School Week Round-Up: Week Six

Only 149 days of school left!

LessonsThird grade is getting to a point where they’re figuring out how to be more independent, sometimes by necessity and sometimes because they are really motivated to. One class kept themselves so on task that they had ten free minutes at the end of the period. I put all the “time filler” activities into a Google Doc and put the Doc in the “About” section of their Google Classroom. So now whenever they have free time, they can go to the Doc and see what they’re permitted to do. The other class that did well this week did so out of necessity. I needed to finish a task for the principal and I didn’t have any prep time left, so I told students they needed to work as independently as possible and I would still help them if they really needed help. This, I really enjoyed. They didn’t get done in the same amount of time, but if I told one student a tip, they passed it along to other students who needed help. I think I should give them commendations next week of some kind.

Support: We have one of those approved vendor assessment systems to keep track of student growth measures in our district. The tech department has been trying to sync it with our online gradebooks. It’s the kind of thing that’s going to work so well once we actually work out all the kinks. But we’re still in the thick of things for the moment.  It’s going to be so rad, eventually.

Things I Did Well: I’m working hard to get my seating charts settled. This in and of itself hasn’t been a priority, but I need to do seating charts to make another task work. It’s a tedious task but I won’t procrastinate any longer! In case you were wondering why I didn’t have seating charts ready to go at the beginning of the year, it’s because out of 28 seats in my room, around five were at computers that were not functioning, or functioning so slowly that it would be cruel to force a child to use it. I also had some other routines I wanted kids to get used to first, like new and beautiful headphones, the optional cardboard privacy screens, and so on. Also, our school district has a lot of student movement, so rosters at the very start of the year are very rarely accurate. Finally, I took some advice I saw on Twitter about letting your students choose their seats first. That way you get a sense of who gravitates towards whom, for good and for ill. I realized after a couple weeks that some friends need to be separated, some kids need to be alone to focus, some kids need a buddy beside them that they can ask for some help. And rather than revise seating charts, I find it easier to go with the flow and then make them. And even then, I often have to adjust them on the fly, because one computer decides to freeze or something like that.

Things I Will Do Better: I’m continuously working to improve our school’s morning announcements. There are many ways they are imperfect. Last year students could run it very independently. We’re not there yet with this group. But I started doing pre-produced segments so it’s less of a panic in the mornings! We’ll see how it goes. If you want to check them out, click the link — I’m very open to feedback!

Cold Prickly: I needed to talk to a student about something and found her feeling the lowest she’s maybe ever felt at school. She told me she had just failed a test, and she’d never failed before. It was a speed test on the three times tables. Having known this child for a while, I know she’s very bright and one of those kids who is naturally good at school, and accustomed to success. So when she failed she took it really, really hard. I relate to that — I was a student who succeeded pretty naturally at school, and the first academic subject that brought me to tears was also multiplication. We’re trying to foster a growth mindset culture for our students, though, so I chose carefully what I said to comfort her. “So you didn’t do as well as you wanted to. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get it. It just means you don’t have it yet.”

Warm Fuzzy: I’ve allowed a colleague’s thirteen-year-old son to have some influence on my classroom decor. I like where he’s going with it. (Toriel would be so proud she’d make a butterscotch-cinnamon pie.)

Overthinking a Single Word

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The word is “some.”

So I put together the morning announcements for our school. I have the students read out different bits of information that I cobble together with some graphics and upload to Youtube. Some of the things, like the lunch menu, are pretty easy — just reading off a calendar. Other things are based on some limited student input; for example, one student reads a whole list of “on this day in history” type events, and selects the one she thinks is most relevant or interesting to include in the announcements. Yet other things will be, I hope, more controlled by students, but at this stage in the school year it is still largely my doing. The kids are only in third grade, and it is still only September.

One thing we have started including is current events. I don’t get to do a lot of social studies activities in the technology lab, so including current events in the morning announcements scratches an itch for me. I think it’s just also good literacy practice for a third grader to read an article and summarize it for first and second graders to hear. We go to sites like Dogo News, Time for Kids, and Scholastic News, find a recent article, and pick out what we think are the most important details.

So on Tuesday morning we acknowledged the presidential debate, because even if people are uncomfortable talking about the candidates themselves at school, I figured we should acknowledge that it happened. I mean, it was the most-watched presidential debate in history, or so my recent Google search has informed me. So I was congratulating myself for getting it out there, so that teachers and students who watched the morning announcements would have an opening to start a conversation about it.

