SOL Day 23: Back At It – Or Not

School started again today after a Spring Break that felt much too short (has it really been 10 days?), and it went pretty much the way I would expect. I started off the day by waking up late because I turned off my alarm in my sleep – thank goodness I caught myself with enough time to get ready! Then, I got to school and realized I forgot my lunch as I was walking in, so I had to drive back home and get it. Luckily, I live less than 10 minutes away, but it still threw me off.

My classes were fine, if only a little distracted and chatty. I wouldn’t expect anything less on the day after Spring Break, so as long as they were utilizing their time and getting work done, I could stand a little side conversation here and there.

Unfortunately for me, though, I picked up a cold on Spring Break that has decided to stick around. As I talked and conferred in class today, my voice started getting weaker and weaker, and my coughing more persistent.

I hate having to miss school, especially right after a break, but I don’t think I can be fully present as I need to be for my students tomorrow…so I put in for sick day.

I went back and forth after school on whether or not I needed to take the day off, and I didn’t decide until after 8 p.m. that I just wouldn’t be able do it tomorrow. I ended up going into school to set up my lesson plans and grabbed some professional reading to do tomorrow so it doesn’t feel like such a waste.

Hopefully I’ll be able to really get back into the swing of things on Wednesday.

 

SOL Day 14: Writing Rocks

Though my Spring Break officially started yesterday, this morning I got up at 6:30 and got ready for one last day spent with students – at the Regional Power of the Pen Tournament!

This is my first year as a coach, and today was only my second time judging a competition. I didn’t think that I would love being a coach as much as I do because it is a lot of extra work. However, spending extra time with kids who truly love writing is really a joy. They inspire me to write my own work. They have inspired me to keep writing on this blog.

I wish that there would have had a Power of the Pen team at my middle school when I was a student. It’s an intense competition, but I would have loved to feel the pressure as I tried to write a unique and compelling story in just 40 minutes – and then do it again two more times that same day.

In the competitions that I’ve judged so far,  we have gotten some really talented writers. This time, in the regional tournament, just about every story I read was good. Middle schoolers can be incredibly clever, and they can think of unique scenarios that never cease to amaze me.

At the end of the day, after all of the stories have been judged and scores tallied, there is an award ceremony. In the District Tournament, we had two students place (one 7th grader and one 8th grader), but this time, we had no one place in the top 15. We were disappointed, but we won’t know if any students move on to the State (and final) Tournament for at least a couple of weeks.

We have an incredible group of writers from Sells – and I couldn’t be happier with all of the hard work and creative stories they’ve written so far. I know that they will continue to do great things as they only improve.

 

SOL Day 13: Spring Break!

Spring Break is here! I have been so exhausted these past few weeks, so I am welcoming it with open arms. I already fell asleep on the couch tonight while reading, but made sure I got up so I could write my slice for the day!

Today was an odd day at school because we didn’t have regular classes and we had guest speakers all morning. Then we watched a movie after lunch. There were a few kids I was helping with work, but aside from that, I did not feel very teacher-y today. It was definitely a little weird. 

It almost feels like it’s not quite Spring Break yet though because tomorrow I have a Power of the Pen (Writing) tournament I will be coaching/judging all day. After that, I need to get in a seven mile run, so tomorrow will be pretty packed.

Tonight I am just thinking about the week, about what’s coming up, and looking forward to finally getting some rest. No more five hour nights of sleep for me this week.

SOL Day 11: A Perfect Storm

I was a little nervous going into my 6th period class today because I knew that my principal would be in there to formally observe my co-teacher/intervention specialist, which means that he would also be informally observing me. So as class started, I was feeling a little off of my game.

Everything got off to fine beginning, but then I started to overthink what I was saying, making me trip over my words. Then multiple other things happened that threw me off even more.

First of all, my principal was sitting at my desk but I needed to be able to move my mouse to access the projector, so I had to awkwardly maneuver my way around him to get to the computer. I tried to act like this was no sweat, but then I started sweating – literally. I could feel my face starting to get red, and I knew at least my students could tell. 8th graders are pretty perceptive.

Then, of course, it was club picture day, which ended up causes a lot of interruptions. First, students from 5th period were coming back in to pick up their things after going to pictures during their class period, so a few of them kept coming in and out.

After that, the announcements came on to call other kids down to get their pictures taken, so I had to wait for that to end, then make sure all the kids left if they needed to. Annoying, I know, but I was dealing with it – just trying to let it roll off my shoulders.

And then, something happened that was the final straw. The photographer doing “candids” decided it was great idea to come into my room for 10 minutes and take pictures of my students – distracting them from my lesson. At this point, I was furious. I tried not to let it show, but I was so angry that someone was coming in my classroom, obviously interrupting my teaching. Instead of coming back later or trying to find another classroom where students were working independently, he stayed and continued to disrupt my class. I felt like I would have been rude to ask him to leave, even though he was making my job much more difficult. Dear photographer, I apologize if I may have glared at you during those moments.

