Fight Club Mentality for “Teechurs”

In my humble opinion, Fight Club is one of the best movies of all time.  If you haven’t seen it, and plan to, you may want to stop reading now, because some major spoilers lie ahead.  I’ll wait.

Photo credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4094/4921687348_c328c75012_b.jpg

The first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club.  I’m a rule-breaker by nature, so I’m about to blab it all.  If you’re still reading, that means that you agree not to get mad at me for basically giving away the plot of the movie.  Pinkie swear?

It’s been a little while since I’ve seen the movie, but here’s what I remember.  There’s this somewhat geeky office guy (I forgot his name), played by Edward Norton.  He meets Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler, who is a total hottie and bad-booty, and together, they come up with this thing called Fight Club, where guys get together and basically beat the mess out of each other.

I’m not a huge fan of blood and violence, so I didn’t see this movie until a few years ago.  What drew me in was that after I saw Inception, I went on a hunt for other psychological mind-freak movies, and saw that Fight Club was on many lists.  So, I decided to give it a shot.

Oh…my…gosh.

Beware, *spoilers* lie ahead: as you watch the movie, you see Tyler rubbing off on Edward Norton little by little, until at the end, they drop the bombshell on you.  It turns out that Tyler and Edward were the same person all along.  Whoa!!!

The Tyler in Us All

Yesterday, I was driving to band practice and listening to Voxer.  In one of the groups I was in, the conversation shifted to how powerful the mind can be, in allowing you to accomplish more than you thought possible.  I added my two cents, and got back to driving, then began rehearsing our new material.  I wasn’t satisfied with how I sounded, and realized that I’d have to get my confidence up before arriving at practice if I wanted to sing better.  So, I asked myself, “how would Sarahdateechur sing this song?”

Then, it all came together.

I’ve written about how I’ve survived (and even occasionally thrived) as a shy, introverted person in situations that have required me to be outgoing.  I’ve done so by channeling Sarahdateechur.  It probably sounds ridiculous, but I’d be willing to bet that many of us have alter-egos of our own creation.  Little kids may be onto something when they create their own superhero personalities and pretend.  I’m just saying.

What if we were to create these fictional, better version of ourselves, and just become really good at imitating them?  To the outside world, it would appear that we were that person.  Truth be told, we ARE that person, but sometimes it’s easier to pretend it’s someone else.

In the movie, people would see Edward Norton, but when he was “Tyler,” they would ascribe that behavior to him.  I vaguely recall a scene when he was in his boss’s office, and tearing the room up.  That was all Tyler, but the boss saw Edward.  To the boss, Edward is dangerous.  Edward is crazy.  But Edward didn’t see himself that way.

Take that scenario and flip it upside down.  Sometimes we think that we are less-than…not as good as we can be.  Why not pretend that our alter-ego is, then do our very best imitation of that person?  For example, I was super-hype over this Google Glass app called “Race Yourself.”  I don’t know if it ever came out, but I was intrigued by the concept.  How engaging would it be to run alongside a representation of yourself, trying to beat your best time?

Growth mindset, I’m not sure.  However, I will say that although I tend to be shy, it has helped me tremendously to “pretend” that I’m Sarahdateechur (not Sarah…there’s a difference) when I’m in a professional situation.  Even if I do a horrible imitation, it’s much better than I would do otherwise.

Educational Implications

Recently, I made the drastic move from K-8 to high school, within a new content area.  Truth be told, I was very nervous at first, never having dealt with this age group before.  However, after getting some great advice from my friends, family, and colleagues (and a prior video of myself, surprisingly enough), I decided to try it.

If I were to do this, I would have to be on my A-game.  Being someone who even has trouble looking people in the eye, it would be a struggle to project confidence.  So, I pulled off my best imitation of Sarahdateechur, the teacher who I would want to have if I were a student.  She is confident, kind, fun, inspiring, fair, and innovative.

