August 27, 2016
In an effort to help remind myself how far I've come, and to make room set-up and those first few weeks SO. MUCH. EASIER. next year, I'm compiling a list of things I've already learned this year. Things I know I want to do differently next year, things I'm proud I did this year, all of it.
KEEP THE TURN-IN TRAYS AT THE BACK OF THE ROOM.
I started the year with one turn-in bin for all my classes (I teach 5) at the front of the room. Since all 5 of my classes are doing the same things every day, I thought this would be an easy way to streamline the turn-in process. HAH!! Instead, I had a jumble of papers from all 5 of my classes to sort through, and it made grading those first articles so stinkin' time consuming.
So then I changed it to a stack of turn-in trays, one for each class. But they were still in the front of the room right by the door. This created a huge cluster of 12 year old bodies by the door all the time, which drove me absolutely crazy.
Now I've got the turn-in bins on the back counter, with each bin next to the crate the students keep their notebooks in. It works perfectly, it's out of the way, no papers are jumbled up, and everyone knows where there things go.
I hate that I changed this one around so much, though. Next year, this is how I will start the year.
I don't even care if it makes me a jerk. I want my students using laptops as often as possible. Turning their articles in online. Doing their writing online. All of it. We use Google Classroom, and if I could have them on it every day I would.
The entire district is going one-to-one with laptops for all high school and middle school students in the next year. They are starting with the high schools this coming January, and then eighth graders next fall, with the 6th and 7th graders after that. This means my 7th graders will all have their own school-issued laptop beginning next fall, and I want them to be ready for it. I want them to know how to use GAFE (Google Apps For Education) as fluently as possible now, so there's not as steep a learning curve when it becomes their main way of turning in work and operating in class.
Let's be clear - I am over the moon excited for this. I think giving each student a device levels the playing field in some pretty awesome ways. I know there's lots of reasons for people to be worried about it, but my students are already on devices (phones, computers, gaming systems) all the time in their personal time, so this is just a good way for them to learn to use these things in more effective and responsible ways.
DITCH THE JOURNALS AND INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS.
We are using both writing journals and interactive notebooks this year. I t was my idea, and I thought they would be a great way to keep the students organized without having to worry about folders and loose papers and such.
Man, it feels like a disaster. They struggled to set the interactive notebooks up correctly - about half of the kids in every class have their notebooks set up wrong. They struggle to bring their journals with them to class, and I have a bunch of random journal pages turned in each time I collect their journals for checks. It's just all super frustrating.
I think I needed to be more realistic about what I should be expecting from 12 year olds. The truth of their lives is that many of them don't have to worry about organization or responsibility outside of the classroom, and so they haven't learned those skills.
Our school provides each student with a homework folder and an agenda, and about 1/3 of my students already can't remember to bring those to class, or have lost them. I should have started out smaller. Make them be responsible for keeping track of their paper in class, turning it in at the end of class. Making them responsible for bringing their agendas and homework folders, helping them learn to be responsible and organized in that way.
I'm nervous to make a switch in how I do these things now, though. I can definitely start checking as they come in the door, and if they don't have their homework folder and agenda I can block them from entering until they get it. If they are tardy, that's a lesson they learn. I can work more with the idea that "this is something you're turning in, it's not for your notebook" and see where that goes. I need to talk with my fellow 7th English teachers, see what they think. Maybe I just need to keep powering through, and they will start to get it. Mostly it's frustrating for me, lots of late or missing assignments.
SPEND THE FIRST TWO WEEKS TEACHING PROCEDURES AND TEAM BUILDING. SERIOUSLY.
I thought I was doing this. I thought I was owning this like a BOSS. I was a fool.
I probably spent 1/4 to 1/3 of each class period the first two weeks worrying about procedures, and the rest of the time worrying about getting some type of content into their days. I should have spent THE ENTIRE TIME working on procedures. Not just standing at the front of the room talking at them, but having them act things out, make lists with me, etc.
I'm also figuring out I did literally no team building, which sucks. I'm still struggling to know their names, where other teachers have all their 130 students down. It's a lot of kids. It's my first year. I will do this better next year. I know because I didn't do this, my classroom feels less fun, and more of a me vs. them type of place, and that bums me out. I want my room to be a haven, a place of refuge. Instead I think many of the kids just think "man, it's English class. Yuck."
REMEMBER, YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN
I have to constantly remind myself it is my first year. I am doing the best I can. My students are amazing and resilient, and they are still learning. They will come out of this year knowing more than they started the year knowing, and I will grow so much as a teacher that by the end of the year even these things will feel like a distant memory.
Right now I feel like I'm swimming upstream in a serious current. I will get there. It will get easier. I love this job, this passionate life calling I've found myself in. I wouldn't change jobs for all the money in the world. It's where I'm meant to be. It's such an amazing gift, to be able to help middle schoolers grow into themselves, begin to love themselves more wholely and completely. To show them they have worth, their words and ideas have power. I want to do the absolute best I can for them, every single day. That's how I know I'm good at this.
FILE UNDER: teaching
July 17, 2016
Pattern: The Every Beanie, by Corina Gray (free Ravelry download)
Yarn: various, all acrylic, all worsted weight
Hook: size I/9 - 5.5mm
The last few weeks has seen us at the doctor's office more often than I'd like. With all that time comes more hats made, and I've fallen in love with one crochet hat pattern in particular. The Every Beanie is made with worsted weight yarn and a size I/9 hook, and I've adjusted it so that it has ribbing on the edge, using FPDC and BPDC.