Then came Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday morning I saw this Newela article about the NBA response to protests relating to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It did not say “Black Lives Matter” anywhere in the article, but it’s not hard to figure out they’re referring to it.

MIAMI, Fla. — For more than a year, there have been protests across the United States. People are angry because police officers have shot and killed African-American men. The protestors think the men should not have been shot. They think they were shot because of their skin color. They are protesting for fair treatment by the police.

I thought this was important to include in the news, but I hesitated. Firstly, it’s a heavy topic for kids. Many second graders are still reacting to their September 11th lessons in unexpected ways, like searching for photos of “the Twin Towers burning” when making an “About Me” slide in computer lab. Secondly, it’s a sensitive topic. I’m friends with colleagues and school parents on social media, and I can tell you that their opinions run the gamut from totally on-board to totally opposed, and many things in between. Many make no remark, and I cannot assume their reasons for that, either. On the other hand, the article takes a positive angle in pulling in the perspective of an NBA coach, using sports as a more comfortable lens through which to view the topic.

But I wanted to include it. But, to play it somewhat safe, I wanted to stick with facts.

So where the text originally stated, “People are angry because police officers have shot and killed African-American men,” I altered it slightly. Just an adjective. A simple four-letter word to the beginning of the sentence.

Some.

I have been thinking about it all day.

I regret adding it.

My thought, when adding it, was this. “People are angry” sounds like everybody is angry. But not everybody is angry. Therefore, only some people are angry. I didn’t want students to become confused over hearing something like “everybody is angry” when adults they know might not be angry. They might be indifferent. Or, adults they know might not be angry about police brutality, but rather angry or uncomfortable that the topic is part of a national conversation.

But “some” is a word that makes things smaller. “Some people” sounds a lot smaller than just “people.” And I realize now that “people” might sound like everybody, but it is not a synonym.

I realize now that I should not have changed it. That if students experienced and expressed confusion, those would be teachable moments. I didn’t want to defend myself against dissent. I feel now I was not brave enough.

I was only some brave.

And I need to do better.

Steven Universe and Mindfulness

Another post about cartoons. I swear, kids get all the good cartoons these days!

Mindfulness is a hot topic in education right now. I see it come up on Twitter a lot, and many of my teacher and principal friends share links about it on Facebook.

So I think it’s interesting to see this reflected in children’s entertainment as well. In a recent episode of Steven Universe, one character mentors another in the art of staying focused despite distracting thoughts, particularly ones that elicit negative emotional responses like regret, anger, and fear.

And now that I think about it, I doubt this is the only such example I can find in children’s entertainment. If I dug a little deeper, I’m sure I could find examples from PBS’s Sesame Street and Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.

It’s actually a pretty common thread for cartoons and kids’ shows to teach social and emotional lessons through narrative. But I don’t remember shows from my childhood doing quite as good a job with lessons that are otherwise difficult to put into words and on the screen.

My Little Pony and the Value of Feedback

We had another RESA meeting this week where our mentor led us in discussion of the difference between summarizing and reflecting. Ups to my colleague who nailed it, very succinctly.

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We got a little off track but had a good conversation on how our previous mentors (and some current administrators) are really good at giving feedback. Having a quality mentor teacher, we agreed, was crucial in the beginning of our career.

I even had an experience just in the past couple of weeks where a current admin dropped in at a time I was struggling with a particular child; she gave me a piece of advice and I tried it out. It worked then, and I mentioned that I would try it again when I next had that student. A few days after that, the admin followed up with me to see whether her advice continued to work — she was seeking feedback on her feedback.

Our current mentor had concern, because we were particularly praising mentors who knew what it was like in the classroom, our fellow teachers. She has been out of the classroom and in school administration for long enough that she was concerned her feedback wouldn’t be meaningful to us. “It’s not about time and distance,” I assured her, “It’s about perspective.

And then I further elucidated my point by citing an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Yes, in a professional meeting. Nerd alert on high.

6561441147In the tenth episode of the sixth season (I had to Google that), Applejack and Rarity try to enjoy some time at the spa, but service is backed up. Applejack investigates and discovers a small problem that the spa employees hadn’t noticed. Not only that, but in trying to resolve the issue, the spa employees were actually exacerbating it.

