May 28, 2012

Stupid Memorial Day

I love and hate Memorial Day.

First of all, let me say that I am so grateful for servicemen that this holiday celebrates. My feelings for this holiday have nothing to do with its true purpose.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, right? Warm weather, barbecues, sun, and fun. As a teacher, summer is even more than that. Summer means no work less work. Wahoo!

Only...wait...I still have two weeks of work until my definition of summer begins.

Every year, it's the same story. I am so thankful when Memorial Day rolls around because it has been a long time since Spring Break, and I am just tired. It is always a blissful weekend of relaxation. This Memorial Day, I had absolutely no papers to grade, and no lesson planning to do. I read 2 books, hung out with my family, and also had time for some friends, too. has been good!

As I was sitting on the patio this evening, after a delicious beer butt chicken dinner, I lamented to a friend that my mind and body are already of summer break, but I still have 9 days of work. Nine days of final projects, reviews, final exams, packing up my classroom for summer storage, cleaning up a year's worth of memories and learning, and worst of all, 8 of those nine days include restless students whose mind and bodies have told them it's time for summer, too.

Stupid Memorial Day. Such a damn tease for what life can be like if I can endure just a few more days.

May 26, 2012

New Adventures?

It was almost a week ago that I chided myself for not writing more often. I decided that because there are so many changes coming my way that this would be a good time to pick up the old blog again. Do people even blog still, or do I really need to do something more cutting edge? I see in my feeds that some of my old friends are still writing away, so that is a good sign!

Next year, there will be exciting changes at my school. Some good...some bad...all potential for new adventures I've told myself.
  • Our school was chosen to do a 1:1 iPad program. Very cool, right? We used to have a 1:1 laptop program in our magnet program, but my entire school is not magnet, so it was a little different. This is school-wide. I've had mixed feelings about this all along, and a few years ago, I struggled with its use in the classroom and decided that since it was a such a personal device, it was hard to use just one in the classroom. I have tried it a few times with my low-level ELL high school students, but it is difficult to find apps that are appropriate to their maturity. My trepidation this time relates back to my experiences with our 1:1 laptop program, when in reflection, I realized that we have to be careful that we are not using technology to novelty's sake but as a tool to help students learn. For example, students are often so obsessed with the product of their project--like how cool it looks--that they skimp on the content and quality. Or, what about administrators hound us to use certain programs that are not more effective than what I have to offer as a teacher? I know how to deal with the students, but the administrators are trickier for sure! I have already been exploring, and I have district training this summer, so the adventure has already begun!
  • I made it through one year of Common Core Standards. It was pretty "exciting" last fall when it was dumped out our laps, along with a new district website where we were mandated to do our lesson planning. I kind of blew it off, as we have gone through several years of new and revised standards, and in the end I was always teaching English. My administrator claimed that these new standards would help us align more to IB standards. Since I have been complaining for years how complicated it is to align IB ideals with testing mania standards, I really wanted to believe her. So how did it all work out? I still do not understand the hype, but it has been easier working with these standards than some that have come before.
  • I'm still excited about IB. Although, I've been teaching in an IB program for years, it is a complicated program to use in a public school obsessed with testing. Some years I really tried, but I was ill-prepared and floundering alone. This year we had a theme coordinator who was out of her classroom for half the day to assist us, and we really focused on assessments. I was one of the few in my department--and maybe across the school--who was using IB assessment, but then after I attended specific training on it last spring, it really had to walk the walk. Between that at CCSS, things have been pretty rigorous in my classroom, and that is the way I like it! I'm looking forward to refining next year. I drink the IB kool-aid. Might as well enjoy it.
  • We are losing so many teachers next year, and I'm so bummed. We are slated to lose 7 positions at our school, but half of those were unfilled from last year anyway. No, I'm losing dear friends, and it will change the dynamics the 8th grade and of our school. In the 8th grade, we are losing our algebra teacher of 5 years (leaving education entirely...) and our department chair, the one of who had a way with the way-ward pre-algebra students and who had been at our school longer than anyone, passed away suddenly from a heart attack two weeks ago. We had another strong algebra teacher come in this year, and I am sad to see him go, too. It's hard to find math teachers, and it is especially difficult to find secondary math teachers who want to teach middle school. Our science department is similarly decimated, but 7th grade is mostly affected, as all the 7th grade teachers are moving on to other things. One of our 8th grade teachers, and a leader on our 8th grade team, is moving down to fill one of the positions. Our foreign language department has been wonky for a few years, and last year we lost our long-time French teacher who had been a real team player. The Spanish teacher, who has been around longer than I have and who keeps me informed and in check, is leaving this year to go to Florida where her husband, who has been unemployed for 2 years, has some connections to find work. I'm exhausted at the thought of bringing in new people to try work together to build our IB program--and how I do not envy our coordinator who will take the brunt of mentoring them--but to spin this awful mess into something positive, I am holding out for new blood to our school who bring fresh ideas and positive energy. Please!
  • My son is entering 6th grade in the fall, and he coming to my school! I'm not sure how that will really affect me, but it will be weird dragging one of the kids to school with me. (I opted to give my daughter space, and I sent her to our zoned school, which I sometimes regret.) I do not have much association with the 6th grade teachers--although, they are all awesome--and so I will not see him much, but it still changes my everyday life. Our elementary schools start around 9:00 am, and at my middle school, our magnet students start at 7:00 am with a 0 hour class. I think the sleep schedule might kick his butt a little. I typically stay and work after school for at least an hour, and some days that might be more than he can handle. Or some days, I might want to bug out, but he might have activities. This kind of coordination will be weird. There are quite a few of us staff members who have entering 6th graders this year, so I hope they end up being a good class!
I haven't even finished the school year yet and I'm looking forward to next year. What can I say? It's what we teachers do!