The hats all fit a wide variety of heads, which is nice. The pattern comes with just one size, and so I altered a few of the hats to make them small enough to fit Louise. The regular size fits Owen, myself, and Zach all comfortably, so these are perfect for donation!
I've already dropped this batch off to the Cowdrey Care Center, which is the Oncology center at Nebraska Medicine. The hospital is just blocks away from us, and does amazing things, so I love being able to donate there.
Plus? I've already got another bag half full, so I should be able to donate again soon!
May 27, 2016
Thanks to my amazing friend Chase Night, I've come across Julia Ember her June #readproud challenge. The goal is to read LGBTQ books all month to celebrate Pride, and I'm totally on board! I'm hoping to not only read some new books and authors, but also find some books I can add to my middle school classroom library shelves.
Here's the full list of suggested reads, thanks to Julia's blog ... I'm not sure yet what I'll be reading, so I'm including the entire list here for you to look at!
WEEK 1 — May 29-June 5
Category A: TRANS YA ** fiction or non-fictional
BEING JAZZ: MY LIFE AS A TRANSGENDER TEEN by Jazz Jennings (non-fiction)
IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo
FREAKBOY by Kirstin Elizabeth Clark (lyric)
BEING EMILY by Rachel Gold
THE ART OF BEING NORMAL by Lisa Williamson
BEYOND MAGENTA by Susan Kuklin (non-fiction)
CATEGORY B: GAY CONTEMPORARY, NA or ADULT.
FOR REAL by Alexis Hall (over 18s!)
SUTPHIN BOULEVARD by Santino Hassell (over 18s!)
FOXES by Suki Fleet
INTO THIS RIVER I DROWN by TJ Klune
CUT AND RUN by Abigail Roux
WEEK 2 — June 5-12
Category A: LESBIAN SPECULATIVE
THE BETTER TO KISS YOU WITH by Michelle Osgood
UNICORN TRACKS by Julia Ember (meeee!)
THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US by Emily Skrutskie
DISSENTION by Stacey Berg
THE RAVEN AND THE REINDEER by T. Kingfisher
THE RENEGADE by Amy Dunne
THE SECOND MANGO by Shira Glassman
Category B: LGBTQ Middle Grade or Younger
GEORGE by Alex Gino
RED: A CRAYON'S STORY by Michael Hall
AND TANGO MAKES THREE by Justin Richardson
HEATHER HAS TWO MOMMIES by Leslea Newman
ONE MAN GUY by Michael Barakiva
NOTE: I'm so excited about category B here ... I want to get every book on this list for my classroom for sure!
Category A: AUTHORS OF COLOUR
ASH BY MALINDA LO
IF YOU COULD BE MINE by Sara Farizan
SEVEN TEARS AT HIGH TIDE by CB LEE
THE SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson
THE BATTLE FOR JERICHO by Gene Gant
TREASURE by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Category B: LESBIAN CONTEMPORARY
OUT ON GOOD BEHAVIOR by Dahlia Adler
ANNIE ON MY MIND by Nancy Garden
LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley
AT HER FEET by Rebekah Weatherspoon (over 18s!)
CAREFULLY EVERYWHERE DESCENDING by LD Bedford
EVERYTHING LEADS TO YOU by Nina LaCour
WEEK 4 — June 19-26
Category A: GAY YA
We Are the Ants by Shawn David Hutchinson
JERKBAIT by Mia Seigert
SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli
DAGGER by Steven dos Santos
BOY MEETS BOY by David Levithan
FJORD BLUE by Nina Rossing
NOTE: This category is another one I'm excited about, and while I already have Simon, I plan to get the rest for my classroom shelves as well!
Category B: WILDCARD
Surprise me. Surprise us all. As long as it's LGBTQIA. I'd LOVE people to bring forward some terrific Asexual, Bisexual and Non-binary books.
FILE UNDER: recommended reading
May 7, 2016
I haven't blogged in some time now, and don't have any plans to in the near future. But if you're looking for simple, colorful hats to take along on all your wild adventures, then head on over to my shop!
I'm selling hats in all sizes - newborn through adult - so you're sure to find just what you need! Plus, 25% of all proceeds are donated to refugee aide organizations!
March 28, 2016
Pattern: Autumn Ombre Hat, by Country Pine Designs
Yarn: Loops & Threads Cozy Wool
Needles: size US 15 / 10.0mm
I might have a problem, and that problem may be an obsession with Country Pine Designs patterns.
But seriously. Yes, I know I've been making some of Kathleen's patterns in partnership with her brand, but seriously. The patterns are AMAZING. She's got the super bulky hat decreases figured OUT, which is something I've never been satisfied with on my own patterns even! Plus, how cute is this hat?!?
I used about 1/4 of each skein of Cozy Wool I picked out for this hat - you could use a bit more of the darkest color and make a pom, but I opted against a pom for this hat as I'll be donating it, and am unsure of who will end up with it. With this small amount of yarn used from each skein, this pattern is perfect for using up stray bits of super bulky you have from other projects, or for making several hats from the same skeins.
I whipped this hat up in a matter of hours, even! Let's be real - it took me a few days to get the hat made, thanks to the sickies that have been passing through our house lately, but if you add up all the total time I spent with this hat on the needles, it adds up to maybe 2 hours. SO AWESOME!
I've already purchased another one of Kathleen's patterns so I can knock out another hat, even though our partnership is over. That's how much I love her patterns. Totally worth it, especially for charity knitters.
If you don't have any super bulky on hand, don't think you can't make this hat, either! Just hold some worsted weight yarn triple, and you're good to go!
Grab the pattern on Ravelry and/or Etsy.
This post was sponsored by Country Pine Designs. All opinions are my own, amazing design props go to Kathleen!