Thursday, October 13, 2011

Do you Glog?

Attention all my teacher-readers! Check out this amazing, easy, wonderful way to make posters for class projects digitally: www.glogster.com

Students are using this website to not only display their knowledge and research on a topic, but to incorporate vivid images, music and video clips that correspond to the subject. It is interactive and engaging for the audience and incredibly intuitive as a program. Plus, it is free! There is an educational version (glogster.edu) which allows students to upload their posters directly to their teachers for grading.

I love this because it eliminates the mess of cutting and pasting, makes grading a snap, and is current. Think about it, after high school, when are people ever asked to create a poster? Never! But to be able to present something using a computer or digital format? Now that is something they may realistically be doing in college and as adults in the business world. So why are we still having students do things like make kitschy posters and magazine collages? What are they really learning? This seems like a great way to push our kids to be more tech-savvy, a necessary skill in our rapidly growing tech-based society!

Here is a sample Glog I made of all my favorite things. It was waaaay too much fun! Click here to view it in full size.


I am definitely going to be using this in an upcoming mini-research project and am thinking about using it as a fun get-to-know you assignment for next year. Pretty sweet, right?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Connecting

I have one class of 9th graders who are quite the handful. I do love them, even as I swallow down the Advil to cure my splitting headache. ..

What is so wonderful and simultaneously exhausting about them (like many of my 7th and 8th grade classes last year) is that they come to class every day with so much energy and enthusiasm! It is hard for me, as an educator who values the importance of student-to-teacher connection, to simply squash that down with my big heavy ruler.

Every day I ask them a question from my book of "If..." Being 9th graders, who are not far from middle school mentality, they love questions that have anything to do with food. A big favorite was, "If you could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of your life, which would you choose?" This question was great because a few students who have been shy so far this year even wanted to get in on that one. It's a small victory for me when I can see a hand raised from a student who is generally very quiet, even if it's not academically related.

So these kids come to my class so happy to be there. They beg me for an "If" question every day, and they bombard me with questions about high school or stories about their weekend. When I can finally wrangle them in, they do a nice job of channeling their energy in to the story we are reading or the activity we are doing (with a few dozen nudges by me to get them back on track).

This particular loud, rambunctious class also happened to be the class my principal happened to choose for one of her random "pop ins." As soon as I saw her walk in to my room and sneakily slide in to a back seat, my heart plummeted. Oh dear God, I thought, please let them stay focused.

Upon seeing the principal, my students suddenly straightened in their desks. Hands flew in to the air rather than answers shouted out. Kids who normally derail the class stayed focus. It was perplexing...

When she left, the kids relaxed, and resumed their normal excited, bantering, casual class behavior. I silently thanked them for making me look good, wondering if they had even understood the observation was of me, not of them.

I wonder if that is one of the great benefits of taking the time to create a connection with your students. If you give them the respect and attention they need, they will in turn respect you right back. I have always believed that creating a bond can be an essential step in the educational process, at least with high schoolers. No, I am not trying to be "friends" with my students, but I am taking the 5 minutes necessary out of my class to ask students about their lives, their friends, their games, their weekends. I'm convinced that students will take, or respectfully fake, an interest in what I am teaching if I take an interest in them.

And like I said, while they do often leave me with a throbbing headache, they do make me smile every day. Especially last Friday when, after lunch, they turned off all the lights to my classroom, closed the door, hid under their desks, and yelled "surprise!" when I opened the door.

Ohhh freshmen! :-)




Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2 Lists

I am going to make 2 lists in this blog: Things that are Making Me Happy Right Now and Things that are Not Making Me Happy Right Now. That's right, I'm dumbing it down to something that basic and simple...essentially it's a glorified diary entry. But here's the deal, I'm going to make a concerted effort to make one list longer than the other...because that's the list I want to really focus on.

Things That are Not Making Me Happy

I miss my old school, my old students and my old teacher friends.

You know how much I hate dwelling on the negative, so this is the only thing I am going to put on this list, because it is probably the most overwhelming feeling, related to my job, that I am experiencing right now. In my last entry I wrote about how much I missed the familiarity and comfort of knowing what I was doing every day in my job, now I am missing the actual people I used to surround myself with on a daily basis.

