Friday, August 30, 2013

Five for Friday

5 Things I want to remember from this week:

1) I am the most stressed on Mondays.  There, I said it.  I work really hard all weekend making sure that I have all of my ducks in a row.  Then, on Monday morning, I stress all morning that I forgot something or that something won't go well.  Of course, because life is messy, Monday isn't perfect and I come home stressed, feeling that all of my hard weekend work was wasted.  The reason I want to remember this is so that going forward, I won't freak out about the stress.  Monday WON'T go as planned.  I can't do a job that involves 60-something teenagers and math and expect things to end up neatly wrapped with a bow.  I'll be totally comfortable by Tuesday afternoon - happens every week.

2) Chapel is amazing.  I missed chapel last week because I was stressing and tying up some last-minute details.  This week, in spite of any stress, I made myself drop what I was doing and go to chapel.  Wow, what a difference.  I was blessed, encouraged, my gracious heavenly Father actually spoke to me, softened my heart and set me straight about some things and the rest of the day/week was spent setting my mind on eternity instead of letting myself get caught in the mire of the moment.  There is no greater fuel for a teacher than this eternity mindset.  I won't miss chapel again.

3) I love having teacher friends to talk to.  To me, hashing out ideas and plans and activities is at least AS good as shopping with a best friend.  Try an idea here and an idea there and eventually, you feel like a million bucks when you find the one that fits "just right".  But you would only feel like around $564,000 if you weren't with a best friend.  It's the friend that makes it.  So I'm very happy to be surrounded by people who love Jesus, kids, and teaching.  Remember that scene in Christmas Vacation where he gets all of the lights on the house to light up.  Yeah.  That's pretty much me every day.

4) Bad days don't last.  I don't even WANT to elaborate on this one.  Just know that, Amber.  The bad ones fade away.  Promise.

5) Sometimes, the best learning will just happen without me.  Now, don't get me  wrong here.  One of my favorite feelings is being pleasantly surprised by a group of kids.  I have a class that is particularly hard to reach.  I try games and activities to keep them moving in hopes that they'll buy in, but so far, they've been just as underwhelmed by around-the-world as they are about sitting and taking notes from the overhead.  Actually, they might prefer the overhead notes but I'm fairly certain it's just because it requires less energy and effort than around-the-world.  Today, however, this group of kids totally blew my mind.  I had planned a game where they had to pick a seat that had a whiteboard and marker.  It was for the game, but before we started, I decided on a whim to have them take out the chapter review they did for homework the night before and check answers with the person sitting next to them first.  The next thing I know, as I'm walking around the room checking on them, I realize that they're ALL having full blown discussions about the math problems and they are using the whiteboards to teach each other and to try different methods to solve when they didn't have the same answer!!!  That's right - I used a bigger font AND italics to show how excited I was.  It was THAT cool.  Forget the game is what I did.  I let them use the entire class period to review every one of the 36 review questions on the chapter review and they were engaged and learning and "oh!"ing all over the place.   We may have played the game for 10 minutes at the end of class because they had gotten through all of the math problems and were comfortable with them so they were ready to move on to something else, but it surely wasn't the highlight of our class. 

My room is a mess and I'm bringing work home with me this long weekend.  I'll probably come up here on Saturday to clean up a bit and get some things done, but when I love what I do to this degree, it's totally ok.  What an adventure.  What an unpredictable, highs-and-lows, make-your-stomach-do-summersaults kind of an adventure I'm living!  Hope you are too!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Finding balance.

Finding balance as a teacher is tough...and necessary.

My routine is that on Thursday, during my 90 minute planning block, I begin planning lessons for the next week and get a general idea where I'm headed. Then, on Friday, I fine-tune my plan and make any resources or ISN pages that I've planned.

In a perfect world, this plan works great!

In my real world, I've worked both Saturdays since school started.

Don't get me wrong, I don't MIND working Saturdays. Teaching is more of a life-love than a job for me so I settle into my classroom, put on some music and plan/create away. My first working Saturday of the year was an 8 hour shift and I was had a blast.

Yesterday, however, something was different. I left the house around 9. The kids were with dad and perfectly happy. It didn't strike them as odd that I was leaving for work on a Saturday. THAT struck ME as odd. They both know, at 6 and 3 years old, that I love what I do and I work a lot. It's our normal. I'm always so proud of them for being flexible and I want them to know that teachers love what they do and I want them to never be afraid of working hard. Most of the time, I'm happy to set an example for them in these areas. But I also know, and want them to know, that life is about balance.

I still worked 5 hours yesterday, but when I left the school, while I'd planned the rest of the week for my 6 classes, I'd written only 4 of the 6 quizzes I need for Monday, and I just made a post it note of what copies I'd need to make on Monday. I have a couple of lessons that aren't 100% ironed out as far as what foldable i'll use and simple stuff like that.

