Can you believe it's almost the end of first semester? Me either. This year has flown by in a way that no other year has for me ever. With the introduction of a new curriculum, I think we are all busier, and even the students have commented on how fast the year is going! I thought- ok, I'm teaching the same four preps I had last year, which is kind of crazy, but doable, so this should be no big deal, right?
I'm going to be brutally honest--
I feel as if teachers are being asked to do more and more and MORE every year, and I can't tell you how many times I thought/think/am currently thinking about throwing in the towel. I have found myself googling, "Other jobs for English majors" more than ever in the past few weeks, despite the fact that I absolutely LOVE teaching students how to read and write (especially to write).
My days in the classroom go by quickly, but are full of a lot of joy and excitement and passion that I haven't had in years past. However, when I get home, I'm so exhausted I can barely stand up. My nights and weekends are spent planning, grading, shopping for props, planning, planning, responding to student questions on Edmodo...worrying about students, and making to do lists. And it's not just school, my "real" life is stressing me out, too. I don't think I've ever mentioned before that my husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for about 3-4 years now, and it's always, always, on my mind.
My anxiety has resurfaced so much that my students notice me trying to catch my breath in class and ask if I'm ok. That is not ok to me! I need to be a role model for these students, and I hate that they can see my stress bubbling to the surface in the form of me trying to breathe. :( I hate that they might think it's because of them...because that's only about 2% of the time.
I spent the summer so excited about my calling as a teacher, and I know that blogging about it brings me great joy, so why is it so hard to spend ten minutes crafting a blog post? It just gets pushed to the bottom of my "to do" pile along with reading a good book and spending some quality time with my husband...
I also don't want to give in to the negativity that flows in when teachers say they are tired. Everyone has a comment, "well, just wait till you have kids..." "everyone's job is stressful..." "Teachers complain too much..." My response? I know your life is just as hard as mine, and I never would try to say that it isn't, but this is my life, and the only life experience I have. I can't always lie and pretend that teaching doesn't exhaust me...because let's face it people, when you are doing your job right, be it teaching, stay at home parenting, arguing in court, working retail, or performing surgery, it's tiring. I'm also not saying that I do this "teaching gig" better than anyone else- we all have amazing successes, and amazing failures!
The most important thing to remember is that we choose our jobs for a reason. I choose to teach four preps, it wasn't thrust upon me from my administration, because I like the challenge. I choose to direct drama because I have a burning passion for it. And even though it makes the days long and the time stressful, when we sell out the house like we did last Friday and I see my cast light up when they hear they ROCKED it, it's all worth it.
My favorite moments from the first half of this year that I am thankful for are:
Introducing Shared Inquiry to my regular classes and watching them prepare and participate better than any other class I've ever seen.
Using Edmodo with my drama group and watching them encourage each other and respond efficiently to cast notes, thus resulting in a well oiled machine I can proudly call my drama club.
Having high schoolers voluntarily come and help with drama each day, regardless of their own busy schedules and jobs.
Showing students technology like Glogster and Wordle and watching them eat it up and create their own projects...just for fun. :)
Getting the opportunity to create an ET (Gifted) SLC and doing Social Emotional activities and educational games with them
Noveling with my 8th graders every day during 7th period, and knowing that they are all furiously writing narrative masterpieces driven by an internal fire inside them, which brings me joy and gives me time to work on my novel!
Seeing the Interactive Notebooks take on a life of their own, and applauding the organizational prowess of 7th graders.
Assigning FIVE different short story prompts in two weeks, that I will never get a chance to grade, and feeling ok with that, because they are enjoying writing. (FYI- They will pick their favorite and choose to continue and edit it for a final narrative that I will grade)
Notice how I didn't say that I am thankful for that amazing test we wrote at our late start Monday, or the great test practice session I had with students for ISAT, because that is not what makes me feel fulfilled as a teacher. The only fulfillment I can possibly get is knowing that my students are branching out on their own, pushing themselves to be better than they currently are, and being intrinsically motivated to learn on their own for the rest of their lives. This is what teaching needs to be.
I teach so that students will want to continue to learn, not so that they will do well on a test.- sue me. :)
And now for some pictures :)
Teaching relationships between analogies
(Still don't know who wrote that, but much appreciated) :)
Hello? Anyone out there? Oh, you're still there? Good. Me too :)
Sorry for the hiatus, I hate it when work gets in the way of life, lol!
I'm just going to jump back in and talk about Close Reading today, as it is a strategy that I LOVE and we had a lot of success with it about a week ago. The students were VERY apprehensive about it at first, but once they got the hang of it, they realized just how easy it can be!
As part of our new literature series, Prentice Hall Literature, there is an awesome Introductory Unit that we use to teach students important strategies before we dive into the textbook. I'm loving how in-depth the process is, but it can get a little dry for the kiddos. To teach Close Reading I started by projecting the first page of the Hunger Games, which I just grabbed by doing a "Look Inside this Book" on Amazon.
