Saturday, August 23, 2014

First Day Virgin

Student teaching? End of a school year. 
5th grade class? January to June, end of the year. 
P.E. Teacher? Oh sure, three years but the first week of school is different for PE: fewer and simpler rules and procedures, and get the kids running to work off their own back to school anxiety. 

So don't tell my new boss, but I've never done this whole First Week of School thing...

Can I give them a test on our first day? 
Or do we have to do lots of cute creative projects to decorate the room?
Is the "Don't smile until Christmas" rule in effect?
Do I really need to have 4th graders practice lining up and raising their hands?
How soon do we open the textbooks?
Will we even have textbooks yet?

Can I just skip ahead to week 2?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Inspiration to Perspiration

I went from "Finally!" to "Now what?!?" in less than 12 hours.

In the time it took me to drink an entire bottle of champagne then jolt awake at 4:45am I went from relieved the application/interview/hiring process was over and brimming with ideas to inspire and educate 30 young minds to terrified with the prospect of not having even the slightest idea as to what I was getting into and what I am supposed to do.

So what is a new teacher feeling with just over one week before school starts?

  • Nauseated (then again, see champagne contribution above)
  • Nervous
  • Unprepared
  • Panicked
  • Lost
  • Clueless
  • Embarrassed (what if someone finds out I'm clueless?)
  • Overwhelmed
  • Shy
  • Jittery
  • Duplicitous (did I lie when I said I could do this?)
  • Confused
Part of it is the fact that I don't know yet what grade I'll be teaching. Probably 4th, but maybe 2nd or 3rd? Since I don't know the grade level no one knew what room I would be in. I think I will feel much better, more confident and prepared, once I'm standing in our classroom with specific students to plan for.

I hope.

Do teachers throw up on the first day of school?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Things My Students Will Do

  • Teach each other. I will never be the only Educator in the room, every single student needs to be aware of and responsible for not only their own learning but also for their classmates'. They are all experts on something, probably several things, and how could they not be eager to learn if they get to pick the subject? What better way to learn more/deeper than by researching, studying, and teaching something they enjoy? 
  • Be confused. Perplexed. Stymied. Frustrated. Resilient. My sons cannot tell you how many times they've heard the phrases "Look it up" or "Figure it out" as my answer to their questions. This connects to classroom management (sharp pencils, what page are we on, how to spell...) and learning to think through difficult work and persevere toward an solution. Real world problems, project based learning, choices on how to demonstrate learning, high standards and expectations. There's word going around education idea circles that fits right into this and students definitely need more: grit
  • Always be doing something. Not that independent reading isn't awesome, but when finished with the assignment is that all there is to do? And won't those students eagerly pulling a book out get their reading time in anyway? But no, you will not see stacks of worksheets in my classroom... The Must Do/May Do list will have lots of producing, collaborating, evidence finding, problem solving, creating choices.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I Want To Be Subversive

What do you want your students to be able to do, not by the end of the year, but in 2026?

I love this woman. I want to be this teacher.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Middle School: Heaven or Hell?

Teaching middle schoolers. 6th to 8th grade. 11-14 year olds. For me the question was really
Hell, or a deeper level of Hell?

When I got into teaching I always saw myself as a 3rd to 5th grade teacher, I was not interested at all in middle or high school. Two of my sons have hit those grade levels while I've gone through credentialing and subbing, but they weren't what made me shudder at the thought of 30+ 7th graders 6 times a day, it was their classmates. Kids will be kids, teenage boys will be teenage boys, but I wanted no part of trying to teach them. Add in teenage girls? No. Thank. You.

Which makes me laugh every time I sub in one of our middle school classes and come to the end of the day thinking  It would be so cool to teach this subject/grade/kids! It probably has a lot to do with knowing these students, some were in my first real class ever and all the 6th graders I had last year for P.E., and being able to treat them as young people, not just bodies in the way of a smooth day. Part of it has to do with a feeling, almost a mantra, I've had since seeing poor teachers in my children's lives: I can do better. Maybe it comes from a background in the cutthroat worlds of both sports and retail, but I usually feel I can teach these students more and teach them better. Athletics and retail management require constant adjustment and improvement, the seeking of better methods, better practice, better results, and the harsh reality that those results must be more efficient and effective than others' or you lose ("others" in education being Hollywood, hormones, Snapchat, e-cigs, etc.). At my school it's less I can do better and mostly I want to be a part of this as I see first hand in their classrooms, in their conversations, and in their students how these teachers are constantly trying to find what works and what will work better.

So middle school wouldn't be too bad after all.

Dear Principal...

