Unpacking the last few weeks
Well. Back to school time this year has been a whirlwind.
From the moment I walked in my school building on the first day of Teacher Work Week, I was on. the. go.
Getting 120 laptops ready for incoming middle schoolers. Prepping my own classroom. Helping other teachers with their own tech needs. Meetings. LOTS OF MEETINGS.
I finally feel like I am caught up. I probably shouldnt say that, because I know this feeling may not last. But I do feel like I’ve found a groove that is working. Here are some of the things I will be sharing about the last few weeks:
My Room – I went with an “Adventure” theme in my room this year. My back wall is a castle, with “stained glass” windows. My whiteboard wall is decorated to look like space, complete with a 3-d paper mache Sun. On my power drop poles are signs for different fantasy locations from well known books, legends, and video games. I would like to add more, and I think it would be nice to “expand the adventure” as the year goes on.
My Schedule – I have a very challenging schedule this year. Several periods a week, I am actually teaching two classes AT THE SAME TIME. For example, one class has seven 6th graders and eleven 7th graders. I *could* teach them both the same thing, but generally I have a curriculum that I have developed over the years that is sequential for each grade level, and if I break that trend and then my schedule goes back to normal next year (which I hope it does!) then I will have already taught the lessons that the lower of the two grades should be receiving, and they will miss the intermediary lessons they should have gotten this year.
I have *finally* figured out how to deal with this, tried it this past week, and it seems to be working well. Since I see this split class twice a week, I teach the 6th grade lesson one of those days and the 7th grade lesson the other day. Then, when the one class is not receiving direct instruction, I give them that class period to work on projects for their other classes, or offer remediation or enrichment, or give them study/organization time. This takes a little more legwork on my part, but all I have to do is check in with their other teachers and find out what they have been working on that day or the day before and then create a quick “menu” of assignments for them to choose from. I also give them the privilege of cleaning and organizing their locker, provided their other classwork is done first. This usually gives me enough time to get my lesson class started on their classwork, and then I can circulate and answer questions, reinforce concepts, provide help with things they are struggling with, and check for completeness, with both classes.
My Students – I’ve mentioned the concept of “flow” several times here, and I think I have discovered what is causing the lack of flow in my students. I believe that they are used to being helped too much. Their wonderful parents, who clearly care deeply about their children and are very involved in their lives, are probably running themselves positively ragged at home helping their children. I don’t think they realize that this is hindering them instead of helping. I attempted to teach a new concept to my 5th graders two weeks ago, and they were SO HIGH STRUNG I had to make everyone stop and do some deep breathing. My students were BESIDE THEMSELVES with worry that they didn’t know EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of what they were being asked to do. I regrouped and tried a different tactic this week. I told them I wanted them to become confident in their OWN abilities, and I was going to work to help them reach that independence. I was able to break down their assignment into a few, clear, simple instructions, and gave them the freedom to add their own creative touches once they had the basics done. It really went SO MUCH BETTER than last class. I was very proud of them!
My Home Life – I feel like I’ve spent 90% of my time at school, and keeping up with things around the house has been tough. Especially since over the last four weeks, nearly everyone in my household came down with the flu, and my husband’s flu turned into pneumonia. We are all getting better, and finally settling into a routine. Two of my least favorite tasks are meal plannign and laundry, but we have found some tips that really help make both smoother.
Meals – we try to set a few “favorites” on repeat several times a week. For example, since my middle child has a standing appointment every Tuesday evening, we do Pizza Night on Tuesday. It’s easy, a no-brainer. Then we eat at my parents’ house on nights when my husband works late. A HUGE help. The rest of the week we plan ahead and try to get things ready the noght before, so I can just pop stuff in the oven. Also, I try to do a crockpot meal once a week. Just throw everything in the crockpot before we leave for work, and dinner is waiting for us when we get home!
Laundry – recently I discovered a tip that has changed. my. life. at least when it comes to laundry. It’s the 1-load rule. You simply do ONE load of laundry, from start to finish (including folding and putting away), each night. I throw it in the washer as soon as we get home, take care of dinner, kids’ homework, etc., and then transfer to the dryer before starting bedtime routines. Then, after the kids are in bed, I fold clothes while hanging out with the hubby watching tv.
So that’s what’s been going on. I’m hoping to start a regular posting routine, and start sharing to diigo again. But honestly, i’ve been favoring Pinterest lately, so we’ll see about that. 😉 How has YOUR back to school time been?