Reflective Teaching – Day 27

Te@chThought‘s Day 27 Challenge is: “What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

Whew, right now my weekends and the all-too distant holidays play the role of bonus “catch-up” time. Teachers in BC are only two weeks into teaching after a period of job action. So, it still feels like the beginning of September. I am tired every day! My mind is completely overwhelmed with the problem-solving that begins every school year: who are these learners? How can I best support their efforts? What plans do I need to work on? How do they fit together? Do I need to make changes to our classroom lay out? How can I ensure that they feel welcome? Why is my room such a mess still???! What could this space be like if we got rid of all of the desks? How should I review math concepts in order to best meet the needs of the most learners? What book should I read to them? Will they like me?

My mind does not stop when I get home. It does not stop when I lay down to sleep. If anything, sometimes the questions get louder!

And, that is only one piece of the puzzle. I am almost half-way through a Masters of Education program. And I am enrolled in TWO courses this term. I have class meetings regularly. And homework assignments. And blog posts to write – I have not completed any of the three that I thought I would have done by now. I have Twitter to respond to. Blog posts to read. Two text books to read and respond to. A book club. A MOOC. A Literature Review to craft- um, and I guess I will need to actually begin reviewing that literature!

The most important part of my life is my family. My wonderful husband has not yet complained that the cookie plate (that was full all summer) has not been filled in over a week. And that I am too tired to be any fun. My dogs, however, have been giving me “guilt eyes” and needing extra cuddles to make up for our new time apart.

My weekends are filled with work right now. That is a necessity so that I can keep up with the academic and workplace demands. Balance will eventually be restored. I know this. I am COUNTING on this!! Soon my weekends will be times where I can recharge my batteries, devote some time to planning fun learning opportunities for my students, learn things to help improve my practice, AND spend time with my loved ones and do the things that I love to do.

Reflective Teaching – Day 8

Te@chThought‘s Day 8 challenge is “What’s in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?

My desk drawer is usually very untidy! I always want it to be neater, and I reorganize it as often as I can. Some of the things of value to me include: my “special” pen, sticky notes of all sizes, notepads, calligraphy pen, cords, and chocolate.

My special pen is not unique. It is a blue Pilot pen, and it is my favourite pen to write with. I usually mark my pen with a strip of tape and try to keep track of that single pen all year! I love how smoothly this pen writes, but I also enjoy how the ink level drops through the year. My attachment to this pen is a little silly, and I don’t really like to think about what I can infer about that! The dropping ink level reminds me of an hour glass. As the ink is used I am reminded to appreciate my time. I am reminded to write words of value. I am reminded about the importance of feedback, and being generous with my words and actions.

Sticky notes are so versatile! Students can record their thinking as they read, marking pages with sticky notes without deeply disrupting their thinking. I can infer that I enjoy the idea of organizing-on-the-go, and that keeping your ideas on placeholders can be a helpful thing. It is easy to remove a sticky note, which allows my students to temporarily post an idea and refine it as they go along.

I love notepads! I love technology, but I still think best on paper. I can infer that I may be a “lister”: someone who enjoys drafting lists. I do make lists, constantly. But, I also use the notepads to pass notes in class. I love the surprise of a hand-written note. I try to post short, appreciative notes in my students’s desks, so that they know that I see their efforts, and care about them.

I might infer that a calligraphy pen would indicate a person who enjoys flowery script and is somewhat artistic. Neither is true! I wish that I had neater writing. I have difficulty creating art. I did learn some calligraphy a few years ago, and love to write this way, especially when I am trying to create something meaningful.

The cords tell me that the desk may be used by someone who uses a lot of technology. I am someone who ends up with many cords and items in various states of repair. The tangled mess can be a problem.

The chocolate is self-explanatory!

The clutter tells me that I need to develop a few more organizational strategies. When I consider how few items that I actually use from my desk I realize that my desk is primarily a surface upon which things pile up. I’d like to remove the student desks in my classroom, and it might be a good idea to look at an alternate working space for myself, as well.

Reflective Teaching – Day 5

Te@chthought‘s Day 5 Challenge is “Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see–and what you don’t see that you’d like to.”

I’m sorry. I looked, and I do not have a picture of my classroom from this year! I was very excited last year to learn that my classroom was the next in line to receive the furniture budget. I met with the Vice-Principal and she listened to my vision for my room. That year I had worked hard to meet the varying needs of my students to provide self-regulated, self-selected work spaces. We had desks that were extremely old and we used that as an excuse to work anywhere! We had yoga mats, weights, pillows and various cubbies for students to sit in. We had an agreement about how our class could look during working times when people needed to focus on their own jobs, and during “listening” times when it may look different, but we still needed to show respect to whoever was speaking. During working times, students could be anywhere, conversations were welcomed at a respectful volume, and activities were self-selected. During listening times, students could be anywhere, but needed to find a space where they could maintain eye-contact with whoever was speaking during the discussion. 

When I learned that I would receive funding, I was desperate to get rid of our desks. All desks! I call my students a “family” and I pictured a learning environment that worked well for a family. I envisioned a couple of used dining room tables (at two heights – regular and bar stool height), a few bean bag chairs, foam flooring area, a couch or two, and multiple gaming chairs. I wanted to hold off on funding this change until I met my students in September 2013, so that we could co-create this space together. The vice-principal agreed. Later in the summer I received a phone call from my principal announcing that my new desks had been ordered. So, that is how my classroom looks. Traditional, new desks with pockets for storing textbooks. One desk and chair for each child. I have gained some flexibility in moving these desks around as they are much smaller than my previous desks, but my room still looks more like a classroom than a family space. 

Maybe one day I can renovate this space!