Rarity: Honestly, how in Equestria did it never occur to you to check for leaks?
Aloe: There’s just so many other things to worry about! I suppose ve get used to the vay things are, and we don’t realize there vas problem.
Rarity: You obviously need an outside eye to evaluate the situation.

Applejack insists on fixing the small problem (because she is a pony who has a toolbelt and she can operate tools despite having no fingers don’t question cartoons) despite using up the only bit of time she had to enjoy the spa.

Then they return to Applejack’s farm, where she left Twilight Sparkle in charge of feeding the pigs. (Why do herbivorous ponies raise pigs? Because it’s a cartoon). Despite having an hour, the job is not done. It turns out, the instructions Applejack left were long and overly complicated. She had gotten used to doing things a certain way without realizing her routine now contained inefficient, unnecessary steps.

Not only is this a helpful reminder to me for the next time I leave lesson plans for a substitute, it’s a helpful reminder in general. You can be someone who finds problems and comes up with solutions for others, while being unable to see your own problems and find your own solutions. Being open to feedback is one way I continue to grow as a teacher.

School Week Round-Up: Week Five

We’ve already had twenty-three days of school already?! Whaaaat!? Time really flies!

LessonsThe single hardest thing is only seeing kids only once a week. They get routines just fine, but it’s making it hard to get feedback back to students in a meaningful span of time. Even if I assess quickly, I might not get it back to them until the next week, because I can’t get back to twenty-odd kids in fifty minutes. And by then, it might not be relevant or memorable to them, depending on the context. I have got to figure something out here. And, this is a sort of “good” problem to have, because it means so many other things are going well enough that I can focus on this.

Support: We got progress reports sent out! And I only had to fix and reprint some of them! Amazing! (We switched to a new online gradebook last year. It was a steep learning curve. We’re getting better.)

Things I Did Well: I used to look at photos proud teachers posted of their beautiful classroom spaces with narrowed eyes. I devalued their hard work decorating, imagining to myself that they were focusing on the more frivolous parts of the job. Now, I think I was just jealous. Interior decoration is not my forte, professionally or personally. But instead of seeing those wonderful spaces and feeling jealous, now I look at those same spaces and think, “I can do that.” Or, at the very least, “I can try to do that, in my own way.” I obviously have limits in terms of the space I get to work within. But I’m actually trying now, and not just making excuses. My birthday calendar takes up an entire (huge) wall, and I recently got rugs to help with first grade dismissal. (It’s a process. Trust me that this makes sense.) I’m slowly working towards creating a space that I want to keep working in, and I hope students feel the same way about it.

Things I Will Do Better: I must find a better way to give meaningful feedback to students more immediately. I must, I must, I must.

Cold Prickly: One of the school buses was so late one day due to mechanical problems that a group of students who particularly like computers missed most of technology lab time. Luckily, we were able to schedule some make-up time later.
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Warm Fuzzy: Raider Buddies. That’s an old article, and also about a different school in our district. But the person who started the program at that school works at our building now, and brought the program with her. So this week, our school was extra filled with college football players, coming to eat lunch and enjoy recess with kids. One football player couldn’t find his second grade buddy, so I helped track him down in the nurse’s clinic. Turns out the kid had a terrible tummy ache because the kid who sat next to him at lunch had sour cream on his elbow. Elementary schoolchildren very are prone to mysterious ailments. Luckily, the cure was having a Raider Buddy. He made a miraculous recovery and was able to enjoy recess after all! The kids really like having Raider Buddies, because even if they don’t find a lot of common ground with them, it’s really amazing for them to be the focus of someone else’s attention in a completely positive light, even for a short time just once or twice a week.

I Have Complicated Feelings on the Pledge of Allegiance

Last Thursday, my spouse and I went to dinner with friends, and when our conversation touched on Colin Kaepernick, I asked this question:

“What do you guys think of the Pledge of Allegiance?”

I feel a little silly saying this: I had to muster some courage to ask my real question as a follow-up. What do you do with the Pledge of Allegiance, when you’re… just not that into it?

