Goal Setting · Reflection · Teaching

Getting Unstuck

Happy New Year! The time for resolutions! Right?

Maybe.

By the time second semester hits, I’m usually feeling two conflicting things simultaneously: a new spark of hope for the future and a stinging realization that I have gotten stuck in certain habits.

Last week when we returned to school after winter break, I was ready. Kids were going to find books they love for our independent reading days! My new strange and mysterious short story unit would engage and excite students!

Then I realized I still had more than 100 narratives to grade. Then we had a snow day. And then I came down with the stomach flu and missed two more days. Then we had an early dismissal due to an incoming winter storm. Things started to feel out. Of. Control.

Needless to say, my new semester wasn’t starting off with the bang I was hoping for.

After the chaos of the first two weeks back to school, I need to get myself and my teaching in order. So this weekend, I am dedicating myself to getting unstuck. There are four things I am going to focus on to help me in this process.

#1: Catch Up

With all of the craziness of this past week, I realized that I still had about 20 narratives left to grade, along with new assignments that students turned in this week. My first order of business will be to get these graded. I know that I cannot always be on top of my grading pile, but it’s manageable enough right now that I can tackle it over this holiday weekend and get it finished. This will help me to feel a sense of calm when I walk into school on Tuesday morning, ready to focus on the week ahead, instead of looking behind to what I didn’t do.

#2: Refresh New Procedures

Much of this will have to happen once I get back into the classroom next week, but I am going to start this weekend by creating a new seating chart. I want to try randomized seating so students have a chance to sit by other kids they may not know so well, while also helping with classroom management. I tend to be a little lax in seating and let kids sit where they want, but it’s turned into a bit of chaos in certain classes and lending to this feeling that I am “stuck” constantly redirecting. When students come back this week, I’ll refresh procedures such as how to put the laptops away correctly. How to pick up after yourself. I feel like I shouldn’t have to do this with 8th graders, but if I don’t show that it’s an important expectation (like I haven’t been doing), then the students won’t see it that way either.

#3: Setting the Intention to Be Reflective

I am really good at being reflective for short periods of time. Last year I dedicated a whole journal to reflecting every day…and then wrote in it five times. This year, I am going to try again. Maybe not with a specific journal, but perhaps in spurts. As I was reading NCTE’s Voices from the Middle December 2017 issue, I came across the article “How to Think, Talk, and Write Your Way into Better Teaching*” by Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell. The first thing they list in this article is to “choose a notebook” as a catchall for all teaching-related notes and reflection. When I have done something like this in the past, I have been successful. Somehow, it’s gotten away from me this year and I want to go back. This may not only be about reflection, but it will play a part in my intention to be reflective. Also, writing this blog post, and continuing to write is another way I vow to be reflective this year.

#4: Planning Goals (or at least thinking about it)

I want to try new things. I want to be inspired. I want to make time to learn from others, either in person or from educators who write about their experiences. In the first half of the year, I dove into professional development a little too deep, and started to drown. In December, I took a step back, let myself breathe, and trusted myself to do my best. Now that I have taken that step back, I’m ready to dip my toe in again. I returned to browsing Twitter last week to see what people are thinking – about education and otherwise. It’s not such a bad place after all. I picked up a quick professional book to start reading this weekend – Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst – because I know their thinking will help spark ideas in me. I also know that anything I read in this book is something I will be able to start working into my classroom immediately. This is a starting point for me to think about planning new units, or trying something new within an existing unit.

My main goal after all of this is just to feel a little better about who I am as a teacher. What is my purpose, and how I am I being intentional about my teaching practices? I may not always have everything under control, but when I have the time, I want to pause and be productive moving forward. Hopefully after this weekend I will feel a little less stuck and ready to move again.

Culture · Environment · Teaching

Preparing Kids for the Future and Losing Sight of Today

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 8.23.50 AMI have been thinking about this a lot recently.  It seems like over the past few weeks I have heard many educators bringing up what the next phase of education expects as a justification for decisions being made in schools and classrooms.  I don’t believe that this is how we should be making decisions!