Now, please understand, I'm a ducks-in-a-row kinda gal. I don't like to spend my weekend knowing that my upcoming week isn't totally prepped and ready to go.

But also understand that while I believe that teaching is what God has gifted me to do and I always want to teach well for His glory, before He made me a teacher, He made me a wife and mom. I never want my kids to think I'm a teacher first. If there was ever a situation where I had to choose between taking care of my classes or taking care of them, I'd never want them to wonder which I'd choose.

I know some weeks will require more time than others, but in the interest of balance, this week, I left my classes at about 90% prepped and came home to be mom. I was rewarded with some relaxing time with the love of my life as we watched our minis play in a massive rainstorm, followed by a mother-daughter run and some much needed cuddle time on the couch. I'll finish up my quizzes and foldable planning tonight after they go to bed and everything will be just fine.

Stress will come. That is inevitable. My prayer is that God will always give me wisdom to keep my priorities straight and that He'll give me the courage I need to walk away from work when He tells me to. I know I made the right choice this weekend and I know that He will equip me to meet the demands of the upcoming week at school. I have unspeakable peace in those two facts.

I hope that wherever you are and whatever you have going on, you will lean on Him as well, and in so doing, find peace and balance.




Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day Two

I love teaching.  I do.  There is no other job as fun and diverse as mine.  Today was another awesome day.  I'm just as exhausted and overwhelmed as I was yesterday, but I'd rather be overwhelmed by a challenge than bored without one.  So here are my thoughts for the day:

The plan: Frog-in-a-well brainteaser for bell-work, graphing Multiple Intelligence and Learning Styles results, discussion about learning strategies and activities that are specific to the different intelligences and styles in our class.

I'm really enjoying doing the learning styles and multiple intelligence stuff so far.  I'm learning a lot about my students that a math pre-test just wouldn't tell me.  I teach the lowest math classes at each level so every class I have is full of the kids who really struggle with math.  Knowing how they think and how they learn is going to be a cornerstone of our success this year.  Without this info, I'd just do what I'm comfortable with and just hope that they get it...and most probably wouldn't. 

For example, my LOWEST intelligence is bodily-kinesthetic.  I'm just not a mover.  Don't get me wrong, I like to dance and I like to run, but moving isn't part of my learning life.  I'm perfectly happy to sit still and read, take great color-coded notes, and present whatever I've learned.  

So, that being said, am I terrified that my last class period is eight 9th graders who are ALL kinesthetic?  Absolutely.  In 2 days, these kids have moved more and talked more and, quite honestly, failed more than any of my other classes.  People talk about kids who "break the mold"...these kids are coming to me with the powder of the demolished mold stuffed into a Ziploc bag stashed in the bottom of their backpacks.

They feel like failures.  They say "I can't" and "it's too hard" about things like adding and drawing which tells me that it's not that they get overwhelmed by a difficult challenge, they just feel it.  In their bones.  Failure.  So they don't even think about trying.

My job this year with them is to grab their attention, restore their belief in themselves, and stuff them full of as much Algebra as I can, using games and movement and...I don't even know what else because it's not my thing...before our time runs out.

My new favorite verse?
   I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
  Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.
I will wait for the Lord to lead.  And I will be strong and I will try to have courage, because I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in this land of kids who think they are "dead in the water" when it comes to math.  I know they're not.  They're alive.  This is the land of the living.  I just know it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Not what I expected

That's how I'd describe my first day back to classroom teaching.  What I THOUGHT would happen couldn't have been further from what actually happened.  I was so afraid of the first classes of the day.  With higher numbers and older students, I thought for sure they'd eat me alive.  My later classes in the day would be a cake walk, I thought.  Nice small numbers and they're 8th and 9th graders!  What could go wrong in there?

For now, Math Analysis, my biggest and oldest class of the day is my favorite.  They are fun and excited, but respectful and hard working.  They worked together like champs and seemed to be excited by their success today.  As they played 31derful, an amazing game idea I got from HERE, I heard one girl say to her group "I like games like this - they make me think!" (...and her team wasn't even "winning").

Oddly, enough, my Algebra 1a and 1b classes were the toughest of the day.  One is right before lunch and one is right after so they were tired at that point and totally not interested in a "fun" group game, even if all they had to do was add.  Questions I asked to keep things moving along were met with big-eyed stares and shrugged shoulders.  Their groups were awkward and uncomfortable to say the least.  There was 1 in almost every group who totally dominated - and not in a good way - and as a group, they kept trying to give up (again, even though they were only adding).

My hope is that it was just first day weirdness that will settle down.  I want to get into the curriculum quicker than I originally planned, but with block periods on Wednesday and Thursday, I just don't see how I can get the ISN set up and ready to go so I'll just have to be patient.  Maybe I'll plan a math review for Friday just to whet their appetites.

All in all, today was an awesome day.  I enjoyed every class, even if they weren't what I expected.  I have a handful of kids who will keep me on my toes, but I'm pretty sure I can handle it.