I have complicated feelings on the Pledge of Allegiance, as an American and separately, as an educator. This is a truth that goes back several years for me, well before Kaepernik took a knee; evem before I had a Jehovah’s Witness in my class. (Though, talking to a third grader who was very informed on her faith’s religious teachings was undoubtedly an experience that left a big impression on me.) My feelings are hard to put into words, and even then, I don’t know whether my experiences are relatable. I am not accustomed to talking about this.

I think my biggest fear is that this is a topic that people just… take for granted. That there’s only one obvious and correct thing, so why question it? I perceive that to doubt the Pledge out loud is risky business, so I usually keep my thoughts to myself. And I’m a person with relative privilege. If I’m afraid to bring it up, how must someone with much less power — a student, a child, a religious or racial minority — feel when they’re uncomfortable with ritualized nationalism?

So my heart swelled when I saw this on Twitter:

As an educator, I have complicated feelings on the Pledge of Allegiance. I’ve felt that way for several years now, and it’s always been something I’m very, very hesitant to talk about. So I am really looking forward to this Twitter chat tomorrow.

What do I hope to get out of the chat? Honestly, just a conversation would be great. I don’t feel like I want to be convinced to be pro-Pledge or anti-Pledge. I’m excited to hear perspectives different from my own, sharing points I have never thought of or considered. Hopefully maybe even some students will participate. I don’t want to come to a conclusion in my feelings, I wanted to be supported as I explore the topic.

I’m open to being persuaded — I don’t mind being wrong. I do fear being made to feel stupid or wrong or bad because I had asked the question to begin with.

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School Week Round-Up: Week Four

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LessonsStudents are getting into the routines! And it’s really helping! Most of the confusion has been where our routines differ from last year’s routines, but the more we practice new routines, the better we get at them. Also, on Wednesday morning a second grader asked me a really good question — I forget what the question was, exactly, but it inspired me to use more specific language. We use our usernames to log into the computer. Then we use our email addresses to log into Google Chrome. The first part of our email address is our username. The second part of our username is our domain name. I’m not expecting kids to absorb this right away (though some kids definitely are). But I think it helps to use accurate language in the computer lab when it really is aspecific topic. An email address is a username and a domain name. On the other hand, there are several ways to successfully navigate to Google Classroom. It’s like — it doesn’t matter if a kid walked to school, got dropped off by a parent, or rode the bus. We all got to school, it doesn’t matter how we got there. So in the tech lab, sometimes things are very precise. And sometimes we can be flexible and do things different ways. I think my goal is to emphasize precision in vocabulary, but flexibility in methods.Helped, of course, by ideas I’ve found via Twitter, such as color coding keyboard rows and login cards.

Support: The kids are getting better at new routines in the lab, and kids and teachers are all improving at routines outside the lab, as well! I don’t think I was called on for support so frequently this week. However, I did call for support with computers in the lab that were working so slowly that they were not good choices to use during a fifty-minute class period. Two of our tech folks came out and not only fixed all but one computer, but they showed me a few tricks I can try next time desktops operate crankily. (And the one they didn’t fix? They took it with them to see if it needed new hardware. So progress is still being made.)

Things I Did Well: I think I am doing pretty well with keeping consistent with my language choices between grade levels. In the past I was tempted to simplify things for first grade students — maybe to the point of oversimplifying. But over time I see that doesn’t help the kids as they move up to the next grade, and it certainly doesn’t help me that I need to reteach more than I would have needed to otherwise. So I’m trying to do a better job of it this year, because Future Me will appreciate it next year.

Things I Will Do Better: More than once this week I was late to something because I lost track of the time, or almost late to something for a similar reason. I wasn’t blindsided, because I had been told accurate information in advance. I just didn’t do a good job keeping on top of my own calendar this week. I will regroup and make an effort to do better on this next week.

Cold Prickly: I had another meeting about the RESA again (this time with my principal and superintendent). It was a cold prickly because, if I fail the Second Lesson Cycle again, it will affect my employment status. But it also was a warm fuzzy because the administrators really want to support me doing this, they do not want me to fail. We came up with some ideas about how they could support me without violating RESA submission guidelines. I feel really good about this, really. I just wish I weren’t in this situation to begin with.