Right now my time is spent in high schools and while I know it is important for all students to get into a good college and be able to pursue the career of their dreams, I do not feel that we should be making decisions about how we educate our high school children based on how colleges are doing things.  First of all, most colleges are pretty traditional. College classes today do not look much different than they did twenty-five years ago when I entered as a freshman.  Also, there is a maturity level to a college student that many of our high school students simply do not possess YET.  Finally, college students have a lot more choice in their learning than high school students do. (Do I want to take a class at 8 am or would I rather start my day at noon? Do I want to take calculus and chemistry during the same semester or should I spread them over two semesters?)

I fear that this constant worry about what is coming clouds what is happening. We have well-defined standards for learning at each grade level and I strongly believe by focusing on these standards, asking students to think deeply, providing choice and listening to students voices about their learning we can ensure that all students will be successful, enthusiastic, curious, innovative, civilized participants in life.

We need to let students enjoy the learning they are engaged in and build upon the skills and strengths they have come to us with. We must continue to push them to think deeply, question and take risks while trusting that we are doing a good job and knowing that they will be prepared for any next step in life they might take.  We must encourage them to love the life they are experiencing and learn each step of the way.

Each phase of learning –  a 6-year-old beginning to read, a 12-year-old discovering that the segregation of our history still impacts our country today, or an 18-year-old writing a killer college essay that ensures acceptance to the college of his dreams – is something to be cherished!

Goal Setting · Reflection

One Little Word

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Several years ago, Rita and I (Beth) discovered the “one word” movement. We decided to use it with our students as a way to focus and set a goal for the new year. It’s different than setting a resolution that can easily be broken, and we found that it had more relevance and meaning for students. It also gives one a chance to reflect on the past year and to see if/where changes can be made. At the start of the new year, we thought we would share each of our #onelittleword2018 as a way to recharge the blog.

 

Beth’s word: Gratitude

2017 brought many changes and opportunities for me. I was blessed with a new teaching partner, my older daughter was accepted to several colleges (a decision hasn’t been made), we said goodbye to my mother-in-law, and I expanded my personal yoga practice to include becoming a certified yoga teacher. The year was also fraught with struggles and uncertainty.

In 2018, I want to focus on gratitude. There are so many things in my life to be thankful for and to develop. I am lucky to have a tribe of teachers who are beginning and developing their yoga practice on Friday afternoons with me, and I am so grateful for their trust and commitment. As an educator, I am blessed with a strong learning community and with mentors who can help me continue to grow and learn. While trying to develop as a writer, I feel appreciative of the suggestions and feedback provided by this group of women. Finally, I am surrounded by a family who loves and supports me in every endeavor I try. I especially feel grateful for my older daughter and the adventure she will embark on this year.

There are times when gratitude isn’t easy to “find”, but my plan for the new year is to always look for the positive in situations and to remember to be grateful for what I have. I am truly blessed and hope to be a person who others see as one filled with peace and thankfulness.

 

Rita’s word: Faith

I have been thinking about my #onelittleword2018 since the middle of December. 2017 was a year of change and challenge and I was searching for the perfect word to guide me through 2018. As I opened my present during the Bannan family Christmas exchange, there it was at the top of the beautiful bracelet my sister-in-law chose for me.

2018 will be a year of faith. I will have faith in the OSU James Cancer Hospital doctors (and their positive prognosis) as they treat my mom’s Multiple Myeloma with chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant and am so excited for her to be feeling better soon! I will have faith in the constant support of my people and heed their reminders to take care of myself in the midst of caring for others. I will have faith in my family and remember that the hard times are often the times that bind us together. And finally, I will have faith in myself and I will continue to be successful in my journey to a more healthy me – both physically and mentally.

Faith makes all things possible…” (Dwight L. Moody) I am so excited for all of the possibilities that 2018 holds!

 

Rachel’s word: Unwind

I have noticed recently that even when I have a little down time, I am not able to fully let myself unwind and relax. Teaching can be stressful and I tend to let little (and sometimes big) problems consume me at all times, even when I’m home. I dwell on moments, or things I should have said, or what I could do to be better. Growth and reflection are important, but I let anxiety take hold instead of finding a positive way of moving forward. I am attempting to leave work at work, and unwind when I am at home to focus on self-care and personal growth goals. I need to take care of myself so I am in better shape to take care of those around me, including my family and my students.

