teaching

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An End, and a Beginning

Posted by on 03 Sep 2016 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, education, Education Professional, good things, teaching, Uncategorized

The summer was not “as advertised” this year. I remained ill for another few weeks, though we had a lovely visit with my grandfather in Ashland at the end of July and saw several plays (LOVED LOVED LOVED Richard II!!!). Was too exhausted, though, to try for the second silk painting session. Hoping for at least one this autumn, though!

August arrived, and my heart and brain went quickly into teaching mode. Tom took an extra week off that second week of August to help around the house and the classroom. By the end of the third week of August, the classroom was mostly in shape, and in the fourth week it was official training and a couple extra days… so that by the time the kids and parents arrived at 5:30 August 30 the room looked ready enough.

Kids in seats on August 31. By 2:43 on September 2, the room was already showing evidence of engagement and learning. I have a WONDERFUL paraeducator who comes in for 45 minutes in the afternoon to help with literacy and reading, and while we haven’t yet met to decide which few students need intensive pull-out instruction, with the in-class help every day, very few of them will have to leave. I am so happy in my teacher-heart that I will have most of them all the time!

Proof? Check out below!

A look toward the door to the restrooms.  The number chart goes up when needed, but will be stored flat for a few weeks.

A look toward the door to the restrooms. The number chart goes up when needed, but will be stored flat for a few weeks.

The reading table on Friday-- materials to sort, collate, cut, copy, and use next week!

The reading table on Friday– materials to sort, collate, cut, copy, and use next week!

All ready for Tuesday!

All ready for Tuesday!

The students use these to show something about themselves as we are learning about the new year.  Three pictures, and one word!

The students use these to show something about themselves as we are learning about the new year. Three pictures, and one word!

The purple "windsock" was a gift from a student on the second day of school!  The empty paper panels on a pulley system! will hold student work and anchor charts.

The purple “windsock” was a gift from a student on the second day of school! The empty paper panels on a pulley system! will hold student work and anchor charts.

The I-charts are a suggestion from the "Two Sisters" framework for Daily 5 and CAFE instruction.  They allow students to consider behaviors and purposes for studying in specific situations.  These are our first two.

The I-charts are a suggestion from the “Two Sisters” framework for Daily 5 and CAFE instruction. They allow students to consider behaviors and purposes for studying in specific situations. These are our first two.

Long silence but not low effort

Posted by on 29 Nov 2014 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, 3rd grade, education, Education Professional, teaching, Uncategorized

This school year has, predictably, been a time of extreme effort on my part. I rarely have time to just sit and enjoy fun things, when I do sit I am usually working on a small present or reading the news.

I feel inadequate most days, knowing that there are so many more strategies I could be using, so many more data points I could be tracking, so many other things I could be teaching. I keep telling myself, “next year,” as if that means that this year’s inadequacies are somehow understandable and therefore I should stop worrying. Each day I go in, I teach the best I know, I learn more about these particular students and this grade level’s expectations and abilities, and I fit more pieces into the teaching puzzle.

“Next year” has a reassuring ring to it — I work so hard to try to meet the needs of all the children (24 at the moment, but up to 25 again soon I expect), and I am seeing progress. But I don’t see as much progress as I would like, I don’t know how many missed opportunities I have, and about once a week I have a moment when one student or another clearly doesn’t get what he or she needs. Next year I think that I will be able to predict many things and spot many things, and prepare in advance for many things (truth be told, a lot of the preparations from this year will serve for next year).

In the moment, I respond appropriately and catch many misconceptions, I predict what kids will need in advance most of the time, and my explanations are making sense to my students. We have a couple of long-term projects underway, and I am feeling comfortable modifying those as needed. Usually I overestimate their readiness and understanding of concepts and have to go back and fill in. But I am getting better at figuring things out quickly so we don’t waste too much time!

And one last niggling teaching issue I have been struggling with is balancing the good of the whole class with the excursions of individual students to specialists, not at the same time or for the same purposes. I cannot fill in the gaps for all of them, so have finally made the decision to stop trying. I will provide some students with less instruction in the “exploratory” instruction for this grade level, such as science and social studies. This saddens me because I think all students need to learn in a wholistic manner — but I have a responsibility to make sure that the most essential learning is taught. Perhaps next year I can figure out a way to incorporate everything.

Next year. Always next year. Next year I will be more knowledgeable. Next year I will be more organized. Next year I will be more prepared. Next year…

It’s good to think about a “next year” and so I will continue to give this year my all, knowing that these children are teaching me far more than I am teaching them.

Ready for Customers!

Posted by on 01 Sep 2014 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, 3rd grade, teaching, Uncategorized

I think of my students as my clients, or customers. I provide a service. They benefit from my instruction (although as with a dentist it isn’t always “fun”) and I have a purpose.

