quarter test?

I think we have all encountered those days when all the kids can talk about is the upcoming break, where you couldn't get them to concentrate if their life depended on it. Perhaps we are in the midst of those days now. Something I have to keep in mind during these times, especially with middle schoolers, is that these days are not indicative of all your days with these students. Just as I am antsy to get started with my Spring break, they are too, I am just able to disguise it better.

So a couple of ideas to tide us over.
1. Keep your lessons short and homework limited.
---- Use this time as a chance to have short reviews of concepts you have already talked about in the quarter. Choose a couple to do each day. Keep it short, like their attention spans at this time.
---- Short movie clips for discussion are great or to review concepts.

2. Give them an opportunity to get up and move around.
---- Even if you are just putting them in groups....use playing cards to match them up or use homogeneous grouping (same month of birthdays, same number of family members).
---- Some kind of physical activity will help them get the wiggles out.
---- Post big sheets of butcher block paper with terms or concepts on them around them room and have students rotate in groups writing everything they know about the concept.

3. Ketchup day
---- They will spend the first five minutes trying to figure out if you are going to give them fries.
---- As you are trying to make sure you have all the makeup work in, this will give those that have been gone ketchup. But make sure to plan a semi-entertaining activity for those that are finished with everything. Let them go to the library, or silently read.

4. Get creative.
---- Stick figure cartoons. Have each student draw a cartoon with no words they have them pass the papers to their neighbors and have the neighbors add the captions. You can give them a certain subject or topic to center around.

These are only a few of my ideas. What are yours?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Necessity of a weekend

Considering this is a blog I am starting towards the end of the year, I will mostly talk about what's going on in my classroom and the strategies that I am trying and revamping. I am a second year teacher in an urban middle school, teaching 7th grade English. I survived my 1st year with budget cuts and transition and am loving what I am doing. I find that a lot of my favorite resources and ideas come from other teachers that are working hard just like me. I am always looking for encouragement and motivation to love my students and work hard for them. I am starting this blog because I want to be able to do that for other young teachers starting out. I don't claim to know everything there is to know about teaching or education, but I am learning so much everyday and want to be able to share what I am learning and perhaps learn from others through this as well.

However, today is a Friday, and actually my birthday, so it was an interesting day. With all the snow days we have had this year I am pretty sure this is only the 3rd 5 day week we have had all semester. So.....I am exhausted.

As a teacher, we put in long hours at school and at home, grading papers, planning, meeting with teachers, administrators, and parents. We worry, we think about and talk about school for most of our week. However, as a 2nd year teacher I have found that my weekends are sacred, especially after long stressful or eventful weeks I am not likely to give up my Saturdays for anything. I probably am close to be a hermit sometimes because I want to rest and refresh. However, I find it is important to plan to spend time with friends on the weekends because during the week, I don't have time in the evenings to see them. Grading and planning for the next day usually take precedent during the week.

Here are some ideas of how to use your weekend to your advantage and help Mondays not hurt so bad!
- Don't do anything work related after you leave the school on Friday!
- Do something creative!
- Get physical...exercise get help you be energized for the next week!
- Be outside! When the weather is nice the fresh air can do so much for your attitude and mood.
- Eat a really good meal! Fix it at home and enjoy left overs or go out to your favorite restaurant.
- Library time! Read for fun and it's free!
- Take a nap! Use a free afternoon to rest and catch up from a busy week!
- Dance around a little! Nothing helps my mood more than my favorite song and a little craziness!

Hey teachers, What other things do love to do on your weekends?