To help me achieve the goal to unwind, I have started a bullet journal as a place where I can track parts of my day as well as other things that are important to me: books read, time spent crafting, meditation, and my marathon training. Since I am running my first marathon this year, I am going to need to find time to relax and unwind  from the stress that training will take on my body. I plan on leaning into hobbies I enjoy, like knitting and reading, and using my time most effectively at school so that I can come home and (hopefully) feel guilt-free.

 

Lori’s word: Joy

Today, as I think about a new year and new opportunities in family, faith and education, I am thinking about joy.  There is no doubt that this fall was a crazy one in my household.  We have a 1st grader and 3rd grader who are active and getting more involved in their own things.  My husband and I  are both educators and I started a new job in administration this year.  This means new responsibilities, new challenges, new work hours and routines.  At times, as my family adjusted to our new “pace”, it seemed hectic, fun and unsettling all at once.  As December approached, the Christmas season reminded me to be grounded in Him and find joy in all aspects of life.

As we enter 2018, I pledge to find joy in all that I do.  I will find joy at work and at home. I will find joy in comfortable and uncomfortable situations.  I will find joy in calm and in busy.  I will find joy in my children, my family and my friends.    I will find joy even when the world seems unjoyful.  I will recognize that joy comes from within me and I will model that for my children.  I know that joy will not always come easy, but that it will provide peace and appreciation for this wonderful phase of life.

 

Corinne’s word: Discipline

As I enter the twilight of my first career, I am getting closer to the dawn of my new one.  2018 brings the challenge of figuring out just where and how I will experience that dawn! I have made brainstorm lists, and had many conversations with my family and friends.  Unfortunately, up to this very moment, I have no idea what my next steps will be.  

Since I wasn’t blessed with patience, I recently enrolled in a ministry leadership class, hoping that the experience would give me the inspiration, the discipline and the structure I need to hear what God has in store for me. One of my assignments for the month is reading a book entitled, The Real Deal, and my most recent reading happened to be about having the discipline to listen for God to lead me in the direction He has chosen for me. What an important and affirming assignment. Anyone who knows me well knows that listening and waiting are difficult and that I will need to tap into my most disciplined self, but I am trying.  Tomorrow is the first day of my new routine, one that will require me to have the discipline to rise early enough to exercise, clear my mind, and open my ears before I begin the busy day at school.

I am waiting and grateful for the opportunity of #onelittleword2018.  It provided me the chance to make my routine public and to challenge myself.  One thing I know for sure is that I love a challenge!

 

Kara’s word: Play

“You play, you win, you play, you lose. You play. It’s the playing that’s irresistible. Dicing from one year to the next with the things you love, what you risk reveals what you value.” – Jeanette Winterson, The Passion

This passage of my all-time favorite book struck a chord with me years ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. I can apply it to many aspects of my life, but I can especially apply it to teaching. To me, it means that all of life is made up of one decision after another. You can stay the same by folding and playing it safe, or you can take a risk. Simply playing is unavoidable, but weighing risks and imagining rewards is invigorating!

Teaching is like this — one decision after another. Is everything ready for tomorrow’s lesson? Do I need to make any changes based on how it went today? What about next week? Next month? Next Semester? Will I teach that content and those skills the same way that I did last year? What needs to stay? What needs to go? Is there a way that I can teach this better? Weighing the risks and rewards of making changes inspires me. Play keeps me energized.

Is trying new things a lot of work? Absolutely. Do I get worn down? Sometimes. Am I flirting with burnout? Hopefully not, but honestly, maybe. My point is this: students are worth risks. And as overwhelming research proves, children learn through play. I’m sure adults do, too, so students deserve teachers who keep playing. I’d rather risk burnout, knowing that I’m trying my absolute hardest to be the best teacher that I can possibly be, than fold.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the temptation is strong to turn on autopilot and coast, but who reaps the rewards of that? So I keep asking myself these questions: What if? What if I could make this better? Teach this better? Do this better? In 2018, I intend to play.