School Week Round-Up: Week Seventeen

Only four more school days until winter break, only four more school days until winter break…

Lessons: Back to our AIR Test Prep Prompts this week. In many ways, kids are improving. Many third graders are starting to write multi-paragraph responses.

Support: So, there is the way technology works… and then there’s the way we expect it to work. The second one is a bit of an issue. A coworker brought her students to the computer lab at a time when I couldn’t also be there this week. She was frustrated at how long it took for the kids to log into their emails… because she thought our Mac desktops worked like our Chromebooks. I don’t know how to bridge this gap between reality and expectations, especially when expectations are often taken for granted and thus left unspoken. How do other people address this when it comes up in their workplace?

Things I Did Well: 
I was much more engaged in our  district Twitter chat this week and I think I was somewhat helpful to other teachers. The idea was that different folks would take turns share their teaching challenges, and everyone else would come up with ideas and resources to help. I really, really, really enjoy that idea, because so many of my slumps happen at times when I feel “tapped out” and unable to come up with creative solutions. And so often, when you ask for help, you either feel like you’re imposing or giving up or complaining. I hope we do that kind of chat again soon, and that more elementary level teachers participate. I would love to get some ideas for myself when it comes to teaching students about writing responses to passages they’ve read!

Things I Will Do Better: I fell behind with the grading of those AIR Test Prep Prompts again. I caught up with one grade level, one more grade level to go. If procrastination was an Olympic sport, I would medal.

Cold Prickly: “Cold Prickly” is not quite the right term for this, but I spent more time this week reflecting on Sandy Hook than I have since that day four years ago. It is a difficult subject to think about. I remember that actual week. I had a fifth grade reading class, and the students started asking about what to do if an intruder came into our classroom with a gun. I told them of the spaces we would hide, but they all imagined they would be tough and fight an intruder successfully, the way we all imagine we would if we were heroes in an action film.

I don’t know for sure how they would have reacted in that actual scenario. In fact, I’m not sure how I’d react. I know how I’d want to react, and I imagine sometimes the best course of action based on slightly different circumstances — where I am, where kids are, which kids are with me, what weapons an intruder might have, whether or not they were a stranger — it’s a weird rabbit hole I kept mentally revisiting.And that the easiest thing to hope for is also statistically the likeliest (that such a thing never happens) feels like a cop-out.

Warm FuzzyWe had our first snow day! Okay, so technically it was a “cold” day, since it was called more due to wind chill than accumulation. But I’m not complaining!

Also a first grade student gave me a Christmas present, which I don’t get as often as a homeroom teacher does. It should give a little insight into my actual teaching style that I’m not sure comes across in blog form.

I also dressed like a Christmas tree, because my reindeer sweater has electronic components and can’t be washed, so I have to let it air out for a few days between wearings. I’m a sense-maker like that.

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.