(Temporarily) Stepping Outside the Classroom: My last few weeks.

It’s been a whirlwind of a 2016-2017 school year and year in general, starting from summer programs with PCMI, Cuba travel through Fund for Teachers, and traveling to Peru. Then on to coaching new teachers through the New Teacher Center, and then…getting married. So yeh, that happened.

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Loved our photographer, Amber!

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And so I’ve moved to Madison, Wisconsin from NYC. And I’ve decided to take a hiatus from teaching since Madison is at this point a temporary home as I hopefully move on to some other adventures (hopefully to be disclosed when things are a bit less in the air).

My life for a bit. This will be the first time since I was 4 that I’m not in a classroom as a student, student teacher, or teacher.

So as my colleagues, peers, and teacher friends begin a new year, I thought it was time to finally publish my logs that captured my last few weeks in the classroom.

Week of 5/22/17

  • It’s been really hard to be mentally present and be positive. It’s that time of the year when teachers and students start counting down the weeks, but this year is partially harder, but there are still 5 weeks to go so time to keep the head in the game!
  • I need to bring positivity into my classroom life, so in come warm fuzzies thanks to my amazing work wife, Claresa Mandola.

  • I’ve never done them before, so I was skeptical I could keep them engaged with this for 45+ minutes, but they loved it and couldn’t wait to get their fuzzies. After they made them, I collected them and sorted them into paper bags with each student’s name and then distributed a few days later.

                      

Week of 5/30/17

  • We started our team meeting with warm fuzzies–adult to adult. I got extremely emotional reading Staabs note to me since she mentions B being like family. She didn’t realize he was invited to the wedding, which affirmed her note even further! B is family!
    “–When you were reprimanding B, something in your tone, and they way he responded by sitting up straight and tall. I looked up startled, and realized – oh- they’re family. to be able to convey so much caring even in a reprimand – unbelievable.”

     

B during the family portraits

Week of 6/5/17

  • Math team was going to give the final unit exam to the classes. I decide to go rogue with my first period class. Instend we spend 3 days on “curve stitching” on paper based on a George Hart workshop I took at Math for America. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures while the kids we’re in action because I too was too involved in the activity! Students first worked on the 30 dot with the rule I+k, then we doubled for the 50 and 100 dot circles. When we doubled, this happened!

On the last day I showed students my curve stitched ring.

  • I’ve been holding students for detention after giving them fair amount of notice about not following directions. I’m over the scolding and repeated reminding. I just give them a pass for detention or let them know they’ll have it during lunch the following day.
  • Counting down the days and I feel checked out, but my coworkers note reminded me that what I consider “checked out” is still very much present at our school. I’m just not giving my usual 110%. I’m giving 90%.
  • This was a really short week. PD on Thursday and I’m taking a personal day again on Friday since it’s field day and I could use some time to wedding plan and pack.
  • Packed my bookshelf and desk at home and the surreal feeling is beginning to feel very real.

Week of 6/12/17

  • PD days are hard. They are always long and work piles up even more after them. Hard to stay present for things dealing with the new school year knowing that I won’t be back.
  • It feels like I haven’t seen the students forever! Last Wednesday was the last time I taught so I tried my best to really enjoy my time with them.
  • Thursday June 15 was one of the best days of the year. I felt that vibe across the entire school (w/ most people). I spent time talking to students. Checked in with some 7th graders I taught last year too! Classes were loud as they were talking, but they were working too.
  • One of the 7th graders I taught last year had lunch with us on Friday–and I told her I was getting married. She was pretty shocked and upset I didn’t let the 7th graders know sooner. I just never see them. When I tell the kids about not returning I’ll pull a few of them aside and let them know.
  • Toward the end of the week, K in my first period class asked if I was going to move now that I’m getting married…I said I’d let her know if that was going to happen. Some of the other girls overheard our conversation and then proceeded to let me know they got my back of my husband ever wrongs me.

Week of 6/20/17

  • I need to start packing things into boxes from my classroom. I feel overwhelmed knowing I have 4 years worth of stuff in the building. More of that continues at home.
  • I had students making tri-hexaflexagons.

  • I’ve begun cleaning out my school closets. I’ve accumulated so much stuff in 4 years. It’s been hard to decide what I want to keep and what I want to pass on to my colleagues. I also don’t want to go home with boxes and boxes of materials that need to be into storage until I’m back in the classroom.
  • Wednesday: I’m seeing some of my classes for the last time today for content classes. I’m glad that I’ll continue to see them for a few more days in more informal settings. The plan is to tell the kids tomorrow about leaving.
  • Thursday: I told B that I won’t be returning the following year. He’s the first student I’ve told. I knew it would be a hard conversation, but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it actually was. He sobbed. Loudly.
  • Friday: My class wasn’t  allowed to go on a trip that the rest of the school is on. I I I used the opportunity to clean and pack.
  • Told some of the 7th graders and my advisory today that I won’t be coming back next year. Most asked if I would come back for their moving up ceremony at the end of the school year.
  • D cried a lot and soothed herself by reading. She texts me all the time to ask questions about day to day stuff at school so I told her to keep in touch with me. We’re going to have lunch together next week and I told her to bring whoever she wanted.
  • Another student, I. looked so bummed and asked, so you’re leaving us for a guy? Partially, yes I guess.