By the end of the school year last year, I felt pretty good about my knowledge of a middle school kid's psyche. I could predict when they would have questions, when they might challenge me, when they might try to pull a fast one, or when they were too uncomfortable to say how they really felt. I knew which assignments were going to make them tick and which assignments were going to make them groan. It probably took me at least 6 months to master it, but I was pretty confident by the end of those 6 months, that I knew how to be a middle school teacher. So now, I am relearning and asking myself every day, how do I become a high school teacher?

What I miss more than my students though, are the adults I worked with every day. I never realized how great it was to be teaching with other young people in their first 5 years of teaching. Though we were all at different stages in our career, we were still all learning together. And the teachers still had the same energy and enthusiasm for aspects of teaching that older, or should I just say more experienced teachers just find to be old news. We would debrief every day, sometimes sprawled out like defeated soldiers in Jessica's classroom, just talking about the little nuances, frustrations and joys of our job. I didn't realize until now how important that was.

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How can you not miss that face?

Things That are Making Me Happy

Putting a good book in to a student's hand.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from students this past week:

"My mom thought something was wrong with me because I was reading so much yesterday."

"I finished that book you gave me yesterday last night. Now what should I read?"

"Okay, this is really weird, I am actually enjoying this book....you don't understand, Ms. Baird, Ihate reading."

I am still convinced that there is nothing more powerful than placing the right book in to the right kids' hands.

I'm starting to take more ownership of my lessons.

I breezed through the first couple of weeks of school without enough confidence to create my own lessons. I scraped together borrowed lessons from other teachers and half-heartedly presented them like a robot. Then I went home and wondered why I wasn't gaining any pleasure or excitement from my job.

Then it dawned on me! Some people are teachers who enjoy conveying a message through a medium that has already been created. They can easily pick up the "rhythm" of another teacher's design and make it their own. I am not that kind of teacher. I get all my energy from designing the lesson and activity myself.

So, slowly but surely, I have begun to incorporate my own flair and ideas in to my lessons. I'm even beginning to use some of the great technology aspects that I have been wanting to use on a daily basis. Thanks to mom, who never fails to inundate my inbox with new classroom tech tools! I hope to continue to find the time and energy and enthusiasm for creating my own activities every day because I think it is truly what gives me the exuberance in my classroom that I need.

I am taking time out for me.

This summer I discovered a new love: yoga. It is truly the closest I have come to spirituality in a very long time. Yesterday, I mustered up the energy to force myself to go to candlelight yoga from 8-9 PM. Since I haven't gone in about a month, I was sweatier than normal, but afterward, I really did feel more at peace with the chaos of my life. My favorite lines that yoga instructors often say are what keep me coming back:

"You have already gotten through the hardest part of this session, and that was making the time in your day to be here."

"There is no judgement here. All that matters is what is happening in the confines of your mat."

"Clear your mind, let go of everything that has happened in your day, everything you are worried about in your future, and just be present."

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That's me in dancer's pose on the beach... okay, no it's not.

In addition to yoga, I also ran a 5k with my family last weekend. Again, I had been running all summer, and while I was not thrilled with my run at the race, I was very proud of what I had accomplished. I've found that when I do make the decision to run, it is an escape unlike any other. My body is moving and breathing and beating in rhythm. It is almost like another form of meditation, my mind clears and all that has happened in my day is transferred in to my legs and feet.

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The proud B-Squad. Turns out wearing a lime green shirt at a race is a surefire way to get a lot of shout-outs and support while running!

Another thing that I did last week that was extremely refreshing was on last Wednesday night. Kelsey invited me to this “thing” that doesn’t really have a name because they aren’t really sure what it is. Its groundwork is in conversation. Essentially, it’s a bunch of people, my age, coming together to talk in guided discussion. While some of it is faith based, it isn’t a bible study nor is it heavy on the things that tend to really bug me about Christianity. There was good tea, good live music, a good story and great conversation. I realized how much I miss being able to interact with other people my age intellectually, like in college. It felt so good to get out of the house on a week night and put my energy in to something new and different and out of my comfort zone. I’m hoping it can be something I make in to a habit.

