Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Self Care at Year's Start

The start of the school year rushes across campus with schedules and syllabi, forms to sign and surveys to complete. We are in our second week. Students' schedules are settling down. We set up our journals.  We numbered pages. We set up table of a contents. We flagged a section for vocabulary and today we got to work talking about textual evidence.

From left: Me, Jackie, Beth from Seeking Six and Craig.
I am lucky to work with friends.

I love the start of a the school year. The faculty photo, the "Where I'm From" poems, the sentence surveys, the initial writing samples, new school supplies and shiny faces. There is a lot of energy at the start of the year. Sometimes the year's start can be stressful. Change is stressful. We have a new high-stakes assessment, new standards, new textbooks.  We have a new building on our campus too and are at the first third of a thirty-month renovation. We are running up the learning curve and practicing flexibility.  How do you take care of yourself so that you can be at your best for students?

Here are a few things I have been thinking about:

  • Eat and exercise. Teachers at my high school have to report to school at 7 a.m., but many arrive early. We don't always eat breakfast before our o'dark thirty departure time. Eat breakfast. Before you leave the house or in the car, or at school. Make time to eat. You need the energy. At the end of the day, you might need to burn off some of that energy. Take a walk. Skate. Jump on a trampoline. Figure out an exercise routine that you can do for free--you'll feel better, stronger and calmer in the classroom.
  • Stock a few favorite snacks in the classroom. Apples and peanut butter, microwave popcorn, Greek yogurt or individual servings of cottage cheese: grab and go. Eat while you supervise during passing time to keep your energy up.
  • Cook meals ahead and bring several days worth of lunch at week's start. Sundays are all about chopping salad veges and grilling chicken. It makes for an easy throw together dinner during the week--add rice or pasta or a potato and even the teen boy in our house is satisfied.
  • Do what makes you happy. I love to read. I love to eat ice cream too, but reading is better for me. Reading relaxes me. There is something magical about curling up on the couch, I escape when I enter into story.
 Can you offer advice to new teachers? I'd love to hear how you take care of yourself at the start of the year.

Hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers, link up your Slice of Life 
on Tuesdays throughout the year. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Learners Thrive

Our family took the 700 year tour Mesa Verde this summer. Our guide, Ruth, whose grandparents homesteaded nearby, recounted an amazing history from pit homes to cliff dwellings. On the stairs down to Cliff Palace, I turned my ankle on a rock. I stumbled. Before I could even call out, an arm grabbed me and pulled me close to  the cliff wall.  It was a woman my Mom's age.  We gasped. Disaster avoided. She said, "can you just imagine raising children here?" We peered over the edge in wonder.

I imagine that Ancestral Puebloan children learned quickly to stay away from canyon's edge.  To survive they had to learn. I imagine they learned to build, to hunt, to read weather signs,  to grow, to store, to grind and to cook. They had to learn about their environment, about edible plants (yucca, juniper berries, wild carrot, pinon nuts) and water sources.

It seems as if we teachers needs to learn too if we are to do more than survive the current educational landscape. Learning helps me thrive and my favorite place to learn is Twitter. On Twitter I can dip into a rich resource stream and fish for ideas--plenty to feed my curiosity or calm my teacher angst on any give nday. Meenoo Rami, founder of #engchat and author of Thrive, describes Twitter as the place that helped her feel not alone. The Twitter flock lifts me up on days that are hard and inspires me to learn, investigate and grow. When I participate or host a chat on twitter, I feel surrounded by encouragement.  I love to learn and I learn best in community. Like the woman who pulled me back from the cliff's edge at  Mesa Verde, my teacher friends and virtual colleagues on Twitter pull be back from feeling overwhelmed at the start of a new school year.

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to host #nctechat with Karen Terlecky. Our topic, Building Classroom Community. Karen and I planned ahead. We noted resources we wanted to share and crafted questions together. It was great fun talking and planning with Karen.  Twitter chats can be a whirlwind, but boy is it fun sharing the energy of our ideas. I hope you can take some time to do just that this month.

If you missed the chat Sunday and would like to slip into the story and skim the resources shared, find the archive by @NCTEStory  here

Happy new school year! I hope you have a great start.

Lee Ann

Hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers, link up your Slice of Life 
on Tuesdays throughout the year. 

Works Cited

Rami, Meenoo. Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2013.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Reigns

The bell will ring at 7:15. I will stand on the third step of concrete stairs that leads into the trailer (portable) that is my classroom. It will be the last year for our portable classroom as renovations at school will eliminate most of the trailers that serve more than three thousand high school students. It will be the beginning of the end for the class of 2015. The beginning of the end for portable twenty-nine.

At 7:15 a.m. I will be standing on the top step, door open. I will smile into the sunrise, answer questions about room locations and survey the changing landscape.

Students will stream down side walks in cargo shorts and Hollister tees, a sea of blue denim. Pocketing cell phones or checking screens, tenth graders will walk tall. Freshmen will clutch maps and wander. Juniors will appear the most serious, eyes set on the beaming senior horizon. We will all trek to the media center to check out our new textbooks.

School starts in less than month.

Students will arrive on campus clutching copies of their schedules. Creased and folded, yellow or blue. Color-coded to reflect changes, schedules will be palmed and peeked at, shared and shown. Students will high-five, nudge, back-pat, grin and cajole as they crowd the sidewalks to class.

School starts in less than a month. For now, summer reigns. Summer is made of watermelon,  blue skies, road trips, and swimming. Summer is sleeping in sweet.

Soon enough school will start.Teachers have begun to meet in planning groups: a day here and there. We talk standards and routines and textbooks and assessment. We have a new test and new textbooks, new demands to meet and students to prepare.

I've been thinking about how I'd like the year to go and how to kick start our classroom community. Because though I am beginning with the end in mind (we have a new state assessment) , community must come first. I'm browsing my favorite team building books (Quicksilver, Duct Tape Team Building, 50 Digital Team Building Games) and sites like Wilderdom and PinterestI'm thinking about how we can use reading and writing to connect to each other during our first week together and how or when we can reach out to other classrooms. I 'm thinking about how YouTubers at VidCon build community  and what Hank Green said when I asked a questions during the community panel. Hank reminded me to give students responsibilities, to ask them for help solving problems. His response to my question reminded me to involve students in the meaningful work that needs doing and in the fun curiosity creates; both build community, sometimes more than hula hoops and human knots.

I want our first days to fill with story and sharing and  laughter. I want students to feel welcome. I want them to feel connected and cared about but also challenged and ready for the work ahead. I want to seed purpose and watch it grow across standards and strands.

What will students want? What will teachers? What will administrators?  That's what I'm thinking about as I count down the days until school starts.

Hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers, link up your Slice of Life 
on Tuesdays throughout the year.