Check out some of the changes I went through from 2014-2015 in my previous entry. These middle schoolers aren’t the only ones going through changes!
In this episode: HIGHLIGHTS
- Behavior Management-The behavior problems I had this year didn’t even come close to the stuff I would have to deal with in the past. I had one student who was a bit too cool for school and wouldn’t always follow directions, but even she engaged in our class discussions. The kids generally did what you asked them to do. Behavior management was a huge stressor at Iduma. It was something that would keep me up at night thinking what I could do to solve a problem with a student.
- Planning- having a particular class every other day (instead of everyday) is awesome. Also not having to have 5 hours of plans ready to go everyday (and that was with half-days on Thursdays at Iduma. I can’t imagine going full days everyday). I loved having more than one section of a class, so I could modify the lesson as I went through the sections. Having so much more time made it less stressful since I didn’t have to try to complete everything at home
Teacher of the year
I wasn’t sure if Khabele even had a Teacher of the Year. They do. A middle school one and a high school one. The student council leaders are the ones who decide. It was a super big honor to receive it.
I anticipated quite a few of controlling parents before I came to Khabele. I figured parents who were paying a hefty dollar for their child’s education were going to have a lot of input on how they wanted things done. Wasn’t sure how much trust I’d receive or questioning of a child’s failing grade. I found nothing but supportive parents who were thankful for all I was doing. It helped that I sent out emails pretty regularly letting them know about what was going on. I also notified them and students when tests were graded and reminded them of what to do if they wanted to reassess.
I connect better with middle-schoolers than I do with elementary or high. I get along well with elementary school students but they aren’t old enough to really understand most of my humor. High schoolers have really become a bit too cool to be enthusiastic in school. My MS students got excited about assignments, AND I was able to share Arrested Development references. Several of them were actually super funny as well. It’s hard to rebuke an interruption in class when you’re cracking up. I was able to develop a few mentor type relationships as well.
I did develop a good relationship with a few high schoolers outside of the classroom environment, chatting with them during a shared off period. Perhaps if I actually had my own high school class, my feelings would change.
Project Week Documentary
This was my most professional documentary. I really enjoyed planning this and seeing it come together. I learned a lot about Adobe Premeire and Audition. Received positive feedback. It ended up provoking me into starting my own freelance mini-doc business. Currently making one for an inquiry-based math camp and start one for a tech camp next week. Starting the business also provoked me to try and get some voiceover work as well.
Working in downtown Austin
I always thought it’d be cool to work downtown in a big city. It is cool. I was able to take my advisory to go eat at the Whole Foods down the road a few times. One of our after school staff meetings turned into us going down to The Star Bar (2 blocks from school) and just hanging out. Having a constant free parking spot downtown is pretty invaluable too.
Glorified recess. They actually don’t want to call it PE but instead ‘middle school shared activity time’ or something like that. Only did this for the semester I didn’t teach robotics but loved it. Usually just planned the days events on the walk to the gym (located down the road at a community activity center). Played basketball, baseball, football, dodgeball, and a bunch of random tag games. Every Friday we would go to the nearby park instead of the gym. I’d be in my workout clothes at the end of the day which was more motivation to head to the gym on the way home. Got to connect with kids in a way that I wasn’t able to in the math class.
MS professional development
For half the year, our MS team meetings were mainly informative in nature (logistics of upcoming plans, things that needed to get done, discussion of students of concern, etc). After our MS principal went to a principals conference, he came back and wanted to create a meaningful PD experience. He started giving us articles to read over the week. The only ones we got through before the end of the year were passages on motivation and articles on character development. He’d ask us to come back with some insights or questions about the passages, and we’d spend our lunch hour discussing them. I started to really look forward to the meetings; I felt like a student again except this time I was actually doing the reading.
Starting to feel small successes in inquiry-based learning
I wrote a few blogs on this. Last year I had a completely ‘blended learning’ environment where students were watching videos, doing Khan Academy practice, and working on practice packets while I checked in with small groups. This year I tried something different. There were more whole class lessons instead of everyone off on their own, but the nature of those lessons changed. Much more ‘you, y’all, we’ instead of ‘Me, us, you’ order of doing things (you, y’all, we= students try something on their own first, then discuss with a partner, then discuss as a whole group).
Had some excellent discussions and a ton of positive feedback from the students on how they felt they really came out of the year enjoying math more than they ever had. I had students refuse help from me because they wanted to ‘learn through the struggle.’ Got to record a few of our discussions in class and blog about them. The more I learn about it, the more I realize how much left I have to learn, but that’s OK. It’s a process.
Feeling more successful in blogging and being connected
I was able to blog more this year than I have in years past. I think my writing is getting better, and I’m learning to be a bit more concise (or at least break up big ideas into more than one blog). I look forward to blogging. I like the creative outlet, the opportunity for reflection, and refining my writing voice.
The only thing about blogging is that unless you’re an incredible writer and people just find your blog, you have to do a ton of shameless self-promotion to get readers. It becomes a big game of ‘what time should I post on Twitter, who should I tag on Facebook, which community do I share with on Google+.’ I’m also not fond of the word blog. Turns out the original term was ‘weblog’ but some company did a play-on-words and said ‘we blog’ and then the term stuck. Maybe I’ll just call it my weblog.
Check out my next weblog: LOWLIGHTS