I am going to stop this list now, because I feel satisfied that I am surrounding myself with people and things and hobbies that are keeping me happy and grounded. Right now, I may not be defining my happiness through my job, and although I some day would like to be, as long as I keep my life infused with these little things, I know I’ll be okay.

Oh and frequent phone calls with my old school friends definitely help too!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Embracing Change

I've been avoiding writing a blog entry because I have come up against so many major milestones in my life and I put a lot of pressure on myself to make each blog post epic and impressionable. This one probably will be neither, but it will at least feel good to get it all out. And I always preach to my students to stop self-criticizing and just write, so I'm going to listen to my own sermon and just write.

One of the major-est milestones is that I switched schools and am already in my 3rd week of teaching at my new school. I am at a point in my life where I am learning to adjust to so much that I don't remember what it was like to feel comfortable in consistency. Every day brings forth new questions, new challenges, and new puzzles that I thought I had solved last year but crop up in an entirely different way now. Adjusting to something new, a new procedure, a new facility, new students, new ages, new lifestyle, is exhausting. Every step I take I second guess myself. Will the students respond to this question? How long will this activity take? How do I word this in my syllabus? Is this too hard for them? Is it too easy? Do I sound like an idiot? I am starting all over again and I can't help but look fondly and desperately back at my old school and think, "Man, if only I were still there, my life would be so much easier right now. I'd know exactly what I was doing."

It's times like these, when I feel stressed and anxious and clueless and frantic and on the brink of breaking down, that I cling to the idea that without change, the world would be static. Change brings opportunity. It's not meant to be comfortable.

While teachers prepare students for a "changing world" it is ironic that the teachers themselves have the most difficulty dealing with change. For some reason, educators deal with change poorly, as soon as a new path is created they get upset that the old path is being abandoned. When new ideas are thrown in to the mix teachers whine and fuss and claim that "the old way worked just fine!" There are some big changes occurring at my new school, just like the school I taught at last year, and with those changes comes the hope for instilling something new and lasting and important in the lives of these students. But change is awkward and uncomfortable. It means more work and less certainty. It means making mistakes and learning from them.

So when I get upset and stressed that my life is changing, I think about how I don't want to be one of those people who refuses to adjust, who digs her heels in to the ground and says "No! MY way is best!" clinging steadfastly to good, but worn-out ideals and snubbing my nose at innovation. Instead I want to ride the bumpy waves of change and hope it carries me in a positive direction.

I hope to post again soon, with some less vague, more fun little stories from my first few days of my new school.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Will the real Laura Ingalls Wilder please stand up?

Whenever I drive down 94 East I always see the exit sign for Laura Ingalls Wilder's log cabin, but I have never had the opportunity to diverge and visit it. I had 4 days off from the pool this week and I wanted to make it an epic vacation. I asked Jessica, my social studies kindred spirit and fellow blogger, if she wanted to accompany me on my journey. I was very dramatic about this invitation. I said, "Do you want to come with me to Laura Ingalls Wilder's log cabin? I am going whether or not you say yes."

Luckily, she did say yes. And so began our journey.

I must admit that it is very silly for me to blog about this mini-adventure because she has already done so, and so eloquently, on her own blog. Read her post here:


She touches on the fact that our childhood dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder were shattered when we stumbled upon a letter she had written at age 78, stating that she did not like teaching and would not be able to write any more letters, as she didn't like it very much and was getting old. Also, the pictures of her as an old woman made her appear crotchety and stiff. I was a bit disenchanted.

Jessica was appalled when I explained to her that the log cabin was only a rendition. Keep in mind that the last time Jessica and I were together, we were touring George Washington's estate. It's hard to beat the authenticity of that experience. I remember walking through George Washington's living room, looking at the original mirror and thinking, "I'm looking at my own reflection in the same mirror that George Washington looked at his own reflection." It doesn't get much more powerful than that.

Standing in the replica Laura Ingalls Wilder log cabin, I said Jessica, "I just don't feel it. I don't feel her here."

Jessica agreed.

So to curb our disappointment, we did a photo shoot, blew bubbles, and Jessica dared me to ridiculous things, which I did without hesitation...such as...


"Maddie, wear this bonnet"...and...

