I am not sure if strapping wheels on anyone's feet is such a smart idea, in fact I am sure it is not, however it is a fun one. Today my colleagues and I took our seventh and eighth grade students to the local roller skating arena for a day of fun. Much to their amazement, I was able to strap on a pair of roller blades, and move with some ease, albeit slow, around the rink. Much to my amazement the students fell into two distinct categories, those who skate and those who fall repeatedly.
Those who skate were patient with their less than coordinated classmates. They tried to teach them how to skate, offered advice on how to stand up, and they encouraged them to keep trying.
Those who could not skate spent a lot of time falling. Arms and legs were flailing at every turn. One second they are gingerly trying to go around the rink, the next second they are sprawled on the floor. Many egos as well as behinds were badly bruised today, but I was impressed with how many of them would not give up. So many of the students who could not skate had a strong drive to master the task of roller skating/blading. They kept going, round and down and round again. It was wonderful to know that they had the strength and tenacity to keep trying. They may not have mastered skating in one afternoon, but by the end of the trip many had showed significant improvement.
I began to wonder where this drive is in the classroom. What is lacking in so many classrooms? Why do students give up so easily? Over the years, I have heard students complain that they can't do it or that they are stupid. It breaks my heart to see students struggle and give up on school work. Today I witnessed that they can do it, that there are some things worth working hard for. Now the trick is to transfer that lesson to the classroom, to not give up on their work, that their hard work will pay off and there will be improvement.
Today was a great day with the kids!
Yesterday, I stayed home with a sick child. ( Well sick man child. He is after all a sophomore in high school, old enough to stay home by himself, but not old enough to get himself to the doctor. ) This is something every teacher faces at one time or another... taking a sick day. I have found that it is often more work to prepare for a substitute teacher than it is for me to be in. I made the decision on Tuesday night to stay home on Wednesday and bring my son to the doctor. Since I wasn't planning to be out when I left school, I wasn't as prepared for a sub as I would have been had I known. Despite my better judgement, I went in to school early Wednesday morning. I do only live about two miles away from work, so I am not as crazy as I sound.
My intention was to go in and make sure my desk was neat enough for the substitute to be able to function. A quick neatening of the piles, heaven knows my desk is usually anything but neat and organized, then touch base with my team on our upcoming reward trip and information about my peer leaders after school activity. My quick ten minute trip to school turned into almost forty minutes.
I pulled out my sub binder with all of my class lists, schedules, policies and procedures in the class, all handy an neat ( yes most things are neat in my classroom )for the sub to access quickly. Next I wrote out my plans with step by step instructions for the substitute. Organized all of the days materials on my desk and proceeded to label everything with sticky notes. I put names on the modified assignments for my Special Education and ELL students, made sure there were more than enough copies, and then double checked everything.
Once I was satisfied with my desk and materials, I went down to the office to touch base with the assistant principal, put an announcement in for the morning announcements regarding an upcoming peer leader activity and then check my school mail box. I stopped to socialize with a few staff members before I headed back home. I wanted to leave before the school bell rang signaling the begining of the school day.
I worried. I worried about my son who has been sick all week and missing his classes. I worried that I will be taking more sick days over the next few weeks if I catch the flu that my son has. I worried that my husband and my other son will come down with the flu too. I worried about school. I worried that my students, as wonderful as they are would take advantage of the poor substitute. I worried that I did not leave clear enough instructions for the sub, or for that matter enough materials despite my obsessive checking and labeling. I worried that the sub would be incompetent and not be able to manage the class or care enough to follow through on the assignments. I worried, probably way more than necessary.
Today I was back at work, though my son still stayed home. The substitute left me a note explaining what he was able to accomplish with the four classes. He really tried his best. Most of the work got done. Most of the students were well behaved. Of course the kids complained today that the sub didn't let them do this or he didn't give them enough time to finish, or he didn't say that they had homework ( yeah right on that last one.)
I just wanted to take the time to thank the sub for being able to allow me to stay home and take care of a sick child. Thanks for being professional and attempting to complete the assigned work I left, doing so allows me to continue with the pacing of lessons to cover the material I need to cover with my students. Thanks for leaving me the note, brief as it was, so I can see your perspective on how the day went. Thanks for all of the hard work you put in to take care of my students in my absence, believe me when I say I know it wasn't an easy day. Thanks.
We are fast approaching day 90. The half way point in the current school year. I am at a point in the year where I am reflecting on the first half of the year to see what I can improve on, planning and creating engaging lessons and activities for the remaining year and looking forward to summer. That is a lot on my teacher plate.
I spent last night scouring the internet for interesting teacher related activities to do this summer, start getting my "ducks in a row" so to speak. One of my favorite summer activities is attending institutes sponsored by the National Endowment for Humanities(NEH).
I was excited by all of the opportunities this summer offered through NEH. I applied to two, the maximum a teacher can apply to. NEH regulations allow a teacher to attend one workshop. This will be the fourth summer I have applied to one of the Landmark teacher institutes. In 2011, I had my first experience with NEH. I applied for the one institute right here in my back yard ( ok not exactly my backyard, but down the road about 4 miles) here in Lowell, MA. Because I live here in Lowell, I chose not to reside in the dorm,but rather return to my home each night. I spent the week exploring the city's industrial revolution history, listening to scholars and visiting museums.
In 2012, I applied again and ended up in the Land of Lincoln. This time for obvious reasons, I resided on campus for the week. I spent the week in Illinois visiting museums and listening to scholars discuss Lincoln. At night my fellow teachers and I found something interesting to do. One night we even ventured into St. Louis for dinner and a tour of the Arch. Very cool! It was a great learning experience. I had a wonderful time and met some interesting people.
Last I year I tried again, much to my dismay I was wait-listed for not one but both learning experiences. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed, and I was not fortunate enough to attend a Landmark seminar. Once again it is time to apply. I have narrowed my choices down to two topics. The first one is on the Kansas- Missouri Boarder Wars. The second one is in Maryland looking at slavery during colonial America. I am excited about both choices and have begun the application process. If I am accepted, and I hope that I am, I know that I will have a wonderful learning experience where I will gain knowledge and ideas to bring back to my US History classroom.
Check out www.NEH.gov
I thought the article on using video games in the Social Studies Classroom was interesting.
With Martin Luther King Jr. Day fast approaching , below is a youtube link to a movie, Our Friend, Martin .
**The movie is very powerful mixing, animation with real footage. The only problem I had with video was that during Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" Speech the audio no longer works. It is only during the speech and for a few minutes during his funeral. I thought it would be very powerful to have a student read an excerpt of the speech when the audio cuts out and a moment of silence during the funeral scene.
I am a future empty-nester with two boys, a husband and a passion for writing, creating and teaching. I teach 7th and 8th grade Social Studies in Massachusetts. I am a self proclaimed history geek and proud of it! In my spare time ( Spare time, ha ha that's a joke! ) I enjoy photography, reading and hanging out with my family.