I have at least been blogging a little, telling Principals how wonderful I am, but would like to get back to reflecting and planning more, digging a little deeper once in a while. I blame Netflix (since I cannot possibly blame The Wife) for my dearth of writing as well as my expanded waistline -- can't snack while typing, can I?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Not such a good idea?

Six weeks, five school districts, dozens of resumes and letters of introduction, four interviews, and zero contract offers... [insert deep sigh here]

It’s hard to be rejected. For 20+ years I never once heard “No thanks” for any job or position I interviewed for, and while I knew I wasn’t simply going to walk out of my last credential class and into a classroom, I also didn’t think the education business was going to go so far down the toilet I’d be competing against over 400 people for every rare opening.

But like any good educator I'm being reflective, reviewing all the interviews, going over what I said and did, trying to learn from my mistakes and get better. While meeting a Principal and his/her staff for an interview certainly can be nerve-racking,  I needed to do something to set myself apart from the other candidates. In hindsight though, I’m thinking just there are a few things that maybe I should not have done --

...maybe I shouldn't have passed out mojitos to "loosen things up a bit" ?
...maybe I shouldn't have handed out envelopes from "a friend in Vegas" ?
...maybe I shouldn't have done the last one in Dothraki?
...maybe I shouldn't have brought along my mom?
...maybe I shouldn't have asked: "Who's your fave, One Direction or Big Time Rush?
...maybe I shouldn't have done last one in bathrobe and slippers?
...maybe I shouldn't have prayed so long? Or spoke in tongues?
...maybe I shouldn't have described my classroom management style as ‘Draconian’?
...maybe I shouldn't have worn my "Michelle Rhee is Superwoman" tee?
...maybe I shouldn't have bragged so much about my extensive ‘Hello Kitty’ collection?

Interview Delirium has led to feeble attempts at humor. The old laugh to keep from crying routine? Actually no, I've gotten good feedback from several principals and still have confidence something nice will work out soon for this year. Or next year. Or sometime after that...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Here We Go Again...

If a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, no one in the dugout talks about it. The radio announcers don't even mention it for fear of jinxing him. Which is why I don't want to tell anybody, or even type the words second interview... Oops, guess I just did.

Now watch, the phone will ring tomorrow morning and a secretary will say "Sorry, we need to cancel your visit, the school burned down" or "We looked at our budget and decided to buy new playground equipment instead" or "Trick! You really never had a chance, tee hee, to get a job. You should, haha, see your face!"

Hmm, maybe I need a more positive attitude...

Knock on wood!

Since it's now out in the bloggerverse, I guess I'd better get ready for it. I don't believe in jinxes! I believe in being prepared, in demonstrating my abilities, in presenting myself with confidence, and I believe in wearing my lucky tie. I'm spending the day studying Common Core, checking out 3rd grade lessons, planning classroom management, learning about the school where I hope to get hired.

Anything else?

Rubbing the lucky tie with a rabbit's foot?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When Bad Interviews Happen To Good Teachers

Well, at least you can say I'm consistent. Year after year, when that summer break comes-- relaxation time for most teachers, resume update and scour EdJoin time for me-- I have played my part faithfully, never breaking from tradition. And this summer, like the four summers before, followed the familiar formula: letter of introduction, interview prep, tie and sock choice, nervous babbling, thanks for inviting me handshake, phone call wait, the sigh of resignation....

Now to be fair to myself (aka "rationalizing") it wasn't the best fit. I'm sure the first interviewer caught the look on my face when she said "Sixth grade Math and Science"-- I'm sure the same face I made when my new bride first made dinner, a well-intentioned yet feeble attempt to convey, despite facial contortions saying otherwise, my inner "joy" at what was placed before me and the anticipation of getting to enjoy it for the next 50 years* -- but I recovered quickly, and while admitting my passion was readin' and writin' I talked about the thrill of discovery and importance of problem solving as keys to both wonderful disciplines, math and science being the backbone of any successful society.

And maybe that last paragraph is evidence of my Failure As Interviewee. A bit rambling, I'd say. Incoherent in most places, you may say. It's not like I opened with a joke ("How many Principals does it take...") or replied in monotonous grunts, but for some reason I must not come across as intelligent, or at least worthy to get paid for teaching children, when I am interviewed. There is a fine line between answering how I really want to and how I think they want me to answer, all while trying to surreptitiously read upside down to see what they're writing about me as I talk. I want to say Yes, my classroom will have/do this... but how do I know if the school allows that? Maybe the Principal wouldn't know a Tweet if it bit her but I want to connect with my students using Twitter?