"Maddie, try to climb up her cabin"

Maybe it was disrespectful to act so ridiculously at Laura Ingalls Wilder's supposed place of birth. Something tells me Laur didn't have quite the same sense of humor as Jessica and me, but overall, it was a wonderful experience. I got to go on the road trip I wanted. I got to see remnants from a childhood historical icon. And I got to spend time with one of my favorite people.









Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Secret Summer Life of a Teacher

Being a teacher is sort of like living a double life. Now that it is the middle of the summer, I have realized that I have completely shed my teacher persona in exchange for my alter ego. What that means is that I have not thought about students, lesson plans, writing, grammar, literature, classroom management, test scores . . . anything school related . . . for at least 5 weeks.

So what, or should I say who, is my summer persona?

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Persona #1: The Chaperone


I spent the first four days of my summer vacation on the Washington D.C. trip with the 8th grade class. Here I am standing next to Eleanor Roosevelt at the beautiful FDR memorial. You can see the look of sheer exhaustion in my face...the dark circles, the pale cheeks, the tired eyes, the forced smile. That is how I felt the entire trip. Chaperoning 44 8th graders in a foreign city is like hoarding confused, helpless cattle. I mean that in the most loving way. I've never felt more like a mother in my life, and the stress and pressure of taking care of these students left me reduced to an anxiety ridden mess. I barely enjoyed the sights (luckily, I have been to D.C. three times!) I was so bombarded with sensory overload. Watching and interacting with the students outside of the classroom was amazing though and I wouldn't trade that for anything.


Above, this particular student and I talked about Eminem's new album for about 35 minutes while on our Mount Vernon tour.

These are the other chaperones, equally exhausted, on our last day outside of Mount Vernon, enjoying the beauty and counting down the hours to the flight home.



Jessica and I abandoned our mature adult teacher selves to become incredibly ridiculous 13 year old versions of ourselves. We commemorated our friendship by buying button rings at the American History museum. By the end of the trip, Jess and I were acting so goofy and giggly, students began giving us weird looks. One student said to us, "Um, I think you guys need to get some sleep."

Persona #2: The Supervisor

2011 Supervisors Anne, Maddie, Kaitlyn

It's my 9th year at the pool. NINE YEARS! That is almost a decade. This year at the pool feels very different. Suddenly, I am old. I know, I know, some of you are rolling your eyes, but the average age of a pool employee is 18. Life for an 18 year old revolves around how you can get alcohol and when and where you can drink said alcohol. I feel increasingly irritated by people and things that I wouldn't have given a second thought to in years past, and even more increasingly nonchalant about things that would have driven me bonkers. Take for example, a pool patron yelling at me for some reason or another. That type of stuff used to make my heart race and my hands shake. It just doesn't phase me. Does this mean I'm all scarred and numb now? Will I be like this after I've taught for 9 years? :-/

Persona #3: Blonde



This truly is a different persona. What's different about being a blonde? Everyone notices. Everyone comments. Everyone has an opinion. Most people have a positive one.

I feel indifferent. Some days I love being so blonde, some days I feel cheap and teenagerish. Either way, it was a needed change, and it's great for summer.

Persona #4: Birthday Princess



Kelsey and me on my birthday. The beads were a birthday present from an ornery drunk man.

Just kidding about the princess thing. Hopefully, anyone who knows me knows how much I hate when girls go out to the bars in princess crowns.

But, I did celebrate my 24th birthday. Jackie, Kelsey and Jenna came out to River Falls with me to celebrate in ultimate affordable and quaint style, ending the night at my favorite tacky college dance bar. I felt loved and special, just like someone should on their birthday. I do not feel any anxiety about being 24, but we will see how things go next year when I am officially in my mid-twenties.

Persona #5: Normal Twenty-Something-Year-Old



I feel like I can actually do things my other friends are doing...like, gasp!...go out on a Saturday night without feeling tired by 10:oo PM? Jackie and I have actually gotten to hang out, rather than just simply cohabit our townhouse together. We celebrated RF days together, and just recently got use of our cute patio and grill. Monday night we grilled burgers and potatoes. As we sipped our frozen margaritas in the hot 90 degree sunset, we talked about how, in February, we had hoped we would be here, doing this.