Trust me, it feels ridiculous to type this…but that’s exactly what I did.  Sarahdateechur has taught my classes the first three weeks of school, while Sarah has done the work behind the scenes.  The co-teaching model is working well so far, and I hope to maintain this partnership 😉

The Rules of Fight Club

Ha…ok, these aren’t the original rules.  However, here are some tricks that have helped me, and will hopefully help others:

  1. Create your persona.  Trust me, it might seem weird or awkward…it still does to me…but whatever works, works.  Don’t let feeling silly stand in the way of results.  If it helps, you can feel free to apply the first rule from the movie: you DO NOT talk about your alter-ego.
  2. Dream big. This persona/alterego/educational superhero…he or she can be whatever you choose to make him/her.  What kind of teacher/principal/coach/superintendent/etc. would you want to have if you were a student?  Create this person in your mind.
  3. Don’t make excuses. Superheroes don’t have excuses.  If there’s something blocking their way, they go around it, above it, through it, whatever they have to do to save the world.  When you face a challenge, educate yourself on how to overcome it by talking to your PLN, reading up on the topic, whatever you have to do to find a solution.  Never stop trying.
  4. Be the change.  Each week in my classroom, I put a quote on the board, something I carried over from coaching basketball.  The quote might be for my students, it might be for me, or it might be for the world at large.  Gandhi once said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”  This was last week’s quote, and it resonated so much with me that it might reappear.  If you want a kinder, fairer world, you must be a kinder, fairer person.  Our alter-egos will probably know this, and should act accordingly.
  5. Seize the magical moments. What makes a superhero/alter-ego great?  Well, if we look back through comic book history, it usually boils down to one magical moment.  There was that very first time when the superhero had the choice to help someone with their superpowers, or go on with business as usual.  The same goes for us.  We are already awesome, as we are helping our students.  But remember, our alter-ego is constantly pushing us to go even further.  Sometimes we get great ideas that can change the world, or help someone else, but often we think that we’re not “good enough” to make them happen, and these good intentions fizzle out and die in our brains.  News flash: you are more than good enough, and YOU can bring that idea to life.  If you don’t believe me, ask your alter-ego.

No matter how small we may feel, we all have the potential in us to be great.  Many times when we feel inferior, or that we can’t do something, we can push through it and thrive.  Sometimes the trick is simply to visualize it, and to do our best imitation of the great person who will get it done.  Even though we may sometimes think otherwise, we ARE those people.  Activate your inner Tyler, and see what greatness you will achieve.

Week 1 Retrospective

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Hello, friends!  I’ve been in high school (part two) for a full week now, and it’s better than I could ever have imagined.  Although it is a whole new ballgame, it takes elements from the two worlds that I’ve been living in for the past few years (middle school and professional learning), and splits them right down the middle.  I’ll keep this short and sweet, because I have to jet, but need to blog.  Here goes.

The Change

The opportunity to go to high school, after seven amazing years in my K-8 came along.  I realized that I had become good at what I did, but if I were to continue to grow, I’d need to try something new.  After making this creepily foreshadowing video nine days before I even knew about the opportunity:

I decided to go for it, with a little nudge from my PLN, as well as my family.

First Week with Staff

When I arrived at the first day back for staff, I was immediately struck by the happy realization that I left one familial environment, only to join another.  This was a huge relief, as I was going through major anxiety the night before, as evidenced by this blog post I wrote to process what was going on (lol…hey, we’re all human).

The entire staff was so welcoming, and I was happy to see many familiar faces: parents of former students, spouses of former co-workers, people who I’d been following on Twitter for years, and folks I had met through county workshops and conferences like ISTE.  I probably knew a good third of the folks there already, so this helped a lot.

My team was also on point.  I learned so much from them in the first few days, and am continuing to learn.  It was from our department chair that I got my first explanation of how 3D printers work, something I’ve wanted to learn forever and a day.  Everyone on the team brings the heat in his or her own way, and I’m so proud to be part of this.

The atmosphere was very high-energy and supportive, but it was still a major change for me.  At one point I started to doubt myself a little bit.  However, our final assembly of the week was all about how important we all are to students, and about moonshot thinking.  After watching an inspirational video and hearing the principal’s speech, I felt renewed and ready for Monday.

Time to Meet the Students

Sunday night, surprisingly I slept like a baby.  I woke up early to work out, which I incorporated into my daily routine before school (we have to be there at 9 a.m.).  I found that it helps me focus, and I’m in an overall better mood.

Monday was Freshman Orientation, and they stayed in each class for about 30 minutes to meet all of their teachers from both days (block scheduling).  In our class, we introduced ourselves, then played a game of Kahoot to go over expectations.  In it, there were questions specific to the course itself, the school culture, and random trivia about me to keep them on their toes.

The day went by fast.  Tuesday was the real first day, with the freshmen and upperclassmen at school.

Day One

Since we are on block scheduling, we have A Days and B Days.  So, this will be a culmination of both days.  I teach three different classes, but the first five days of each class is roughly the same.

Warm-Up

The students did a survey that I whipped up on Google Forms, which included info about their strengths, goals, and an anonymous gamer tag for our leaderboard.  When they were done, they signed up for EverFi Ignition, a free self-paced digital citizenship resource, and began completing the activities.

Class Time

After warm-up, I told students how important storytelling is, and how we each have a story and something to bring to the table.  I challenged them to prepare a presentation of no more than five minutes about themselves to introduce themselves to the class, and modeled what this could look like through an ignite(ish) speech of my own.

Afterwards, we played Kahoot again, because most students were not present on Monday.  Lastly, we went over class expectations.  On the last slide, there was a link to an activity, which we didn’t get to until Day Two.

Day Two

Warm-Up:

On the second day of class, students began the day with their EverFi warm-up, except for those who hadn’t yet completed the survey.  On Friday (B-Day #2), students were invited to vote for their favorite class more from the 3rd period A-Day class.  We have a new class showcased every day, and the public is invited to vote as well.

Class Overview:

I explained the routine to students, that we would reconvene after warm-ups to go over the leaderboard, as well as any relevant announcements.  By this time, I had updated the leaderboard with their pseudonyms and points earned on Day One, so then I told them about the items they could “purchase” with their points in the Swag Shop.

Next, we moved on to the Class Activity for the day, Balloon Cars!  (The site where the activity is described is hyperlinked on the last slide of Day One’s course overview.)  This was a great group work activity where the kids were able to get out of their seats and work together on the design process.

Some groups got it on the first try, and many more had to try and try again. Overall, it was a great learning experience.  I was really touched when groups who had success split off to help their classmates experience the same success.

In some classes, we were able to get started setting up reflective blogs via Blogger (thanks to the EduMatch crew for the sugestion).  In others, we jotted down notes for later blogging.

Homework

I’m not very big on homework, especially in a class pretty much rooted in PBL.  However, I am a huge proponent of flipping.  My school happens to have a 1:1 Chromebook initiative, so this will make flipping easy.  In addition, most students do have cell phones.  I took full advantage of this knowledge to craft my first 360 degree flipped video via my Ricoh Theta camera, to show students what is possible:

FYI, this video may not work properly in some browsers, but I had lots of success on my phone in the YouTube app, as well as on the YouTube site itself, where there is a directional control pad located in the top left of the window.

Reflections

I know I promised to be short and sweet, but I got carried away.  Here are a few take-aways that will drive me into next week:

  1. Find some comfortable shoes.  I’m not feeling heels.
  2. Stick to the model of one reading/writing day and one lab day.  This will help get students ready for the college model.
  3. Implement “Figure It Out” Fridays, where we all get together to…well…figure something out lol.
  4. Get the blogs up and running ASAP, so that students can reflect and comment on each other’s musings.

I’d love to hear what everyone else has going on the first week of school.  Please drop a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

Going to High School, The Sequel

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Today is my second first day of high school, except this time I will be on the proverbial “other side of the desk.”  Actually, strike that.

First off, I never sit at my desk (literally or figuratively), as we are all learners in the room….I guess that makes me the “Lead Learner,” Google-style.  Hey, they should make a Gangnam Style remix to that.  Sorry…4 am.

Secondly, the students don’t arrive until next Tuesday, meaning this day of inservice is more like freshman orientation.  However, let’s not get too technical 🙂  For the purposes of this blog post, we will revisit how my first day of high school went, almost exactly 20 years ago, and see if maybe I can glean any wisdom from that day.  Hooray for diaries!  OMG, this feels like such an invasion of privacy, but I think 13-year-old me would forgive Now me, because she’d think this was awesome.

Here we go.  Original comments in italics.  (P.S. I will try to stay authentic and give all of the juicy details, but I’m leaving out names to protect the innocent.  Any typos were in the original.)

Day: Tuesday/Wednesday     Date: 9-5-95/9-6-95

I can’t sleep.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Today/Yesterday/the fifth was my first day of High School at W.P.  I woke up at 2 a.m.  I just walked around the house and read books to take my mind off things.

Thank God for WiFi.

I was nervous, but I didn’t realize it until now. I got dressed around 4:30 and woke Mom up at 6:15 like she had asked.  I was on my way at 6:23. There were two kids from my bus stop there all already and 3 from Deer Run going to some other school.  I started biting my nails that I had carefully grown since August.

What a waste.

What a waste.

Ha!  Spoiler!

The bus came at 6:35. I got on and sat in the front. Crazy thoughts were running through my head about what could possibly happen. I pictured being hung from the pullup bar by mean seniors, being shot, being beaten up, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Oh, the drama lol.  Some of my kids may feel like this Tuesday.  I should be ready for that.

We picked up the next stop.  Kelly sat in front of me.  We talked for a while and I felt better.

Kelly is still the voice of reason, by the way.  Shoutout to Kelly!  Woot!

That feeling, however, only lasted for a couple of minutes. The feeling of dread and lonliness returned after a while and worsened by the time we got nearer to the school.  We were at the stop light near my alma mater, Groveton Elementary.  I must have passed out or something, because next thing I knew, we were on Quander Road. 

So much drama!

I decided to go back to sleep, but before I could shut my eyes, people were getting off the bus. I hopped off and started walking to Geometry. Mr. S***** showed up after what felt like 2 decades and unlocked the door.  

Note to self: don’t be late on Tuesday.

We sat down. The bell tolled, then another about 5 minutes later. Well, actually it was more like an annoying tone. It gave me a headache. Mr. S****** has a loud voice, so my headache worsened and I thought I was going to puke.  I was glad when that class was over.  Not because I was bored, but because I was getting dizzy.  Oh yeah, the boys.

Seriously?  Note to self: this will probably also be on my students’ minds.  Also, don’t be loud, in case any of my students are prone to drama…or blogging.  Sorry, back to the good stuff.

When the first two walked in, one was butt and one was ok. I gave him suttle hints that I was interested. 

Like what?  Sarah, we need all the deets! *takes out notepad*

We made eye contact and he winked and smiled. I smiled back even though I felt crummy. I must have looked like a rabied dog about to attack, because when I fake a smile, especially to a boy, I show all of my teeth.

Totally #relatable, young Sarah.

It drives some of them wild (really?), and others it would if I were better looking (aww, don’t make me travel back in time and sing Christina Aguilera songs at us). I looked like a vampire today. 

Whatever that means.

Well, back to the boys in 1st block. When the first one walked in, I fell head over heels for him. (LOL!) He just had crooked teeth.  Major bummer for kissing, I would say. (Spoiler alert: Stop being so judgy, you’re going to wish you got those braces back then, yourself!)

I forgot about him when the last dude walked into the classroom.  He seemed cool and confident. I liked his attitude.  Plus, he was a sophomore.

I seriously do not remember dude #2.  I remember dude #1, though.  Thanks, Facebook!

I went to second block chorus.  There is not much to tell.  There are no guys (cute ones, that is) and the guy talks a lot.

Ha!  This ended up being one of my all-time favorite teachers.  I guess perceptions change.

Next class was Biology.  I was fashionably early for class.  My headache had cleared a tiny bit so that I could concentrate at least.  I paid attention to what the teacher said. (LOL notice what I gloss over, and what I write about in great detail.)  We got out of class and I went to lunch.

I sat with D***** and T******* and some other kids.  J**** came to sit with me.  After they all left, I went to sit with A********.  (Who are these people? Just kidding lol.)  J****** and D***** came too.  We all left when that annoying tone sounded and I went to gym.  It sucked.  

I hated gym.  I find this article to have mirrored my general experience.  Wish that I had physical education teachers like the ones in my PLN!

We left.  I found my bus and we went home.

Interesting!  We have a similar block schedule at my new school, too!

I talked to Kelly.  I got off the bus.  I walked home, did my homework, talked on the phone, watched T.V., helped dad, went to bed at 10, am still not asleep now at 12:45 pm, will have to wake up at 5:30, and tomorrow will probably suck too.  Joy to the world. I will write again today/Tomorrow/the 6th.  I’ll try to get some sleep.

So long!

Looking back, I don’t think it sucked as much as I thought.  It seems like a fairly normal day, with lots of self-imposed drama, excitement, friends, and of course, boys.

This was very informative!  It was like historical research in a way, haha.  Take-aways:

  1. Many of the students may be feeling nervous on Tuesday when they come back.  High school is new territory…major leagues to them.  Be ready to help them make this transition.
  2. My neighborhood friends, and people I met in middle school, helped me get through the day.  Some of my students won’t have this network, being at a magnet school.  Allow them some time to socialize and build alliances during class…but not in a forced, awkward way.  I don’t think I would have liked that much.  Instead, I think a DigCit Edcamp will be a good go-to, with the optional backchannel.
  3. Bring the heat!  That first day, I was very hard on my teachers.  I had a very bad academic experience the year before, so I was entering high school with a sour taste in my mouth.  It took a long time to shake this.  I realize that some kids may enter with their own baggage (far heavier than even that), so I will try to be ready to take some weight off their shoulders.  I need to establish from the get-go that we are on the same team, and will exert as much effort for them as they should exert for themselves.

I’m sure these aha moments will continue to slap me in the face as I think about it.  Maybe tonight, I’ll write an entry in the same diary, as I have done on occasion.  To my PLN, any tips for this freshman?  Please chime in on the comments 🙂  Thanks!

Final Assignment: The Giver

Things definitely happen for a reason.  It seems like all the stars are aligning at once…hopefully we can pull off this end-of-the-year project.

The Giver

Photo credit: Tara Siuk, Flickr
Photo credit: Tara Siuk, Flickr

I’ve been teaching middle school English for nearly four years now.  My first year in the position, I was fortunate enough to inherit a rather large classroom library.  One of the books caught my attention, since we had so many copies: “The Giver” by Lois Lowry.  I knew that I could never possibly read every book that we had in the library, so the idea passed.

As the years went by, we introduced initiatives such as 1:1 class sets of iPads, mobile labs, and BYOD.  I found myself relying less and less on our classroom library, and getting more and more techy.  Tools such as Actively Learn provided digital copies of many of the same books, as well as several others, so there was never a time when we ran out of copies.  Plus, organizing the classroom library was time-consuming, and generally a pain.  So, I didn’t put up much of a fuss about passing on our classroom library to a new teacher who inherited my room this year.

(Sidenote: I now recognize the value of a balance of media, both digital and print.)

Interestingly enough, “The Giver” resurfaced somehow in conversation a few months ago, most likely with other English teachers in my PLN.  As opposed to picking up a copy in the classroom across the hall, I decided to download it in the Kindle app on my iPhone.  It took me a long time to get to it, but I’m glad that I finally did.

I’m not going to ruin the book for you, but let me just say that if you haven’t read it, you probably won’t be disappointed.  I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games. This book addresses similar themes, but I do believe it came first.  I really enjoyed it, in that it has even more ethical considerations about dystopian societies.

Yesterday, I was pleased to see that it was made into a movie and available for rent from Redbox.  I literally just finished watching it…haven’t cried or thought so much from a movie in a long time.  Even though I know most of what would happen already, it was magical to see it unfold in front of my eyes.

My Students

The school year is winding down, and my students will soon leave for high school.  It is a bittersweet occasion…I really wanted to teach this particular group of eighth graders, because it felt like everything was coming full circle.  In our K-8 French immersion school, students began taking English class in second grade.  For many of them, I was their first English teacher when I came in 2008, so I really wanted to also be their last here.

In addition, over the years, I have worn many hats at the school.  I have taught this group of incredible young people in some capacity for at least five years, if not more.  As a result, we have formed an incredibly strong bond, that feels more like a family than anything else.  Truth be told, I am having a hard time letting them go, but that’s a blog post for another time.

Anyway, another thing that makes this group unique is their ability to dig deep and have rich discussions.  This year, we have addressed topics, with wisdom ranging well beyond their years: systematic injustice, abuses of power, media bias, medical ethics, euthanasia, and more. I have never witnessed such a level of maturity and passion.  They have taught me just as much as I have taught them.

I always tend to ramble when I talk about my kids…I will attempt to get back on track.

The Grand Finale

In these last days of school, we will not have a lot of class time together, as there are various end-of-the-year celebrations, trips, and other activities.  In our curriculum, we are wrapping up the unit on Drama (their final projects are due June 1), and beginning Author’s Study.  To be quite honest, in these past four years of teaching middle school English, I have rarely even skimmed the surface of the final unit, particularly because the students get carried away with Drama, and I let them (hee!).

This year will be different.

I already promised my students that their Drama project would be their last assessment grade.  However, I never said it would be their last project.  After watching “The Giver,” the skies opened up, the angels started singing, and my plan smacked me upside the head.

After the final SRI test on Tuesday and Wednesday, we are going to watch The Giver together, to kick off our author’s study of Lois Lowry.  As we do, the students will reflect by blogging about many of the themes in the movie (prompts TBD).  This viewing/blogging process will take approximately three class days (quite possibly our last three class days).

That right there could be the end…”have a nice summer, don’t forget to visit,” etc.  But for us, it will only be the beginning.

I really want to learn with my students, and read the other three books of the series.  Thanks to my PLN, I now know how effective a Voxer book study can be.  I’m very excited to use a this model with my students, especially now that group admins have more control.

Our book study will go on indefinitely, open to whomever in the class who would like to join.  Hopefully students will take me up on the offer, as I think it will achieve multiple goals.  This will allow them to remain in contact, even after they leave the school.  In addition, and most importantly, we will continue to learn together.  My hope is that when we finish the series, students will recommend other books that we can read.

Fingers crossed.

Day 11 – Thank You :)

Whoops, I dropped the ball and forgot to post yesterday.  I’ll write two posts today.  This one will be really short, because I’m getting set up for class.

This post is dedicated to everyone who makes the world a better place.  I really want to thank all of my family, friends, students, PLN, school family, and just everybody for all of the birthday love.  It really made me smile, and I’m so fortunate to have all of you in my life.  You mean the world to me.  It gets me choked up sometimes to think of how lucky I am to be blessed with so much awesomeness around me.  Thank you for continually inspiring me.  Words aren’t nearly enough, but at least it’s something.  Have a fantastic day, everyone!

Day 10 Bonus! Meet the “Family”

My students are so funny.

We are at a K-8 school, so I have known my eighth graders since my first year, when they were in second grade.  They used to be so little and adorable, now they are big and adorable.  Most of them seriously tower over me (despite evidence to the contrary, I’m not very tall).

GTA Atlanta.  Photo credit: Danny Silva.
GTA Atlanta. Photo credit: Danny Silva.  I was standing on a chair.

Anyway, since we are a French immersion program, my students began taking English class in second grade.  I was the first English teacher many of them had, and will be their last one at the school.

Throughout the years, I have become super-close to these amazing kids and their families.  Our school is truly a family in many ways.

Last year, the “family” took a very humorous turn.  At a middle school basketball tournament (6th grade vs. 7th grade vs. 8th grade), I was joking with one of the seventh graders (now in 8th), and told her that she acted like a grandma.  She insisted from that moment on, that I refer to her as “Grandma,” so she has been Grandma ever since.

Once the word got out, a sixth grader wanted me to call her Grandma as well.  That makes two grandmas.

Grandma #1 extended the family by telling me that she has a “sister,” not her real sister, mind you, who is in third grade or something.  Grandma 1’s “sister” is another girl in her grade.  She has insisted I refer to her as Great Auntie.

Grandma #2 has a “daughter,” who is, ironically, a few months older than she is.  This is Mommy.  So Mommy and Grandma #2 are 12.  Stay with me, people.

I won’t go through the rest of the family history, but I now have a few uncles, some brothers, a sister, a Great Grandma, a Great Grandma Auntie, and a neighbor…lol, that last one had me scratching my head.  It’s hard to keep them straight, so I refer to them all collectively as “old people,” when I can’t remember.

All this is to set up the punchline for the big laugh of the night.  I received an email notification, that an Edmodo post had come in.  Here is the screenshot (name blurred out).

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Day 10 – Clubbin’

Today, we took the SRI.  Nothing to report.  Almost everybody finished.  Most of Third Period got through it a little too quickly for my taste.  I asked them if they checked their work and they assured me they did.  A lot of kids said it was “easy.”  The scores will speak for themselves.

In Fourth Period, the kids took a little longer.  For some reason, this made me feel a little better.  I think (hope) they were careful.  There are about five students who need more time tomororrow, which is fine.

The big excitement for the kids today was turning in their club pre-authorization forms.  I lead five different technology clubs for the students.  That may sound like a lot, but really, it’s helping everybody in the long run.  The kids learn some cool skills that they can bust out later in life, and I get some help and don’t lose my mind.  These are our five clubs:

  1. A/V: Sets up and breaks down equipment, and runs the sound board during chorus concerts and plays.
  2. Photography:  Captures special moments at our school through photos and videos.
  3. Morning Announcements: Produces and edits our morning announcements in the school, via Google Sites (see video below).
  4. Yearbook Committee: Open to eighth graders only.  My right hand, helping me plan fundraisers and design the school yearbook.
  5. Repair Squad: Helps teachers with basic troubleshooting.  Also designs websites, logos, etc. for our special events.

The eighth graders have first dibs.  They are super-excited, because they paid their dues last year and took all the sloppy seconds.  Poor seventh graders, last year there were no sixth grade slots left for them.  This year, I’ll try to keep this in mind, and save a few spots for the underclassmen (and underclasswomen lol).  Most groups will have seven slots, four for eighth graders, two for seventh, and one for sixth.  This will be first come, first-served.  With Yearbook, though, all seven slots will be filled with eighth graders.

One year, we even had a Music Production squad.  The eighth graders of two years ago were incredibly musical, and a student approached me with that idea, so we did it.  Last year, I was stretched really thin, especially coaching basketball.  Plus, the students were more into sports than anything else, so it worked out.  One seventh grader asked me to do a Drama Club, but I really couldn’t fit it into the schedule.  Maybe we’ll try it this year.  We might try a Ted-Ed Club later in the year, since I’m freed up a little bit, but I don’t want to bite off too much.

Anyway, I was bombarded by students for signatures, ever since the papers came out.  When they turned in their pre-authorization forms with all of the teacher signatures, I passed out permission slips for them and their parents to sign.  Hopefully we will get clubs underway shortly.  The sooner, the better.

On another note, I explained to students about the self-assessment for the collaborative work that I talked about yesterday.  I actually developed a Google Form, and asked students to fill it in tonight.  The evening is still young, so we shall see what they report back to me.  So far, a couple of students have filled it out, and the comments are very fair.  One said to divide the points for his/her group evenly, and that the assignment was challenging, but s/he appreciated the teamwork dynamic.  Another assigned points based on contribution, and had similar feedback about the process.

One last thing…as a team, we came up with a way to hold people responsible for checking out the shared iPads via QR Codes linking to a Google Form.  I played with the customization.  Here it is.

Tomorrow: Genius Day, because it’s my birthday and we’ll be smart if we want to!  Woohooooo!!!  Adios.

Day 6 (Edited) – I Don’t Need a Nap Anymore

Okay, so today was day six of school. I am currently “voice-typing” this into my iPhone, if that’s even a phrase. Today would be the day that I would totally lose in my blogging challenge, but thank goodness for voice recognition.

I am “writing” this as I drive home in my car. It has been a very long and grueling day. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day, but it was still very long, and I am still very tired.

In class today, we first worked on Actively Learn to help us with informational text. Afterwards we read about the different characteristics of genres in our online textbook. Then, we worked on a collaborative Google Doc about said characteristics of different genres. Third period did incredibly well. I was very proud of them. Fourth, well, they got a little carried away, and someone deleted everything after we were done. But it’s okay, we’re still learning Google Drive.

Then, we discussed the reading log that we’re going to use for the 25 Book Challenge this year. I found it from a template on Google Drive that I tweaked to fit the needs of my class. Now with the new upgrade, it should be so much easier to make the forms look awesome.

Afterwards, we talked about The Item Shop. The kids oohed and aahed over different perks they could purchase with their spendable points. My third mod got to see Sphero, the remote control ball that I bought for absolutely no conceivable reason. At least now I get to justify it to myself. Fourth period ran out of time.

In technology class at the end of the day, I decided to take my seventh graders to the cafeteria for an in-school field trip. There, we talked about the soundboard. This is partially because I need a new army to replace my A/V gurus who graduated from the school two years ago.  Last year, I did it mostly by myself.  It’s better for everyone if the students learn how to operate it.

These kids were particularly into the lesson, because they’re really big into music, something that we share in common. They were so hype over learning about EQ, as well as basic operation of the board. We had a good time, then we went to the gym for dismissal.

Today was cool, but I need a nap.

(Edit)  Ok, I don’t know if this is the new thing with me, but it seems like as soon as the school day is over, I’m wiped out.  Then, once I get home, I suddenly have this second wind as I am planning the next day’s lesson.  Very strange.

Anyway, this is the results of the planning for tomorrow.  I was planning to do an academic vocabulary lesson with the students, but I refused to make it dry.  Never will they copy words from a dictionary in my class.  No siree, Bob.

I was thinking about buying a vocabulary subscription for my classes in Edmodo, until I saw the price tag.  It was $50 per group, for a grand total of $100.  While it did come highly recommended, I can’t won’t spend that much for an app we will only be using sporadically.

Next, I took to the web with a vengeance to find a *free* app that I could use with my students.  I read many reviews and settled on Quizlet.  Prior to doing so, I had used Voxer to ask my teacher buddies from the GEG DC Metro Area about their experiences with the $50 app.  They echoed that it was a great product, but they also shared a free website called Zondle.  Big shout out to Rafranz and Jake for steering me in that direction.  What it allows you to do is create games based on any subject.  Jake and Rafranz both shared that they allowed the students to create their own vocabulary games.  #doublewin!!!

I called an audible and saved Quizlet as a plan B. We are so going to use Zondle tomorrow.  I was initially going to let students choose their own words, but I think I’ll hold their hand a little and assign words to various squads this first time.  Eventually, I’m thinking of using the TextHelp Study Skills Read and Write add-on.

In the curriculum, we are supposed to do level 3 words for grades 6-8, but I’m also going to throw in level 4 words for grades 9-12.  Being overprepared never hurts. These kids can take it…they’ve been flying through passages for grades 9-10 without even knowing it.  But I’ll never tell 😀

Day Five – (Edited) A Little Less Blah

Today was Day Five. There’s not much to report. We did a diagnostic writing pre-assessment from the county. That’s basically it. Hopefully tomorrow will be more exciting.  By the way, this is one of those short post days I was talking about.

Edit: I’m back.  Ok, I’ll write a little more.  The magic for me happened today when I got home, and I was able to do my videos for the week.  I did two flips, one for all of my students, and a secret one for captains of the squads.  In case you don’t feel like watching them, the first video was a very general recap of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.  The second one is a secret mission for all of the captains.

Again, it would probably be smarter of me to keep this hush, hush so that my students don’t find out, but:

  1. I don’t think they read my blog, and
  2. I secretly want them to see the video, so everyone will want to be a captain.

Muhahahahaha.  I think everybody does want to be captain, but this will make it even more desirable.  One of the items that students can “purchase” with their Class Dojo points from The Item Shop is a change of captain, but this is by team consensus.  I think I’ll add an item to immediately grant themselves captain status.  This will cost them dearly, my pretty.  But it’s all good…to loosely paraphrase Chris Aviles, status is the most coveted reward.  Following that, there is access, power, and stuff, respectively.  Being a captain hits three of the four, but from what Chris said, the kids don’t care that much about stuff to begin with.

My first year using Class Dojo, I used a lot of stuff as rewards.  When you hit 100 points, you got a pizza party.  Boom.  It was ok…better than nothing, but it was costing me a bunch of money, and it probably wasn’t the most healthy thing to do.

Last year, I hit on access more.  When you hit 100 points, you got an exclusive invite to a Dance Central Party.  The kids loved this, but we ran out of time and didn’t get to everyone.  I felt horrible about this, because they earned it, but you can only have two players battle at a time.  Once the list started to pile up, it was a lost cause.  I think I’m forgiven.  Anyway, this year, I’m trying to hit all four domains, but focusing mainly on the first three.

I saw just how right Chris was, when I read this blog post this morning.  A student said that being captain, even for a short time, was “the best 60 seconds of this year!”  Wow, that’s pretty deep, even though we’ve only been in school for five days.

I loved the support that she gave to her classmate.  I think this year will be pretty cool.  The eighth graders are a phenomenal, talented group of kids.  They don’t like taking diagnostic writing pre-tests very much, but we will work on that.  We still have 175 days to go.  It’s already going by way too quickly.

Day Four – Leveling Up

In the words of Ice Cube, “today was a good day.”

Feel free to press play, and let the instrumental serve as the soundtrack.  Let me steal a page from my homie The Weird Teacher, and I will kick a funky rhyme.  I can’t wait to hear Sound Gecko read this one aloud.

Today everything went so well

Slept in, still got to work before the school bell

Said hello to my principal and colleagues

Gave a hug to all of my little buddies

My eighth graders grew and now they call me short

But it’s ok, I’ll still school them on the bball court

Did some Snapshot for warm-up, #edmodo

Then we turned around and talked about the Dojo

Fourth period figured out their squads overnight

Looked around the class, there’s no drama in sight

Then we took a look at the leaderboard

We brainstormed some Item Shop rewards

Not from Chicago, no Bull, but he’s the realest

Shout out to my homie Chris Aviles

Used his model and I told him he’s a genius

Check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers

Class time flew by, both periods

No interruptions, so I wasn’t furious

I’m impressed the kids are so curious

Tech class: #digcit, the kids tried to Google us

They had lots of knowledge that they dropped my way

I gotta say, it was an awesome fourth day

Fiki fiki fiki. Take that, Sound Gecko 🙂