Here is the view looking toward the front of the room as I got ready to leave today. Student desks lined up, names on cubbies and books and folders…

The front of the room...  the large map will disappear at some point, we don't use it at this grade level.

The front of the room… the large map will disappear at some point, we don’t use it at this grade level.

And the beginnings of the calendar. The students will be coloring stars tomorrow as part of a math lesson on patterns and then the stars will be the background for the calendar days this year. I will laminate the calendar after we get the stars up. I will also put days of the week on the calendar, trying to decide how best to do that.

The beautiful stars are courtesy Tabitha and Grant, more to come from the students!

The beautiful stars are courtesy Tabitha and Grant, more to come from the students!

So, we are ready. Or, ready enough. I have subbed so often that even if we get derailed I should be able to move us along. This should be a truly grand adventure!

Making Progress

Posted by on 30 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, 3rd grade, teaching, Uncategorized

The classroom as I left it this afternoon about 1…

desks in appropriate rows, space in front for "floor time" space in the back to add computers, space for a small-group table...  and I know where the materials for the first couple of units are!

desks in appropriate rows, space in front for “floor time” space in the back to add computers, space for a small-group table… and I know where the materials for the first couple of units are!

I have things cleaned, I have things (roughly) organized.

I have also planned the first day (need to get the materials pulled together).

I am ready for tomorrow! And almost ready for the first day of school.

Preliminary Progress

Posted by on 27 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, good things, teaching, Uncategorized

One pic, as the room looked late this afternoon…

IMG_3134.JPG

A full week teaching!

Posted by on 15 Sep 2013 | Tagged as: children, education, Education Professional, Family Matters, fun, Gardens and Life, good things, house building, Kid Activities, seasons, teaching, Uncategorized

I am still having pretty much the time of my life with the 7th and 8th graders I get to work with. There are plenty of things that are confusing, but I have so much support that I only have to ask a question (or if I have to fix things retroactively) and I get all the help I need. It’s a wonderful “nursery” for a new teacher.

And the students I have are quirky, interesting, energetic, and good-hearted. I have really lucked out with this assignment. Although I have a “full house” in my Language Arts class (30 students! – no room for more desks) I am having so much fun learning about them, thinking of ways to help them and challenge them, and I wake up smiling (most days) just thinking about going in.

And I go in earlier than I have to, most days — I don’t officially have kids until 4th period and could put off going in until partway through 3rd period — but as a morning person anyway I get up with Tom and go in early. So I am there early enough in the morning that I can see some of the other teachers (I catch one mentor-type at 1st period planning and another mentor-type at 2nd period) and then get a tutorial on anything I want help with for my students by sitting in on a master teacher’s 3rd period… (I get the room immediately after her kids leave).

It’s like a nice, soft cocoon where I can grow the wings I need for my next teaching assignment.

This week, we do some benchmark testing, establish regular routines and talk a little bit about setting personal goals for literacy. I am going to try a modified model akin to that of the “Two Sisters” whose workshop I attended in June. It won’t be as smooth or elegant as their approach, but I already see how I can incorporate some of their ideas in the well-rounded curriculum already established in this school.

And Matthew starts at Western this week (moves in to the dorms) and both boys start their classes in another week (Matthew as a junior, Grant as a freshman (H.S. senior)). Tom goes off to a college reunion in Walla Walla at the end of that week. I will be pretty busy by then just trying to keep up with my workload.

And then, of course, the house…

Buckle up, folks, it’s going to be a fast, fun year!

The first week…

Posted by on 06 Sep 2013 | Tagged as: good things, teaching, Uncategorized

I don’t have the energy to talk about everything, but after 6 FULL days of preparation, this is what the classroom looked like Tuesday evening.

My educational home for the next 9 months.   Before students arrive.   My desk is the one by the window (you can see me standing  behind it), and my roommate's desk is on the right.  I like sharing this space with this teacher.  We get along so well, even though we have very different teaching styles.

My educational home for the next 9 months. Before students arrive. My desk is the one by the window (you can see me standing behind it), and my roommate’s desk is on the right. I like sharing this space with this teacher. We get along so well, even though we have very different teaching styles.

And, after three days it still looks pretty much the same. Next week, we’ll start some really important learning — educational tasks but not very much new yet. For now, we are still evaluating the students and figuring out what they need from us as teachers. It’s a lot of work, and it’s very very fun.

This is a GOOD place to be!

RADIANT HEAT!!!

Posted by on 27 Aug 2013 | Tagged as: Education Professional, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, house building, school, teaching, Uncategorized

This was today’s “reveal” —

Moving up the driveway:

Murphy, learning who has been visiting "his" yard.

Murphy, learning who has been visiting “his” yard.