Persona #6: Sewing Machine Queen

See that sewing machine in the far left corner of the last picture? That would be my Project Runway Limited Edition Brother sewing machine my mother so graciously gifted me for my birthday. This was the first project I sewed, only mine was in black, with glass buttons for the center:




My next goal? A vintage patterned A-line skirt... for teaching, of course!

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So those are my personas. While I feel like I really haven't done a whole lot yet and the summer is halfway over, after writing this, I realize I have and I am really happy about what I have accomplished. I like living this "double life" in the summer, and turning my brain off from the stress and madness of the school year. Soon, not yet, but soon, I'm sure, I'll be completely refreshed and renewed and ready for my second year of teaching at a brand new school.

But I'm not quite there yet.

Signing off,

Persona #7: The Lazy Morning Blogger




Saturday, June 11, 2011

Spinning

(Before I begin, I will acknowledge that I have not written since March, and a lot has changed since then. Hopefully, this entry will put what little closure I can on the year)

Today was the last day of school. It was a chaotic day of yearbook signing, rated G movies, and tearful hugs in the hallways.

After lunch I wandered out to the back of the school, where our 7th and 8th grade wannabe teenagers were playing frisbee and four square and lightning by the playground. I smiled at the girls in their flowery skirts, huddled together self-consciously, and the boys, hauling too-heavy nets out to the field to play lacrosse. I felt reflective and nostalgic, wondering how these students might behave when they are suddenly full-blown teenagers…angsty, confident, rebellious.

I watched as some awkward 7th grade boys spun each other in this strange metal contraption shaped like a cage. In all honesty, this playground toy looks a bit like a medieval torture device. The students enter this metal egg, stand on a small one foot wide square, grasp ahold of the bars, and then are whipped around by their friends at an uncomfortable angle. My teacher friend, Jessica, has confessed that she has nightmares of students being whipped around too quickly and clanking their heads against the steel.

I suddenly really wanted to be spun. I asked Jessica if she would spin me, and then we were running to the playground, using our teacher power to kick the 7th grade boys off. I stepped inside and grabbed the bars.

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One of my students took over and began spinning me. I watched as students began to crowd around to watch their Language Arts teacher be spun into misery, but they were all just an incoherent blur as I whipped around faster, and faster, and faster. I screamed out “Stop!” but he only pushed me faster. One of my feet lost balance and my heart dropped, afraid I might plummet to a dizzy death if I toppled over.

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When the spinning finally stopped, my eyes couldn’t focus, I tumbled out of the contraption and began running, after the students insisted I do so, at a strange diagonal toward the swings. It took a moment to recover, feeling as if I’d just gone on a three day drinking binge. I took deep breaths and squinted my eyes until I could see straight. I still felt woozy and uncomfortable even minutes later.

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But I was happy I did it.

I was thinking as I drove home tonight, how this whole year I’ve been just spinning in a little steel cage, reeling, watching the classes and the days and the months roll by like one streaky blur of color and noise. I’ve stuck my foot out before, trying to feel the air, understand what is happening, but only to be quickly whipped around back to the center of gravity and chaos. And now, here I am, on the last day of school, climbing out of this cage and running at an awkward angle, wondering to myself, “What just happened?”

Last Thursday I accepted a position at a new school. It is across the river, where I student taught and currently coach. I put in my letter of resignation on Friday. I told my students on Monday.

I could not have predicted the reaction I received when I told my students I would not be teaching at their school anymore. While I did expect some students to be sad, many students felt like I had betrayed them. “Why?” they kept asking me, “Why do you have to leave?” The 8th grade girls battled their way through the lunch hallway monitors just to ask, “Is it true? Are you really leaving us?” The students felt I was really abandoning them, not just my job.

There was an enormous outpour of love, in the form of poems, letters, and artwork all week. One student who kept me on my toes all year with his 8th-grade-boy-bravado and attitude, said to me in the hallway, “I heard you were leaving, that makes me really sad. You were my favorite teacher, and I’m sad that my sister won’t get to have you now.” Another student created a poster of all my favorite things, including diet Coke and some of the books we read this year. Today at the end of the year talent show, a 7th grade girl sang “The Call” by Regina Spektor, a song that I absolutely love from The Chronicles of Narnia. Halfway through the song she stopped, and said, “This song is dedicated to Ms. Baird. We are so sad that she is leaving.”

