Monday, March 28, 2011

Too Much Paper!

Over the past few weeks I have been drowning in paper. It overflowed in mountains on my desk, spewed across tables and empty spaces on the floor. I became extremely overwhelmed.

Luckily, my mom came to the rescue and helped me file and clean it all up. Now that I can see my desk again, I've been thinking about how I got to this point...

At first I started thinking I wasn't using enough technology, but that's not the case. I looked at all the worksheets I haven't even graded yet and I realized I had fallen victim to giving busy work for the sake of managing my class. Most of the work isn't meaningful. There are no fun projects to show their parents, only page after page of barely graded worksheets.

So the question is, what do I do now? The test is next week which means no projects till afterward, but I'm also scared of not giving them work to do because what will I do instead to keep them busy?

I hate that I've turned into this kind of teacher. I read about it all the time and I know better, but the reality is that my class can't handle down time, and reading a book for 20 minutes is still a struggle for many, and it's March! Writing a story is always super quick with them, even when I teach them how to add detail and dialogue. Often times they either finish their assignments in 5-10 minutes or they don't get it so they don't do it. Then I'm sending them off to do a worksheet, that only a portion of them know how to do correctly.

I really would love to figure out a project based learning activity that I could try for the end of this year. Then I can learn from it and be much better at it next year. Or even if I don't do big projects back to back, I still need to find ways to keep my students doing meaningful work and not just piling them with worksheets. After all, it not only sucks for them, but it's a headache for me!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marriage Counseling and Behavior Management?

I went to a marriage counseling session this evening and the topic was on conflict management.  Everything the presenter talked about not only helped me put things into perspective in my relationship but also in my classroom.  Conflict occurs in my room on a daily basis, whether it's student to student or student to teacher.  I started thinking, I wonder if I could teach my students the conflict management strategies we're learning for successful relationships?  I will definitely have to break it down a bit, but I think it could be really beneficial for the kids, if I can teach and model it correctly and give them lots of practice.

These are the steps I learned tonight about problem-solving:

1. Define the problem (listen, summarize, collaborate)
2. Brainstorm possible solutions
3. Analyze the ideas and select one to try
4. Create an action plan
5. Do it
6. Come back and evaluate the progress

Right now I'm thinking to spend 1 week on each step so the kids have lots of opportunities to practice.  I've seen things like this happen with "peace tables" but I'm a little worried about making a peace table because I know my kids will take advantage of always wanting to go, so I'm thinking to just teach it and encourage them to practice it during non-instructional times.  That will also give them a chance to calm down instead of trying to solve the problem while they're emotionally charged. 

I've definitely never taught anything like this, so I'll just do my best and see how it goes!  If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or experiences from your own classes to share, I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Classroom Reflection

It's almost time to go back to school, and I see this as an opportunity to reset and change some structures in my classroom.  But before I dig in to what I'd like to change, I'd like to reflect on my learning, my successes, and my challenges from these first 4 months of teaching.

What I've learned:
  • The first year of classroom teaching is HARD for EVERYONE!
  • Classroom teaching is not what I imagined it to's been sort of a wake up call
  • I'm learning and working through so much about myself, not just about the art of teaching
  • I have a need to control that I need to release
  • Lesson planning will eventually start to get easier
  • Giving kids "choice" is not as black and white as it seems
  • Classroom management means more than just controlling the students
  • There are many situations on a daily basis where I don't know what to do or how best to handle a situation
  • Teaching is really trial and error - keeping what works and getting rid of what doesn't
  • I have some AMAZING colleagues 
  • First year teachers NEED mentor's hard to do this alone
  • I'm not going to love every student and every student is not going to love me
  • When I can see my students outside of the classroom, it helps me view them as a regular kid instead of just a student
  • Building a relationship with my students is important and helpful for us to understand each other
  • Kids really do enjoy working in groups, and I need to stop being afraid of letting them do so
  • I need to forgive myself for not being able to do it all
  • I WILL NOT be the perfect teacher, no matter how hard I try
  • I can only do so much.  I can't save the world
  • I need to stop being so hard on myself
This list could go on and on, as I've learned so much about myself and teaching this year.  I still have much more to learn as the rest of this year continues, and even more to learn each year when I teach.  The learning never ends!

My Successes:
  • I've survived!
  • We made a class video using Animoto
  • I did all right for my first time ever teaching science
  • I'm a chart queen!
  • My students are reading and writing for roughly 20 minutes each day
  • My class can travel quietly through the all on our way to lunch
  • We put on a play
  • I've run some small groups
  • I've implemented exit cards and used them to keep running records
  • I use a checklist daily to assess my students
  • My math lessons are improving!
  • I've kept the class engaged through an entire chapter book 
  • We've practiced giving compliments to others
  • I'm improving on always walking around with something to take notes on
  • Lesson planning is beginning to get a tad easier
I feel like there are more successes too, but for the length of time and space I'd like to move on.

My Challenges:
  • Still struggling with management - knowing how to keep the students engaged, respectful to me and their peers, and dishing out consequences (cuz there really aren't very many to dish out)
  • Helping my low students
  • Helping students in general while I'm running small groups or conferences (this is a big one)!
  • Transitions and unstructured time
  • Having homework ready
  • Checking homework & time to review it in the morning
  • Keeping students on task
  • Moving quietly through the hallway after lunch
  • A structured bathroom procedure
  • The use of materials (pencils mostly)
  • Not having so many students out of their seats during instructional time
  • Playing games in the classroom
  • Making mini lessons and assignment instructions clear enough for students to understand
  • Not getting so angry and frustrated with them all the time
  • Interventions for behaviors
  • How often to communicate with parents, especially with behavior children
  • Teaching Social Studies and Science better
  • Having kids use more technology
  • Not prepping everything at the last minute
So these are some of the challenges I'll be looking to solve for the rest of this school year.  Phew!  That was some good reflecting!  Now I need to get myself into planning and solving mode!