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!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Reading Club

Just read a real good book* I could swear I saw one of our students reading, or at least carrying, the other day -- The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner -- but when I asked about it this morning, she denied everything. Maybe I got the girl wrong, there were several of them at the same table, all Filipinas with straight black hair, but I don't think so.  And it's not like I walked up to the Pink Ladies and mentioning the word "book" wiped out all her street cred in front of the cool kids, these are all good students and most are in a book club. I do know I got the title slightly wrong, I couldn't quite remember the "brilliant" or the "Gianna" parts, but it's not like I accused her of reading Mein Kampf....

Which got me wondering if I could set up a Book Club Blog** to get some 4th-6th grade students reading, discussing, and sharing books they read. I might not even be at that school next year, or might only be the PE Teacher again, but it might be a way to keep some reading going over the summer. And if I did get a classroom next year we could keep it going and use it for digital citizenship and internet writing lessons.  Even at a different school it would be a way to connect students/readers from around the county.  Hmmm...

* as opposed to a fake good book?
** obviously a catchy, cool name is needed. Any ideas?

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Final Days...

Yeah, yeah, I know most teachers are out for the summer break. I've read your "beach-bound!" tweets, seen your "feet up!" photos, hid your "margaritas at 11am!" status updates. Whatever.

But some of us are still working. We still have 4 weeks to go, 18 teaching days. Last year at this time I was passing fellow teachers in the halls and wondering what these seemingly secret but special numbers they whispered 13, 12, 11.... I was stressing over finishing the Math book and panicking over my first report cards while they had a semi-delirious smile 9, 8, 7... I was wondering how in the world I could get my students ready for 6th grade/middle school/college valedictorian/Nobel acceptance speeches in just two weeks-- ah, that's what the magic numbers were: The Countdown. The Final Days. How many days left until "Julyteenth" and the freedom of summer break!   4, 3, 2...

Needless to say, I was not ready for summer break.  I did not want summer break.  I was not ready to let go of this life-altering wonderful experience called "Finally, My Own Classroom." Not only was I not ready to give up the keys to the classroom, I wasn't ready to let my first batch of students get on with their (academic) lives without me. But there was no stemming the tide of calendar pages gleefully ripped off and tossed to the ground, the end of the school year was going to happen whether I was ready or not. *sigh*

This year, however, I am looking forward to summer. Except for the part where I must update resume, search for jobs, cross fingers I get called in to sweat and stammer through an interview for a job I won't get, of course, but the rest of summer I am totally ready for.  I love, love love, being a P.E. Teacher but there are only so many days one can stand in the sun and wind on the blacktop or dirt field and not feel that one's lungs, skin, and arches will soon rebel. I need some beach time, some reading time, some hang with my sons time. Since I don't know where I'll be next year I'm sad I may be leaving these awesome students and this awesome school, but I still get a smile looking forward to a break.

But anywho... circling back to what I intended to write: Some of us are still working. School is not out, not yet. But since it's close I'm hearing those words that have bothered me: What's left to teach? I finished the text! Movie Day! Nothin' going on today. Stopping by our party? And that's just from the teachers... It killed me most years to send my sons to school the last week since it seemed all they did was watch movies and eat cupcakes. It's funny how teachers will bemoan how students do not read outside of school, they get no music or art outside of school, some would never go to the zoo or even the beach (yes, even living 10 mins away) if not for a field trip, yet do they think children don't eat pizza and waste time? I know my students rarely get outside and play games at home and very, very few play any organized sports, so why would I do anything except try to keep them moving every possible minute I can?

Similar and interesting conversation on Twitter related to report cards being completed weeks before school's end and passed out before last day (Thanks, @bloggucation) -- why send your student to school except for the free babysitting? Maybe I'm too new a teacher to understand the intricacies of dealing with a classroom 20-40 children for 9 months, but isn't the purpose of school to educate students? Yes they need a break once in awhile, we can't push.push every minute, but I think we're teaching students to "check out" too often. Every Friday play time for turning in your homework? The reward for doing your work isn't the learning, it doesn't lead to curiosity, the drive to excel or learn more, to better communication/understanding, it leads to getting to stop doing school work and have more recess! No wonder the recent news reports show 70% of Americans are not engaged in their work/careers, that's what we're teaching them in school.

Am I just on an uninformed rant here? Is there a way, or even a need, to balance free time and learning time at school? Am I just an anti-birthday party Scrooge? Hmmm...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Back to School!

No, not for all you teachers* reading this, but for me.  Started a class on teaching gifted students, GATE Certification Tier 1, through SDUSD and SDSU, and next month have one class to get my Physical Education credential. And you know what going back to school means...

  1. Playlists! Can't study or read or write without the perfect set of songs to encourage me and keep me focused. This task should not be taken lightly or done in haste, for a faulty or distracting music selection can slow homework progress by several minutes hours half a day or two if you let it.
  2. Coffee! Can't spend an hour on iTunes or Paste without having the proper caffeine levels. Very important to get the temperature exactly right, the coffee:creamer ratio perfect, and of course have the right LSM, lucky study mug, washed and primed for action.  I've spent a lot of time this week  practicing the all important Reach for the Mug without Dropping the Laptop move. Coffee cup and snack placement in the correct spot on the desk is critical. I suggest that blue painter's tape or chalk for laying out possible locations without getting scolded for using Sharpies on the furniture. Not like it's real oak or something.
  3. Quiet! oops, I mean quiet... Hard to do when the kids are out of school for the summer, but that's why God invented yardwork, garage cleaning supplies, and Go to Work with the Other Parent Day. Make sure the requisite amount of time is spent inspecting your study area, surrounding rooms, the immediate neighborhood, local Tilted Kilts, etc. for any possible noise level distractions.
  4. Procrastination, Be Gone with Thee! Beware the evils of putting off until 7pm tonight what you should have and could have been doing the past week. Because the 7 o'clock SportsCenter is vital, you probably just finished dessert, and some of us do have to get up and go to work the next morning! I'm just so glad Game of Thrones ended, or I'd really be cutting it close...

*"all" in this case meaning both of you...