Thursday, December 26, 2013

To work or not to work over winter break?

Winter break always feels longer to me when Christmas is earlier in the break. Now that Christmas is all said and done, I have the prospect of a lot of free time on my hands over the next week and a half. Part of me wants to work on stuff for school. Part of me wants to just be a slug. One thing I definitely want to do, however, is put up some more of my curriculum and lessons on I've really enjoyed sharing my work with people on there, and I've received some wonderful feedback. January always brings a new sort of vigor to the class - sort of a mini fresh start for the year. My department mates and I will be planning a brand new unit for our next core novel - The Glory Field - when we return. Our principal is nice enough to give us a planning day and call in for subs. Looking forward to that for sure!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The three awkward weeks between breaks

These three weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break always pose an interesting predicament to me. I feel both like I need to cram a bunch in to these three weeks but also as if the winter break is a barrier to anything I want to carry over to January. This quandary has proved to be challenging this year as my history planning has changed significantly from past years. My colleague and I have completely revamped our history curriculum and are using interactive notebooks this year in our classes. This, combined with more common core inclusion, means that I'm about 3 weeks behind where I was last year in the history book. And you know what? That's ok. Since we don't have the STAR history test this year, I don't feel as pressured to get through ALL of the history text. With our interactive notebooks, we're able to focus on more important aspects of what the kids are studying. What this means for my planning, however, is that I need to reach a firm stopping point by the end of next week. I don't want to be in the middle of a history chapter when break arrives and expect to pick it up after 2 weeks when we come back. Furthermore, I know from experience that the last day of school before break is its own special little monster. Hard to plan much substance for that day. So since we'll be finishing up the Outsiders next week, I plan on showing them the movie the last two days before break. Still haven't decided if I want to give them some sort of work to go along with the movie or just let them enjoy it since they have worked so hard on our Outsiders unit this year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Like jumping in to a cold swimming pool. Classroom blues after a break.

Heading back to school after a break is always tough for both me and my kiddos. We are lucky to have a week off for Thanksgiving in my district, so yesterday was the first day back after a week of relaxation. By the end of the day, I could tell it was super hard for the kids to focus. I have three classes of kids - each for a two period block. The first core is always very well behaved. This is usually due in part to being tired. This year though, they really are a great group. The second core is like the middle child - kind of rowdy, and right before lunch. This year that group is very, very smart, but very, very social. The third core is after lunch and before the end of the day. This usually means they have the most behavior issues. Yesterday, they had totally checked out about half way through class. Even with the best lesson plan, the added challenge of keeping their focus after a week of being off is a pretty daunting task. Today is better, and we have a solid three week stretch before winter break. I'm planning to stuff as much in to these three weeks as I can. We're finishing up the Outsiders in class during these three weeks. My colleagues and I completely revamped our Outsiders unit to make it Common Core-aligned. So far, I'm really really enjoying the new unit.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

And so it begins...

I have embarked on a great adventure in blogging about my classroom. I suppose an introduction is in order. I teach 8th grade core in the San Francisco Bay Area. Core at our school is a two period block of English and US history. I've taught the same thing since I started, and this is my 11th year. I knew when I went to get my teaching credential that middle school was the level I wanted to teach at. I have always been one of those crazy people who ADORES middle school students. I'm always amused by the common conversation I have when people ask me what I do:

"So what do you do?"
"I'm a teacher."
"Oh, that's wonderful! What grade do you teach?"
"Eighth grade."
"Oh my god, you are a saint/I don't know how you can do it/kids at that age are crazy"

Like many schools, our school is VERY focused on implementing the Common Core this year. Everything seems to revolve around that. My department has been working together to revamp some of what we do with that in mind. What I've discovered, however, is that a lot of what we already did fits the Common Core model. At first, I was worried that the Common Core would mean throwing out everything I had been doing and having to start fresh like a first year teacher all over again. However, now that I know a lot more about Common Core, I see that is not the case. I'm excited to incorporate a lot of the higher order thinking skills in to my curriculum. I also decided that since I was doing a lot of curriculum development this year, I'd try my hand at and see if I couldn't share my curriculum with other educators.

Right now, I'm on break for a week for Thanksgiving. I'm always so grateful for the fact our district gives us this whole week off. It's nice rejuvenating time, and it's given me an opportunity to sit down and get this blog off the ground!