Warm Fuzzy: Speaking of the RESA, I had to call their customer support. I had forgotten that I signed up with a personal email account, not my work one, so when I tried logging in with my work account, I got confused. I was further confused when I wasn’t receiving password reset emails. So I called their support number, and the patient person who answered the phone reminded me that I had used a personal email account. Oof! I was embarrassed and at the close of the call, I said, “I hope I’m the worst call you get all day!” And, no joke, this person responded, “It’s okay, I love you.” He said “I love you.” It’s a silly thing, and I think it was just a temporary lapse in professional etiquette you could blame on autopilot, but I’m taking it as a sign. RESA also really wants me to pass the RESA this year!

Christine Pinto’s Conditionally Formatted Login Cards… With a Twist

Login cards. My favorite thing! A couple years ago, that would have sounded sarcastic. But these days, I mean it sincerely! Really!

Every year I get better at making login cards. I learn what works in the lab, and what’s not worth the effort. At the start of the school year, I was very proud of the login cards I had made. And yet we’re just halfway through September, and I can already think of several things I will do differently for next year.

One of those things is making color coded conditionally formatted login cards — at least for our incoming first graders. It’s a brilliant idea, I think. Not only could I use them in the lab, I can share them out via Google to the first grade teachers, who could use them when they use Chromebooks in class.

But I only stumbled onto this idea this past Monday or Tuesday, and this was a week sorely lacking in spare time for me. So rather than recreate the login cards I made weeks ago, I just adapted the ones I already had.

20160916_163624First, I color-coded the rows on the keyboard with little highlighter-style stickies (I have Mac desktops in the lab, not Chromebooks). I had five different-colored stickies leftover from when I used to teach a reading class; we used them to highlight ‘sticky words’ in passages. I had green but did not use it, because once it was on the keys it looked very similar to yellow. Also, I trimmed them to be consistent in size only after a couple of days. When I left them long, they were easy to accidentally knock askew, loosening the adhesive. Hopefully now that they’re shorter, that won’t be the case.

Then, I took login cards that I had already made and went at them with wet erase markers. I didn’t want to use dry erase markers because I didn’t want the color to come off too easily. I also didn’t have dry erase markers that match the stickies’ colors. Here are sample photos of some login cards. Don’t worry, these aren’t real cards — they are ones I made typos on; neither of them is a student’s real username.

20160915_120018 “K” was in the yellow row, so I colored it yellow. “I” was in the orange row, so I colored it orange. “N” was in the blue row, so I colored it blue, then I patted it with my thumb a little to make sure you could still see the letter. “A” and “L”? Both in the yellow row. The numbers at the end are all in the pink row, but I didn’t have a pink marker — so I used red and then thumb-patted it a little, just like with the blue. Our usernames are entirely numerical, so I didn’t color-code those as they would all be the same color.

Because this was a little time-consuming, I only did first graders’ cards intentionally. I did do a couple of second and third graders’ cards, if they were struggling still. I also used the color code system to help them spell words. “‘M’ is in the blue row… ‘u’ is in the orange row… ‘s’ is in the yellow row… ‘i’ is in the orange row… ‘c’ is in the blue row.” When I did this for older students, I told them I was “practicing” for the first graders. But they adopted it, and I heard them guide each other to keys by telling their classmates which color row to look in.

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All in all it’s a very effective system. It’s particularly good at helping with similar-looking letters and numbers. For example, the number “1” and the letters “I” and “L” are all in different colored rows; confusion between them is collectively our single biggest obstacle to logging in successfully in the lab. At best it helps your kids adjust to a QWERTY keyboard, especially in a setting where they’re used to seeing letters in alphabetical order. At worst, I guess you can still figure out which students might be colorblind?

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I even added stickies to the finger-placement keyboard posters hanging around the room.

Update, September 27: Here is a short video showing this system in action. It may not be perfect, but it’s better than nothing, when we’re still getting used to the QWERTY keyboard!

Birthday Calendar for Over 300 Students

I’m in the middle of a project right now. I’m creating a birthday calendar in my classroom… that includes every student in my school. There are over three hundred students in my school, so this is a bit, uh, time-consuming.

I decided I wanted to do this on the first day of school. Not before the first day of school, which would have been convenient. I would have been able to spend hours on it before kids ever showed up. But I didn’t have the idea until I actually saw bodies in the seats.

So that’s one thing.

Another thing is that time always seems to be at a premium. We only have so much time in school to accomplish so much. Only nine months to meet all the standards. Only nine weeks in a quarter. Only five days in a week. Only seven and a half hours each day. Only fifty or ninety minutes for this lesson. And only fifty or so minutes to plan and prepare and grade and record and meet with your team in each day.

