Last year I chose Inspire as my #oneword2017. I felt I was able to accomplish this, just not necessarily with the two boys I mentioned in the post. One, unfortunately, moved before I was able to reach him. My hope is that his new teacher would be able to. The other boy is still a work in progress as he is part of the class I team teach with. I think I made some impact into his ability to try new things though.
For #oneword2018, I decided I needed to change some things. 2017 was a year of great ups and downs, both personally and professionally. There were many things that happened that were out of my control, but several that I could have done differently. Because of how I reacted to a lot of the downs, I decided I need Balance as my one word this year.
As the year ended, I was recovering from the flu. (Sadly this was a common state among many of my friends.) Many teachers I know tend to get sick on vacations. We hold it together during the school year since being out of the classroom is not an easy feat. (See When the Teacher Gets a Cold). A friend reminded me that stress can run you down. Everyone who works in education knows these two things are completely intertwined.
Why is it that every year I get sick in some way during vacation, whether it is Thanksgiving, Winter, Spring or Summer Break? It’s because there needs to be more balance. I am a passionate teacher who gives 100% of myself, almost 100% of the time. I spend my vacation reading teaching books, watching great online conferences (#ditchsummit anyone?!), and finding new things to do in my class (even without trying sometimes). The problem is that I don’t always give myself balance. I spend time with family and friends, but not time for myself. I run out of battery. Then I crash.
So with this in mind, even though I already have commitments for most weekends and some school days that are specifically to my teaching related (not complaining at all since I think these will benefit my class and my professional life), I pledge to take more time for me to recharge and balance out the rest. I wish for you to do the same.
This past week I got to attend and present sessions at the CETPA 2017 conference. While there I attended two sessions that stood at beyond the content of what was being presented. As I continue to present at various conferences, I am always looking for what makes a presenter better than others. I got to see two speakers who showed me what to works and what doesn’t.
The first presenter, Martin Cisneros, was everything I hope I can be: funny, engaging, knows the content well, and open to questions or suggestions. The other presenter was the exact opposite. While he seemed to know his information and he really did try to engage the audience, he offended a few members of his audience. I’m not even sure he knew he did it. Unfortunately he decided to talk down about teachers using tech, especially if they were career teachers who hadn’t worked in other industries. I believe there was also something about teachers who had been teaching for longer than 10 years. As someone who is both of those who happens to be techy AND attending a technology in education conference, not only did he offend me, but he lost the ability to share his knowledge with me. I no longer wanted to learn from him.
This got me thinking about our classrooms. Every year we get a new group of students, yet we teach the same way to all of them. We might do a few team building or “Get to Know You” activities in the beginning of the year, but how much does this tell us about the kids. If we really want to make a difference and have the students trust us enough to learn from us, we need to take it further. I see this whenever I have students for multiple years (one of the drawbacks and pluses of teaching combo classes in California!). Those students are the ones who tend to do the best in my class. It’s not because they know what I want (which does help), but it’s more that we know each other better. There isn’t a lot of time being spent having to get to know each other. I understand what they need and where I can take them. They trust me to help them learn.
There have been many blogs/podcasts/talks that share how important relationships are in the classroom. There is a reason it’s such a common topic.So while there will be a mad rush to get some academics done before the end of the semester, it’s also a great time to get to know your class. Share a few things about yourself. Ask a few more questions about what they are doing over the breaks or with their families. There is still time to change around that kid who you haven’t quite reached. It’s all about knowing your audience.
I have a cold. Hopefully it's the end of it since I've had it for a week. This blog will be told in two parts. The first, a slight rant about how hard it is for teachers when they get sick (or at least how difficult it was for me). The second, how technology can make life easier in this same situation.
My family is fairly healthy and I (usually) only get small colds towards the beginning of the school year. This means I'm rarely out of the classroom for illness. In fact, I just discovered I have enough sick days to be out half a year. (Good news for when I get close to retirement, bad news when I think how often I could have taken a mental health day and didn't.) This last week, as I didn't sleep, couldn't breathe and could barely move without an ache or ten, my husband convinced me to take the day off. (This was a slight struggle as it was Halloween and I couldn't imagine asking a guest teacher to step in on such a fun but difficult day!) As I got out of bed hopefully only long enough to arrange a sub and send a few plans, I realized nothing was going to be that easy.
After an hour and half of getting on the computer to "order" the sub, write the lesson plans, and put together the review I told another teacher I would have ready for her for the upcoming 6th grade test, I remembered why I DON'T stay home often. By the time I had finished preparing for a day I wouldn't be at school, it was almost not worth the effort to stay home! ALMOST! I have always laughed at those who say, just stay home the sub can handle the class and you have back-up plans in the office. Anyone who has taught realizes that not going to work is a lot more than just not showing up. You still have to give the kids something to do and have to deal with any issues once you return.
The day might have gone a little better had I not gotten a text from my office manager almost an hour into the school day saying she couldn't get the plans I sent to her for the sub. (School Halloween parade meant no one needed it sooner so she hadn't checked!) UGH! With a little research, I found Google had flagged the plans as inappropriate! This would have been laughable (really, what could have been inappropriate about telling another teacher what to teach the class????) had I not already spent so much of my "sick day" trying to get my class on the right track without me there. Because of all the hassle I knew I would return the next day, whether I was feeling better or not.
Rant over, now the good stuff. Even with the missing lesson plans (which were eventually unflagged and emailed in), the students didn't miss a beat. While I was at home trying to figure out what exactly went wrong, a few problem solvers in the class decided to check out Google Classroom to see if I had posted any assignments. Of course I had! They were able to get started on the assignment before the adult knew what needed to be done. The other adult I have in my room daily said it all went well and the kids knew exactly what to do. That's the great part about technology, my students can run the class and only need an adult around for when they have a question or two.
Even the review I mentioned earlier was saved through tech. My teaching partner knew we were going to show short videos to review the concepts that were on the upcoming test. The problem was she had no way to access them since each student group chose them and shared with me in Classroom. No problem. I copied the links into a doc and shared them with both her and myself. This meant I had a copy in my email, which I knew was open on my computer in the classroom. She reviewed them in her class, then showed them to the students in my room at the appropriate time.
I have no idea if I will stay home the next time I get a cold (one of the joys of being around kids all day is that even after 20 years I still get their germs!), but I do know that I needn't worry about whether the class will be taken care of. Technology and the kids' ability to problem solve will help everything flow smoothly. Oh, another good thing I forgot to mention, the kids felt so bad that I was sick and had no voice that they were REALLY good for the next TWO days!
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching