Friday, September 27, 2013

Season 13, Episodes 3 & 4

In this very special, 2-part episode...

Not to go all 'after-school' special on it, but it's been a bit of a wild 2 weeks or so. That, more than anything, was the main reason I wasn't able to get an update written last week. Two weeks ago, much of what I wrote about was how amazingly quick the past summer seems to fade once the grind has set in...the two weeks from workshop week until then really feeling like two months. This may come as a surprise, but that sensation is even more visceral now, one month into the year.

The last couple weeks have flown by at an even faster rate than the first two weeks of school. It helps to be into your curriculum and past the days of going over procedures, expectations, grading, etc. Another plus is getting to the point where I comfortably know all of my students' names. Between having more students every year and getting older, this seems to be more and more of a Herculean task. While daunting, it is also an enjoyable & worthwhile endeavor. Kids know when you've put the effort in to get to know them and connect with them; after all, they're not stupid, and I think everyone values people knowing who they are on some level.

As far as what we're doing in class, I couldn't be happier! This is by far the earliest in the school year where all of my students are writing on their blogs, accessing the online textbook, and completing work on the Moodle Course. I am very encouraged, and it's exciting to know that even when we have a crazy week like the one we just finished - 2 different days with kids at camp - my students back at school are able to work and collaborate, while students who missed class can catch up after school. We are probably a little under a month away from starting our first novel, and I'm pumped for all of the possibilities that lie ahead.

Final thought: it's been great to start dabbling in my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), OOE13. This past Wednesday evening, there was a Twitter chat centered around getting started, engagement, and utilization. I found myself somewhere in the middle among my extended PLN colleagues, having started and done quite a bit with tech integration, yet not nearly as awesome as others. Even though I didn't have too many cogent thoughts to offer that evening, I did read one interesting blog on the possibility of Twitter making students better writers today.

Have a great weekend!


Friday, September 13, 2013

OOE 13 Intro

This is just a quick shout-out for OOE 13 purposes...

Please feel free to read, comment, critique and compliment the writing; share insight, etc.

I look forward to being a part of this experience as much as possible! I realize I'm a bit late to the game here but it's been a little crazy 'round these parts!

Have a good weekend everyone.


Season 13, Episode 2: Slowly But Surely

Two conflicting thoughts have been running through my head on a consistent basis today:

1. It's hard to believe the first two weeks of school are past us already.

2. Workshop week, the first day of school, and summer in general seem WAY longer than two weeks ago!

Many times thoughts like these can cohabitate in our consciousness, especially when you jump from a season like summer into the full-on rush of the start of a school year. There is simply so much going on that even though time seems to fly, shorter (relatively) amounts of time seem to span much more than what meets the eye.

In that same vein, another pair of thoughts going on in my head right now are:

1. It doesn't feel like I've accomplished much with my students.

2. Man, we've gotten A LOT done already!

I think it is easy to feel as though not much has been accomplished when you do need to spend so much time and energy going through things like the syllabus, grading, expectations, materials, planner use, schedules, etc.

But as I sit here and reflect on our first two weeks, I begin to realize that quite a bit has been accomplished so far in class:

  • A week's worth of Moodle activities, including work on cyberbullying and digital citizenship
  • Starting in on our first unit of grammar work
  • Two writing assignments already in the books
  • Our "Digital Me" projects have begun, and will be presented next week
  • Students have created their Language Arts Blogs, which will support much of our digital writing efforts this year
From that perspective, I am quite happy with what's happened and where we are going. The students are eager to learn and are especially excited about the amount of work we do electronically. I look forward to covering new ground with them this year and try some exciting new things.

So while time has seemed to move at various speeds, I write this feeling pretty assured of where we are as a whole. I guess sometimes it just takes a certain kind of perspective.

Slowly but surely...


***Follow-up from last week: I have successfully learned all 182 student names! My next challenge will now be to move them to different spots in the classrooms and test myself without associating names with seat locations.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Season 13, Episode 1: That's A lot of Kids

Good to be back! After the typical summer of playing with the kids, some travel, teaching a little summer school, and the occasional conference, it's nice to be back in the swing of things.

Every start to a school year tends to feel like this epic undertaking:

Okay fine, I just needed an excuse to incorporate an Explosions in the Sky song into this post. But still, something larger than ourselves is at work. For the most part, I suppose this is very true. As a teacher, you're typically part of something big - a school and city community. There are new kids, new hopes, new challenges, and new excitements.

What amazes me is how it can seem like 'preseason' for so long...meetings, workshops, rules & guidlines, grading practices, etc....and then: full blast. Into the curriculum, doing work in class and online, passing out permission slips for the first field trip, and away we go.

The largest thing I'm wrapping my head around right now is the sheer number of students I have in class. 182. It's the highest number of different, unique students for a school year in my career. My goal is to learn & memorize these names as soon as possible. I'm thinking by the end of week 2. That could seem lofty (or slow, if you're not impressed), but this is a very important part of connecting with students. Being able to say their name in the hallway, to ask them a question about their dog, their game on Saturday, their cabin, etc. goes a long way in building relationships.

My hope for this year is to reflect on a different theme each time I write. With the goal of writing every Thursday or Friday, I have decided to approach my writing like a 36-episode TV show. This week's episode is all about what's most important:

the kids.

All 182 of them.

Here's to learning names, making connections, and creating bonds that last longer than the next 9 months.