To summarize:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Ahem.

There’s a certain pressure to work quickly, get things done. Often, the tasks a teacher does are time-sensitive. Grades aren’t meaningful feedback unless they make it back to the student quickly. We need to meet to plan our lessons for the whole week. I need these copies for next period. I know this pressure isn’t exclusive to the teaching profession, either. There are many industries where working quickly is the norm. There are industries where working as fast as possible is the basis for that industry.

But me? Given a choice, I like to do things slowly.

can do things quickly. I just don’t like to. I get up early so I can wake up by lingering over a cup of coffee. When I don’t have other plans, I stay late and work at school, because then I don’t have to worry about when the next bell rings. I’ve taken to walking to school instead of driving as often as possible, because even though it takes five times longer, there’s something I just like about moving slow.

I would not do well in a rat race.

So I’m working on this birthday calendar. I wanted to display it for several reasons:

  • Once it was up, I could mostly leave it up, updating bits every so often. But not changing it entirely through seasons. This is valuable to me because I am not into seasonal decorations. Also, putting up decorations on walls in my lab is tricky business that usually involves being on top of the same tables as the computers. I usually wait until after school to do this because I don’t want kids to see me do something that they would get into so much trouble for doing themselves.
  • It would make it pretty easy for students and teachers to double-check birthdays pretty quickly, which is important in the lab because student birthdays are part of their usernames. (It’s a little shocking how many of our students don’t know their birthdays.)
  • It would make it pretty easy for students who help do morning announcements to check for birthdays, even if I’m not there.

I had started a version the first week of school. This is the version I originally had up:

This was the “good enough… for now” version. I wanted to get something up but I knew my idea was not perfect. But, knowing the way my creativity works, my idea would not be perfect unless I tried a version out first. I rarely have a great idea that works perfectly off the bat. I try something, I reflect on it, and I revise it. I frequently need to test drive an idea to see what works and what doesn’t. This is not something I like about the “fast as possible” pace I sometimes fall into. When you’re trying to work as fast as possible all the time, reflection gets skipped and revision suffers for it.

Anyway.

My original birthday calendar had all 12 months, birthdays represented vertically underneath. I didn’t want to do calendar-style posters because I did not want to buy 12 posters, nor did I want to make them. I instead hand-wrote student names (first name and last initial), birthdays, and homeroom teachers on little index card-sized slips I had printed out, then cut.

You’ll notice that there’s not a lot of uniformity in how I arranged them. That was admittedly a rush job. I put the birthdays in chronological order, with the ones early in the month at the top and the ones late in the month at the bottom. I intentionally left spaces and gaps based on days skipped. I also wanted there to be room to add more students in when kids inevitably transfer in during the school year. (Similarly, I wanted them to be easy to remove, if students moved away. We have a fair bit of this in our district.)

But the arrangement wasn’t very informative, graphically, though I did try to arrange them with some sort of… artiness. So quickly after that version went up, I decided to start working on a new version. First, I created a birthday spreadsheet. This was actually pretty easy, since I already had access to student usernames… and since birthdays are part of student usernames, I also had access to student birthdays. And a spreadsheet is something I could work on in short bursts over several days without losing momentum.

Working on a tedious, repetitive spreadsheet is a little like taking a shower. It’s a monotonous task during which your conscious brain can coast on autopilot, freeing your unconscious mind up for some creative flashes. While working on that spreadsheet, my brain stormed, trying to decide the best way to display birthday information in a way that was meaningful to students.

For some reason the phrase “frequency table” popped into my head. I didn’t quite remember what that was, so I looked it up. It was not a good fit for my graph. But it did lead me to dot plots, which then led me to line plots. A line plot! This is something I know comes up in our math curriculum!

So I decided to make a sort of line plot for each month. It wouldn’t be exactly like a classic line plot should look, but it would convey the information in a way that was easily understood. I went to Teachers Pay Teachers and found some label templates I didn’t hate. (Perhaps I hate decorative talent because I do not possess any decorative talent. The green-eyed monster mocks the meat it feeds on.)