Part of me wants to jump up on the next conference table and give voice to the Sorkin-style proclamation within: I can teach! Give me a room, give me students! Let me coax them, cajole them, encourage them to let the learning spark in them burst! Quit blaming faulty technology and get students into the 21st century, stop moaning about class size and get to know what every student needs to learn, cancel the parties and movies and demand hard work, proof of learning, and excellent results! I AM Superman! And then again part of me, mainly the student loan repaying part, wants to say Please, I need a job, tell me what to teach and how to teach it and I'll be there for every after school function and I'll spend all weekend grading and planning but please just give me a chance...

So now I (hopefully) go back to teaching elementary P.E., a job I absolutely love at a school I absolutely love with students I absolutely love, by the way, and spend the next 11 months learning as much as I can in order to try again next summer. I'll finish my GATE Certification, complete my P.E. Credential, keep working through the Stanford Math MOOC, discuss students and teaching during lunch break, slip $20 a week under the Principal's keyboard, and work towards another chance at interviewing for my own classroom next year.  I'll firm up my handshake, practice my interview answers, study successful educators and their best practices. I'll find a way to impress the entire room on my next interview, I'll have them presenting the staff restroom key and offering to drive me down to HR and sign that contract before my sweat has even dried.

Truthfully? I think it was the wrong tie.

*Yes, 17 years later, she is a fine cook these days. Delicious pastas, awesome tacos. Otherwise we wouldn't still be married, now would we?**


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Whiteboard Word Wall

Just an idea...

Word Wall, pref on a whiteboard but that large paper sheet would work too -- students add words, can add definitions, syn/ant, illustrations, draw arrows/bridges to connect to other words, list examples of use/quotes from text -- fic or nonfic. Can even add word/def in native lang for ELs.
When board/paper/space is full take a pic and add to a slide show (accessible thru Google docs?) for viewing/study/reference.

Hmmm... I think my sons need to work up an example of this. They love summer projects!

Reading for my GATE Cert. class sometimes leads to too many ideas/distractions, but I guess I'd rather be distracted by ideas than be bored and finish quickly.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Guys Lunch"

Definitely going to do this next year, thank you @TechNinjaTodd at nesoloneyflipped.blogspot --

"Guys Lunch" Just me and the fellas, having lunch together away from all the girls and their drama (definitely leaving that to better teachers/humans than I) and getting the chance to talk about what it means to be a friend, a brother, a teammate, a young man.

My current school has very few sports minded students, very few athletes, which as a youth sports coach and PE teacher dismays me to no end. But the ones that have played sports, the few football players especially, definitely come from a different cultural background than 99% of their classmates. Most obviously they're African-American not Filipino-American, so unfortunately it's very easy to lump them all together (and I mean very easy: I could thunk each one with a different digit and still have fingers left over), especially when there's trouble on the basketball court or ball wall. But where others see "those black kids" I see "my athletes" and know the problem probably has everything to do with competition, skills, and the priorities their families have taught them.

It's funny how in one conversation we as teachers bemoan our American lack of fitness, the utter slothfulness of children today, but in another complain about the energy ("wildness") and drive ("disruptive") of certain students. These are the kids who, unlike their parent-coddled Playstation-addicted peers, are up and active after school. Yes, a lot of that is unsupervised, absent parent, directionless, but that's the point -- they're looking for something to do, usually out in the neighborhood.  Yes, some of that involves trouble, getting into it or trying to avoid it. These are children who are not brought things but told to go get it yourself. These are boys (and one girl) raised on watching sports from Dad's lap and signed up for a team as soon as possible, often within the context of This is the only way to make it out.

So lunch is with* me, boys. We'll talk about what bugs you, what you want from school and life, what you want to fix or change and how you can do it, what kind of friend/father/man you want to be. And we'll probably also find some time to discuss the real important issues, such as can the Heat 3-peat and will the Chargers ever, ever win the Super Bowl?

* Not "on" I'm only a poor teacher...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Party Time!

"You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem." - Eldridge Cleaver

As you may have guessed, I have an aversion to school day parties. My first class nearly revolted and left me tied up in the supply room when I said No, my dear 5th graders, you may not bring cupcakes for _____'s birthday. For the 7th time. So quit asking!

Then I was a-thinkin'... How about one of those Guess Who I Am? parties where the students can each be assigned a person, place, maybe even a concept that was studied during the past year? They could know who they are ahead of time and research/prepare clues and answers to questions other students ask to figure out who or what they are, or they could not know and have to ask the questions of others. Maybe one visual clue, although costumes may give away some characters too easily. Students could be fiction, Charlotte or Poseidon or Katniss, they could be historical or current events figures, maybe even lava or pi depending on the student. Easily differentiated to many levels.

Throw in some apple slices and crackers and *voila!* we have a par-tay!