I read it aloud to them, and told them to pretend they had never read The Hunger Games even though the majority of them had. I wish I had a picture from other periods, because we got even more in-depth, but this will do. We started by identifying any characters. They determined that Prim was probably a character, and that "I" is the narrator. They were careful to point out to me that we don't know her name is Katniss yet, so, yeah, my bad. :) We then looked for vocabulary, and they identified the reaping. After reading through the paragraph about her mother, they determined that she is stressed and probably has a hard life. Because the narrator has never seen her mother look any different, they determined she has probably never had an easy life. In the paragraph about the cat, they determined that Prim and the narrator are very different, Prim is probably young, and the narrator is a violent person (and possible psychopath). They also determined that the narrator provides for the family. It was amazing to see this first page of the book through a new light, and realize that we learn A LOT about the book in just the first three paragraphs.
Here is another one I just found from another class period, this time 8th grade:
Next we decided to try it with a non-fiction article from Scope magazine. We determined that in a non-fiction article we would identify subject, main idea, and details, rather than a character, plot, conflict, setting, etc... They underlined the problem and details, and then made connections to other animals that might have health problems similar to bulldogs. This was a GREAT article to use, and I believe it was the last Scope, and is available on their website to project.
I had students use this article for their assessment in my regular education classes with great success. They were asked to identify the following: Main Idea, Supporting Details, Vocabulary they don't know (and then define), Questions, and Comments and Connections.
For my ET classes, we used an article on Syria, which was INCREDIBLY challenging, but also rewarding. We did the first paragraph as a group identifying the same criteria as above, and then they were on their own. There was a lot more vocabulary for them to identify and define. There were also four guiding questions on the back that they had to answer.
Here is what they came up with! It may look like a mess, but I told them they could identify with color or markings, whatever they were most comfortable with!
Here is mine as a reference!
Finally, we had a Shared Inquiry discussion in the ET classes about the article and their guiding questions from the back. This scrambled mess is a visual representation of their class discussion. All groups were very successful with this, and students who had less knowledge about what was going on had discussions with parents at home to prepare, or watched the news. They also learned a lot from each other during the discussion. This is a 7th grade group below:
And another 7th grade group:
Close Reading is definitely a strategy that helps students "dig deeper" into the text, which is a major buzzword in education right now. They can then reference their text and share ideas with each other. Everyone is therefore prepared to have a student led discussion, with evidence they can use to support their reasoning!
I have been going to bed so early lately, and I just haven't had the mental energy to blog even though I have so many things to share with you! Instead of sharing them now, I will make a list of things I'm going to tell you about, so that I'm inspired to write about them soon:
The Success of Close Reading
Planning out the Quarter in the ISN
Using NoRedInk for Practice
The First Shared Inquiry of the Year
Teaching the Art of Argument with Model Texts
Using Writing to Teach Grammar
Prepping for Parent Teacher Conferences
Which one do you want to hear about most?
Are the rest of you wiped out as the whirlwind of the beginning of the school year is finally settling? We are almost done with the quarter, parent teacher conferences are next week, and drama starts up soon, so I need to buck up and get some energy back. How do you keep your energy up?
I figured today I would talk about some of the books I've read since the school year started, and that I would highly recommend for Middle School and High School students!
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
This is the sequel to Ruby Red and continues the story of Gwen, who is a member of a time-traveling circle. She just discovered she had the ability to time travel at the beginning of Ruby Red, and is now on a journey back in time to prevent people from misusing the power of time travel for selfish reasons.
This book is chock full of historical facts, and interesting characters. I couldn't stop reading it, and there is a little bit of romance thrown in as well, but not too much :)
The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman
If any of your students read The Grimm Legacy they are sure to love The Wells Bequest, the second book in the series! This book focuses on the equipment and artifacts held at the New York Circulating Material Repository, and finding H.G. Wells' time machine. Leo goes on a great adventure using the time machine to meet Nikola Tesla, and the book is filled with references to famous works of literature and history!
Compound by S.A. Bodeen
Compound is a must for anyone who is a fan of apocalyptic literature, and has an incredible twist you won't see coming! Eli and his family have moved into an underground compound after a nuclear bomb hits the United States. They slowly start to unravel after being stuck in the compound for so long, and begin to learn secrets about each other that might have been better left unknown.
In The Apothecary, 14 year old Janie is forced to move to London, after her parents are accused of being Communists. Set in the 1950's this novel takes the reader on a journey filled with adventure, magic, romance, and mystery!
Sequel to The Apothecary! This is a continuation of Janie's story, set a few years later.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
As someone who is not usually a fan of romance, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Hadley is traveling to London to attend her dad's wedding to her new stepmother, and she is not happy about it. The only thing that makes the trip bearable is sitting next to Oliver, the boy from London who she manages to fall for in just over seven hours. Once she arrives in London, Janie learns more about herself, Oliver, and her family than she ever expected.
Today I am proud to review the Erin Condren Acrylic Clipboard, and also...announce a FLASH giveaway for a $25 Erin Condren gift card!! This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Wednesday, so enter while you can!
I am bumping my ISN post to tomorrow in order to do this giveaway today :)
A few days ago I received my AMAZING clipboard from Erin Condren. After I ordered, I waited patiently, and when this little beauty arrived I was so excited to open it! If you have ever ordered from EC before, you know that the anticipation of waiting makes finally receiving it so incredibly exciting, it's like Christmas!
I love the packaging, it's so thoughtful!
Here it is...
I chose the Fleur Feliz design in the Splash colorway. I liked the teacher ones, but they just weren't...me, so I went with one of the designer clipboards.
I love the back!
Do you want your own clipboard, or maybe a teacher planner, or something else from their incredible collection? Enter below to be entered for a chance to win!