I printed, I laminated, and I used the paper cutter. I used only one prep period to do this, but only because I stayed several hours late last Thursday and Friday working on this as well. Even then, I actually only have finished up through June. I intend to get July through December up this week, hopefully Monday and Tuesday.

But I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done so far.

I printed out color-coded month name labels. I printed out black and white numbers for dates (there were many more of those, I didn’t think they needed to be in color). I used a yardstick to help me measure and align these directly onto the wall. The yardstick was light enough that I even stuck it to the wall as I worked. Once I got all the dates in the month up, I filled in all the birthdays.

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January

So check out January. There are several dates in January with no birthdays at all. But some dates, such as the 28th, have multiple birthdays. You can’t quite see it in this photo, but the slips all give the same information my handwritten versions did: stu20160909_180815dents’ first names and last initials, birthdays, and homeroom teachers. The only thing I would change about them at this point is, I would have made the font bold so it was easier to read from further away.

The template I used was one with ten labels per page, so the birthday slips were about one inch tall. So I left about five inches of space between rows of dates. This is because, when I consulted my spreadsheet, the date with the most birthdays (out of all 366 possible days) had five student birthdays on it. So congratulations to you, April 22nd! Visualizing data is fun.

So, I think this is much more interesting, and useful. It doesn’t look like a line plot, but students could use this calendar to create their own line plots. This, in addition to being able to quickly find their own birthday (for their username) or current birthdays (for morning announcements). It leaves room for adding new students (as long as they weren’t born on April 22nd!). I can also pretty easily remove students who leave without needing to shift other days on the calendar.

School Week Round-Up: Week Three

LessonsOne of the advantages of being a “specials” teacher is repeat performances. My schedule is such that I see every class in the school once per week for approximately fifty minutes. I teach one class of each grade per day. Usually (but not always) I teach the same or similar lesson to an entire grade level. So by the fourth or fifth time through, I really have it down pat. Makes me feel sorry for the kids who get that lesson first, though, because my fear is they’re not getting my best version, and that’s not fair. I need to figure out how to do better.

Support: There was one day this week where I was on the brink of turning into a puddle like Larisa Oleynik in The Secret World of Alex Mack if another person said to me, “Can I just ask you a favor…?” But that was only because I heard that phrase quite a lot in a surprisingly short span of time. It was just one of those days, when the printers jam so hard you think they ought to play roller derby, but your schedule is already booked with diagnostic testing.
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But it made me really appreciate that I have coworkers who schedule things in advance when they can, and take initiative in asking for help, and are very descriptive when describing tech issues. I am also very grateful for the gentleman we call in to fix our multi-function printers when their issues are outside of my ability to fix!

Things I Did Well: I’m trying to foster some growth mindset in the computer lab. I reflected on how I’ve previously said that computer lab is a lot of training before we can get to the learning, and I wondered how to make the training part more transferable. So when I give a set of directions, I am trying to leave room for what the kids know or figure out along the way. For example, there are multiple ways to get to a particular website: you can type the address into the URL bar; you can use a search engine. You can type on the keyboard, you can use the microphone and dictate.You can use auto-complete, even, if you’re careful about it. And when kids make mistakes and end up in the wrong place, it’s not the end of the world. We can learn what to do so when we make a mistake again, we know how to fix it. One student in a class accidentally directed Chrome to ciassroom.googie.com (typing i’s instead of l’s) and a classmate made the same mistake fewer than five minutes later. So I sent her to advise him, since she had just learned what to do!

Things I Will Do Better: I will try a little better on the home front, actually. I am rocking it so hard at work (or at least trying to) that when I come home I turn into Himouto! Umaru-chan. I think maaaaybe that’s getting to be a bit much for my partner. I cannot remember the last time I cooked, did the dishes, or cleaned the bathroom. I can remember the last time I vacuumed, but only because it was before we got married, almost three and a half years ago.

Cold Prickly: We had a meeting about retaking the RESA (because I failed the Second Lesson Cycle task). Counts a cold prickly because, as a human, I psychologically recoil from being reminded of my shortcomings. I have to pass the RESA this year or else I have to retake coursework. Or, I could just become a yam farmer. First order of business would be learning the difference between a yam and a sweet potato, once and for all!

Warm Fuzzy: A new student gave me a big hug on his way to the bus yesterday and said, “I love school!” The feeling that gives you? That’s the high every teacher is constantly chasing.