Last two days of school

I didn’t get a chance to log anything for the last two days. It was hectic as usual — but I tried spending time with my coworkers in between cleaning and organizing the room. Had lunch with students and then dinner after work with coworker/friends. And then on to 3 weeks of final planning for the wedding…

 

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Some of the lovely people I’ve come to work with (and teach) the past four years.
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Flexible Groupings

This last week we joined 3 classes that have math at the same time and regrouped students into 3 semi-homogenous groups. We based the groupings on diagnostic data from iReady, an adapative program that gives us the grade level equivalency of students based on their performance across different strands in math:

  • Number and operations 
  • Expression and equations
  • Geometry
  • Measurement and Data

My initial hesistancy when this was proposed was that this would become tracking and we’d be doing disservice to students who were below grade level. Here’s what we’re doing to ensure that this remains flexible grouping.

  • We’ll be revisiting the groupings often. We’re open to moving students as needed. 
  • All groups take the same standard aligned exit ticket at the end of the week. The idea is to get students to be able to complete the same task,  but the process and time to get there might be different. For example this weeks goal was for students to solve ratio word problems by generating equivalent ratios. My group, Group A, where students are at grade 5 equivalency or above immediately went into solving word problems without any scaffolds, group B (grade 2-grade 4) also solved word problems, but were given a table to organize their thinking. Then group C (below 2nd grade level) started with analyzing number patterns and then moved into the same lesson as group B.

Here’s some work that my students did the first day of the flexible classes.


I haven’t yet had a chance to look at student work from the different groups yet, but I’m excited about this a lot more than I was when it was first proposed. I’m looking forward to seeing students move around between groups in order to get the support that they need. 

Post 4: Defeat and Humility…I guess

While my tweet from yesterday was specific about a task, the feeling of defeat is something that has been lingering with me for a while. I have attempted to give my students tools to persevere in problem solving, but seeing so many of them give up so soon yesterday reinforced the feeling of defeat. While I recognize that there are so many factors beyond my control in order to make my students effective problem solvers, the little that I can control keeps me up at night. It’s all consuming of any (seeming) free time I have. I guess it’s a humbling reminder that we have one of the hardest jobs. We’re directly dealing with students and are their intellectual and emotional caretakers far beyond 8AM-3PM, even though some people may tell us otherwise.

One way to keep my self sane is to think forward and reflect on what I can do differently. It’s also that time of the year, where I begin seriously thinking and reflecting on what I need to do differently next year. However, I have about 2 months of school left, where does that leave my students right now? So while I am really grateful because, “there is always next year”, I don’t know how to get over this heavy feeling I have at this moment. Of course, recognizing that my students were not having a productive struggle in my first section, I made neccessary-ish adjustments for my next section. However, that seems more like plugging holes in a pipe, as an after thought — very half-hazard. So while part of the feeling deals with my students inability to problem solve, much of it is about my own teaching, my own planning, and my ability to control the things that I am in control of right now….not so happy with it and it’s a feeling that sucks.

 

Because I felt like a plastic bag…

February and March are brutal months and recently I’ve found myself going down a negative slippery slope where the negativity just cycles. As I began reflecting on this feeling, for some reason this song popped into my head and I don’t think I have ever connected my life as a teacher to a song so strongly. So strong, that I’ve accompanied my reflection with some visual aids.

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep six feet under?
Screams but no one seems to hear a thing

I feel like a plastic bag!

Yes, Katy Perry…I feel like a plastic bag! When not teaching, I can be found running all over the building trying to accomplish 73652 things during my preps. I teach on the 4th floor and make at least 5-6 runs between the 1st and 4th floor each day.  I find myself in self-preservation mode trying to make it through the end of the day, end of the week, to a 3-day weekend. YES! I want to start again. By February of this year, I’ve been ready to start the new school year with a new set of students and a revamped curriculum. We finally have all three grades in the building (6-8 since we’re a new school) and I look forward to tweaking vertical alignment. I am so ready to start again! I’m buried deep in papers that have to be graded. I have one section, where I am so drained and feel like I am wasting my breath (I hate the fact that I dread walking into the room some days…I constantly narrate the positives, I set clear guidelines and expectations, etc. and I’m drained and exhausted and feel like a first year teacher with them sometimes). I’m definitely not screaming at children…but no one seems to hear a thing.

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I’m a firework DAMMIT!

I’ve had to check myself on that point. It’s not true. There are students who are listening and working really hard. There are students who are trying really hard to ignore the usual foolishness, which I need to acknowledge. There are good things that are happening. I’m working my butt off. Students are engaged and excited about math. They are persisting and engaged in math conversations in class.

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That’s clearly how I need to enter a room and begin teaching. #highlyeffective #danielson3c

‘Cause, baby, you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, “Aah, aah, aah”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

…..

You don’t have to feel like a wasted space
You’re original, cannot be replaced

Thanks, Katy, for reminding me I’m not a wasted space. I need to remind myself that everyday I show up to work, it makes a difference. It makes a difference to Student B. who craves maternal attention and his dad is so emotionally detached that he doesn’t realize that his son just wants him to say “I am proud of you” and doesn’t realize what an intelligent son he has. So he responds by acting out. It makes a difference to Student M. who is moving through transitional homes and mom while there are some domestic issues, so she misses a lot of school, but she manages to catch up by speaking to her peers and getting help outside of class and has one of the most genuine smiles on her face. Makes a difference to student J, who probably has gone through most schools unnoticed because she is really quiet, usually does well, but is super shy and doesn’t mingle as much with peers. But then she asks to come up with you during lunch with a small group of students and forgets she’s an introvert. I might not be original and maybe I can be replaced, but then again maybe I am. Either way, I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do and there is always at least one moment every day that reminds me its all worth it. Bad moments and bad days are just that: a sliver of time when things seem to be the worst and we deal with it (or decide to not deal with it — learning to choose my battles) and then we move on. And then it gets better. And then…

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So thanks Katy Perry, for reminding me that I don’t have to feel like a plastic bag, because I’m brighter than the moon and I have it within me to deal with it. Just got to let it shine from within.