My last blog post was about failure, and then I forgot to blog. I realized it the following day – that I hadn’t posted the day before – ending my incredible (to me) streak of blogging every work day. And then I just took a break. I realized it was the end of the term and I. was. tired.
Today was the first day of Q2. We had a holiday Monday and a teacher work day Tuesday. I was so thankful for that teacher work day – oh how they’ve been missed. To have a day between terms to catch up, get ahead and breath for a second – beautiful. The ability to have a quiet lunch with adults vs. an earsplitting lunchroom with 300 students – icing!
Today, I picked up an old idea I’ve used in the past, having my students create a group name. In years past, I’ve awarded prizes to groups and students earned stickers. I’ve got some different positive reinforcement going on in the classroom this year, so that didn’t seem like the way I wanted the groups to work (competing together), but I wasn’t getting as much buy-in from students on helping each other as I wanted. So today with new seats for the new quarter, I had them think about their individual goals (something we’ve been doing for a while) and then think of a group goal. They wrote this group goal down and then on the reverse of the paper, wrote a name for their group. Their names are on display, and I can easily find their goal if I want to. But I think the key is that they’ve decided as a group to help each other. I plan on building on this.
After the blogging break, I wasn’t sure what I should do to get this started again. I am not expecting anything from this blog other than my own benefit of being able to process my thoughts about teaching and learning and having a bit of documentation to make my life potentially easier in the future or at least be able to remember my own reflections that seem so easily lost in the rush of the year. Dan Meyer’s blog showed up in my email, and it linked to a blog by Zach Cresswell, 4 ways to leave School at School, and I read it and felt relieved and realized I could just start and it would be enough.
I thought about how I save some mental energy and how I waste it. What things can I cut and bet a better teacher for the not doing? Long ago, I realized that I could not worry enough about a student or test scores to make any real change – or any change. There are too many variables out of my control. But I do try to do my very best for those things within my control. Lesson planning is one of those things within my control and I probably spend too much time with it. This is where I need to find more balance. I need to do my best with the time I have and not dedicate the time I need for other things instead of polishing a stone that is already smooth – even if isn’t shiny.
Zach mentions to do lists – I heartily agree with this. It lets me brain-dump my thoughts, and I can move on. I’m a sticky note list maker and I write them as I move around my classroom (making my computer the landing spot), I write them on my computer (electronic stickies) and at the day’s end, I can toss notes I no longer need and compile notes I still need quickly into my notebook that I make lists in.
One way I leave school at school is by collaborating with other teachers through the MTBoS and with TpT. Building on or using resources created by other teachers gives me time back in my personal life that I may be tempted to use to make something for my classroom. Not that I can’t or don’t create some of my own things, but my students get an opportunity to have many more engaging activities along with a teacher who isn’t too tired to complete the activity.
Another way, I leave school at school is by using different chrome profiles. I teach online for a university after my middle school day job. Having a different chrome profile helps me transition from job to job and from job to personal.
Thinking back on those things Zac said he lets slide out of his mind, I know there are big problems and hard things in the lives of my students. I also think they need an example of adults who are successfully navigating life without everything being in crisis mode. They need to see adults who have a balance, who have limits (for what they allow and for what they will do) and who show up consistently to love them and teach them. I can do those things, I can be that person, even if my lesson plans don’t meet my ideal every or any day.