Soon after the candid photo fiasco, my principal left, and I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about the class today. I think he will be understanding, but I hate for him to see anything other than my best. My intervention specialist  was encouraging afterward, even though he was the one getting observed – but even he could sense that I was feeling a little crazy.

It was just frustrating because obviously this 20 minute period is not indicative of my skills as a teacher, but this is what my superiors see. I hope that they realize it was not an ideal setting for a lesson. I am embarrassed that I got so worked up and let the distractions get to me.

I hope that someday I can be the kind of teacher who can roll with anything. Today, though, I was not having it.

 

SOL Day 10: Anticipation

I have written about stress and exhaustion, because at this time of year, those are two things teachers are feeling a lot of. I am trying to be a little more positive tonight. I have also found that I enjoy writing poetry, so here is one about the upcoming Spring Break. 

Anticipation

Time to step back and think

About the smaller details. 

Time to remove myself

From the fever of everyday life. 

This makes me a better teacher – 

Being able to take a break. 

Everyone is restless

At this time of year. 

The snow and ice have stayed too long;

We are ready for spring. 

I anticipate 

Long cars rides

To warm places.

I anticipate

A few days

When I can read,

Uninterrupted. 

A week is coming

To reflect without stress,

So I can recharge 

And be my best until June. 

SOL Day 9: Exhaustion

The only thing I can think to write about right now is exhaustion. My eyes are drooping as I write this post, and all I can think about is falling asleep. I think the time change threw me off yesterday, as well as spending the weekend out of town. I love taking little weekend trips, but I always feel like I need a day to recover before I head back to school.

I did a poor job of hiding my exhaustion today at school – I was cranky with a few of my classes, I let my patience run low, and I struggled with giving all of my instruction in an enthusiastic manner. I’m sure many of my kids could pick up on this, and I feel bad that I was not their best teacher today. It doesn’t help, though, that this week is our first after PARCC testing and the last before Spring Break. They are so ready for some time off of school, but they need to realize we still have work to do. It is hard when the students expect that just because it’s the week before a break, they should get a pass to check out for the week.

I think in these moments, I need to be more firm, and even if my exhaustion is making me crankier, maybe it is helping to keep things under control. I am not saying that I was a grumposaurus all day, but that I may not have been my normal, energetic self. We all have days like this (I hope), and I hope that the students will forgive me for being a little “off” today.

I told a few classes that I feel like I am getting sick, because I do, but I honestly think any sickness I’m feeling is because of my exhaustion. I usually have a hard time getting to bed before midnight, and then I am up again by 5:30. This is not enough rest to function, but I feel like I need the 11:00-12:00 time slot to rest and relax after constantly going, going, going all day.

I am always rushing to get things in during that hour, too – pack lunch, school bag, finish laundry – there is always too much to do.

I am looking forward to Spring Break next week so I can relax. Luckily, it coincides with the end of the quarter, so I shouldn’t really have any grading eitherl.

Happy Monday, and here’s to a more less sleep-deprived rest of the week.

 

SOL Day 2: Cleaning Out the Bathroom Sink

For the past few months, one of the sinks in my bathroom has been stopped up. I have lived in this house for about a year and a half, and for at least half of that time, this sink has been backed up. The water always goes down eventually, but it moves really slowly.

Tonight, I decided that I was sick of it. When I went to the grocery store, I picked up some Drain-o, determined to get rid of whatever was down in the drain. Drain-o, to me, was the easy solution to my problem – I just always forgot to buy it.

Not tonight.

When I got home and put away the rest of the groceries, I moved into the bathroom to get this issue sorted out. I carefully read the directions and kept the chemicals out of my eyes, and then waited. After 25 minutes were up, I hurried in and turned on the hot water to flush down the supposedly broken-up blockage.

Only nothing changed.

The sink was still backed up.

I kept trying to flush it with the hot water, but to no avail. Something else was blocking this sucker, and I had to figure out what.

I decided to do some digging, and pulled out the stopper in the sink (not without some effort).

I found my problem.

It was disgusting – the stopper was caked in mold – no wonder nothing was getting through the drain.

I ended up spending about a half an hour working on this gross, thick, mucus-like blockage, clearing out everything I could see. Finally, after a lot of scrubbing and poking around, I stuck the stopper back in its place (again – not without some effort), and turned on the water.

Voila! The water ran smoothly down the drain without getting backed up. I was proud of my handiness, and that I didn’t need a quick-fix after all to solve this problem – I just needed to pay attention.

As I was working on this, I made a connection to teaching. Sometimes teachers and students want a “quick fix” to issues they are facing in the classroom, but it often isn’t that easy. While looking through my students’ formative assessment for our current argumentative unit, I’m noticing some issues that aren’t going to take a magic cure to fix – they’re going to take some hard work and getting down to the nitty gritty. Going over concepts three, four times or more in order to solidify students’ understanding. In the end, they might not all get everything, but I’ll know that I’ve cleared at least some of the blockage in their minds and planted the seed for understanding.

Just like my experience of cleaning out my sink, sometimes you just need to roll up your sleeves and dive in. It isn’t always going to pretty, but the end result will be so worth it.