In the end, I can’t really articulate all that happened this year. I feel like I have grown five years in just ten months. I was telling coworkers a funny story about my six- person college house experiences, and I suddenly realized that was only last year. Students were writing and telling me things today that I thought I might one day, after many years of teaching, hear from students. How did I come so far in such little time?

The fact is, as teachers, we are making an impact. It is the cheesiest line out of the book of teacher clich├ęs, but we really do make a difference. We bust our asses every day to come up with innovative lessons, to connect with students, to capture and inspire and motivate, and if we put ourselves whole-heartedly into our jobs, we can do just that.

In all honesty, I loved and hated this year almost equally. The students challenged me every day. I struggled to find a balance in my life when I was so overwhelmed with my job. There were issues and problems and frustrations that don’t need to be typed here, because what it comes down to is the fact that I figured out who I am through this entire experience.

What I know is that I am a teacher. I can’t be anything else because it is who I am. I know that I want to connect with students. I know that I want to make students think and wonder and question the world. I know that I want to be silly and wild and irrelevant with students. I know that I want to make students better writers. I know that I want to make students better versions of themselves. I want my students to make me a better version of me.

I don’t know if switching schools was the right decision but I do know that it is not the wrong decision. I hope that I don’t look back in regret. I hope I find rewards in my new job in an equally satisfying, but also very different way.

This was not an easy year, and I don’t think that’s a unique feeling for a first year teacher. Yet, it was difficult in ways other than the typical rookie obstacles. But rather than dwell on those difficulties, I want to take a moment to be grateful for what this year has given me.

I met some of the most inspiring people I have ever met. I met teachers who really love their jobs, and who want to become better at their jobs every day. I met adults who crave knowledge and enjoy relishing and sharing knowledge with each other.

I met my friend, Jessica, who made me feel welcome at my job from the very beginning. In her third year she was experienced enough to be wise about teaching, and offer thoughtful guidance and advice, yet she was also humble enough to trudge through the trenches with me, to sit and piece together the “what-the-heck-happened?” moments of our days. I became a reflective person because of her. She digests everything she sees and experiences whole heartedly, then she peels back all the layers of it and questions it. I’ve never met anyone so thoughtful and open. I needed her every day this year. She was the breath of reality.

I figured out how to actually run a classroom. I learned how to hold students to my expectations, how to raise the bar, how and when to lower that bar when necessary. I learned what my breaking point was. I saw myself as the teacher I did not want to be, like the day I made my 7th hour sign a contract that they would “raise their hand” and “not interrupt the teacher” simply out of sheer frustration and desperation for control. Then I used that experience to define and project the teacher I wanted to be. I hope that, in the end, I was just me, the person the hiring committee saw and believed in when I interviewed back in June, last year.

So all in all, I feel proud. I feel accomplished. I feel exhausted. I am seeing this switch to a new school as a continuation of my growth as a teacher, as an opportunity to truly become the teacher I want to be in an environment that (hopefully) won’t restrict it. But I am also viewing my past year as one I will always remember, and hold in a place of high esteem.

Here is what I know:

Kids are amazing. People are inspiring. I am always growing.




Mark was in good hands all year.

All year Jessica and my students were obsessed with the idea that we were actually friends in real life. I think their image of our friendship was solidified after they witnessed us giggling loudly, taking pictures of ourselves on a webcam from the back of the room, while they watched this movie.


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Jess took a ride on the spinny thing. You can see how happy it makes our kids to see us with absolutely no control.

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My kids graffitied my white board with threats to my new students...


Middle school kids really do have a way of making you feel loved and appreciated.

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Stay tuned for my next blog....
"8th Grade Adventures in Washington D.C."


Monday, March 21, 2011

Wordle Discovery

I was playing around with Wordle tonight, trying to think of ways to incorporate it into my teaching. If you've never used it, you MUST check it out! You can input a bunch of text (from a story, website, newspaper, anything!) and then it will automatically display the words for you. It takes all the most commonly used words in that text and makes them bigger. I'm thinking about having kids copy and paste an essay into Wordle and getting a nice visual on just how often they use the same word over and over and over again! It could be a nice aid for a lesson on word choice.