(Murphy is Mother’s dog!)
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Stepping Forward, Stepping Back: The dance of change

Posted by on 11 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, hope, house building, housefire, Learning Styles, musings, teaching, Uncategorized

In the wake of the fire, Tom and I are still working on finding equilibrium. The size of the apartment, the distance from my gardens, the lack of comfortable space and privacy, the noises of the city — and our neighbors — all conspire against the comfortable routines and patterns we used to have. He continues to focus on his work though without the long drive or the need to get up early to help Grant go to zero hour he has a lot more time on his hands. I focus on trying to make sense of the house plans and what we need to look at and learn about the systems and design decisions, and wish I had teaching to help me focus my energies on things other than our situation. We no longer need to think about or worry much about what Grant is up to — he will be a senior in high school and a college freshman this coming year, so he makes most of his own scheduling and activity decisions. We no longer have much to do in the yard, the garden; I have no real space to “do art”… and with our free time we aren’t yet settled in to expectations. And there are moments of extreme activity around house decisions, cleaning up items we salvaged and maintaining the apartment, followed by times when we are adrift.

It seems that some (most?) days we are caught up in a tango — step this way slowly, that way quickly, spin, reverse, proceed. Not necessarily in that order. We are stumbling along, trying to match our moves to the wild and varied rhythms of the band. It’s a metaphor that rings true, particularly since I never mastered the tango, and as far as I know Tom hasn’t ever learned the basic steps. Our lives right now are pretty clumsy. Our communication is rudimentary, and so we lack coordination of effort and focus. When dancing, once the basic pattern is mastered, there are logical sequences of steps and moves that follow; all in time to the music. In life, it is rarely that smooth; right now it is as disjointed as dancing the tango to a jitterbug tune.

One of the ideas that was prevalent in the teaching program was that learning is hard work. That what you thought you knew is challenged with each new fact, process or idea. The “newness” of the learning not only makes the current tasks difficult, it muddles the previously mastered tasks and renders any fluency, any panache, impossible. The learner stumbles, and sometimes fails outright.

Although I was once an admin assistant (and a pretty good one), all my training went by the wayside as an onslaught of emotions, immediate needs and demands from many quarters descended. Paperwork was misplaced or outright lost. Deadlines were missed. Opportunities overlooked. The many people we were supposed to talk to and work with, the coordination of who to talk to (and when) and who else needs the same information… It was too much, too fast, too overwhelming.

Stumbling. It all gets sorted out eventually, I suppose, but we are definitely not there yet.

Today, a moment of rest between sets. The band is silent, at least for the time being. The furniture is in the apartment and set up. Once the recycling truck takes the bins away, I can move some of the packing materials out of the office. I will put the cardboard in my van and take it to the house today, store it in the carport and use it in a little bit to make barriers around plants and along paths. I will have coffee with mother, lunch with a friend, a visit with another friend…

Tom will go to work, come home in the evening. We will have supper, watch some television. He will play some video games or work on his computer, and I will play my online game and interrupt him periodically with comments or thoughts that pop into my head.

In the background, we will be thinking about the next steps. Do we push for the contractor to move ahead, call the bank about the appraiser’s decision, work on making lists of items that we need to start looking for on sale so we can be ready with everything once the house is done?

What is happening with the music? Was that one beat, or two? Which direction should we move to keep from crashing into other dancers on the floor? Oops, sorry, that was your foot, wasn’t it?

Micro-Literature, revisited

Posted by on 29 May 2013 | Tagged as: Education Professional, Gardens and Life, good things, teaching, Uncategorized

I needed a holding place for the thinking I am doing for an interview tomorrow. Did I mention I have a job interview? Exciting stuff! I chose to go with an old stand-by lesson, the same one in fact that spurred me into action 5 years ago. The one that convinced me middle schoolers were my destiny…

Creative writing, micro-lit style!

The original unit, which I cannot find easily (I am on the third computer since that time and my earlier backups are not currently accessible), included some poetry, some writing to prompts, and some free writing as well as this lesson on “Twit Lit.”

This was the first year that I didn’t have a chance to use the lesson, so it felt good to pull it out and rework it.

I am still reworking it, and nearing 11 pm… adrenaline will do that for a person!

I have a haiku deck presentation that is loaded online, a re-written lesson plan, a new rubric, pre-writing worksheets and a final draft sheet. I am re-using the original example sheet. There is only so much I can do!

What else have I done? I have looked at the district’s interpretation of state standards, and the scope and sequence that were available online. I have thought about the way that kids at this age walk through their days and considered the way that they learn. I have reviewed the work I have done with students in the adjacent grades. And I have been running my brain around in circles. It is time to say it is “good enough” and iron my clothes for tomorrow.

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