So anywho, I copied and pasted my last 4 blog entries into Wordle to see which words I use the most and this is what came out...



Isn't it interesting that right next to the expectedly common words I use like "students" and "school" and "teaching" there is also the word "love"?

I know I am always finding cheesy spins on my career, but I'm learning that teachers can really get bogged down in the politics of teaching--school , district, statewide and national politics. We start worrying about things like test scores, tracking, conferences, unions, contracts, standards, competition, our coworkers, parents, principals, salary...everything. It's easy to get caught up in the politics because that's what controls our payday...our future.

But I've watched teachers let the politics of teaching burn them out and destroy the original drive they ever had for the job. They start caring more about what's happening outside their classroom than what really matters, what's happening in their classrooms.

I'm just hoping that as I begin to evolve as a teacher, I don't get so consumed with politics that I forget why I loved the job in the first place.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Update on Mark Twain

Remember this post way back in August?
I thought I would update you on my Mark Twain's well-being.

Mark was placed on top of one of my bookshelves in the back of the room, between copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Outsiders. Most of the students didn't know who he was, they just referred to him as "the creepy old guy by the books." After I explained to them that he was the great, beloved American author responsible for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn they were...

well, still not very impressed.

So then I started referring to him as my boyfriend and, more importantly, the Keeper of the Books. Now, when students forget their books in their locker and have to borrow a classroom copy, they have to ask Mark Twain's permission.

I'm not kidding you, I actually make the students do this. They walk up to that 2 foot tall statue and ask, (or rather mutter) begrudgingly, "Can I borrow a book?"

He's a pretty understanding guy, so he always says yes.

Hey, if they don't want to go through the humiliation, they should remember to bring their book, right?



Sunday, January 30, 2011

There is no "I" in Teacher

It is now the 3rd quarter of my first year of teaching. I have survived the following:

1. My first week of school as a new teacher
2. Conferences
3. Staff development days that are smooth and productive
4. Staff development days that are long and writhe with staff tension
5. Angry parent e-mails and phone calls
6. Teaching 3 books I have never taught before and only read once before
7. Sending kids to the principal's office
8. Non-uniform days (you will understand if you teach at a school with uniforms)
9. Having "the talk" with mouthy kids in the hallway (you know, where I am the one who is probably more nervous than the student)
10. Being observed by my principal (and all good feedback!)
11. The week before Christmas break...combined with a non-uniform day

And so much more...of course.

One thing I've really learned, out of the kajillion things I learn every day in this crazy new experience, was from something my "new-teacher-mentor" told me back in November. I was venting...or most likely fretting, to him about something I was nervous about doing in my classroom. I was probably going on and on, and finally he cut me off and said. "Maddie, it's not about you. This whole thing...it's not about you. It's about the students."

Shot to my ego.

I wanted to immediately defend myself and say, "Oh I know, of course it is, of course it is." But the truth is, I didn't think like that for my first half-school year of teaching. Every move I made, every lesson I planned, I worried about me. "Is this going to be stupid? Will the kids think this is lame? Will I be able to fill enough time? Will this take too much time? Are the other teachers judging me? Does my principal think I'm a bad hire?" and on and on and on.

Shit, this blog is all about me.

And when you are in college, sure, you learn teaching techniques, lessons, classroom management, organization, standards, etc. But all you're really thinking about is fulfilling your own dream of becoming a teacher. You're not thinking about "changing the world, one student at a time." No, let's be honest, I was thinking about how sweet it would be to have 70 kids calling me Ms. Baird and looking up to me like the awesome, cute, funny, charming, responsible role-model I wanted to be.

Time to get over myself and worry about actually being a good teacher.

So here I am, halfway through the school year, and I finally have a grasp on what teaching is all about. It's tiring and ruthless, but it's not about me. If I love my job, then I love it for the effect I have on my students, not for the effect the job has on me.




And if nothing else...I love it because I get pictures like this, from one of my 7th graders, attempting to draw a "rapier" for a vocabulary assignment.



Is that a rapier in your pocket or are you just...

Okay, no, I won't go there.