Año Nuevo

As I look ahead, I can’t believe that it is almost 2016. Time seems to pick up speed the older I get. Like most people, with a new year approaching I being to think about what I would like to change or do differently. Here’s my list of things for 2016:

  1. Improve my Spanish- I want to spend time each week reading, speaking, and listening to the language that I teach my students. I encourage them to practice outside of class and I feel like I should do the same.
  2. Learn to take time for myself- I need to be ok with not always working on school stuff. I’m allowed to watch Netflix without grading papers. I need to take time to cook healthy meals and exercise. Taking care of myself allows me to help others better.

Those are the 2 things that I want to focus on this coming year. It may not seem like a lot, but in a world where we are always bombarded with things that need to be done, I think it will be plenty.

I hope you and yours have a great new year!

No more textbook

Maybe I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve learned about backwards planning in my Masters classes and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this or done this before. It sounds so simple. You think of what you want your students to be able to accomplish by the end of the unit. Think about how you are going to test them and know that they have reached the goals. Then you plan out lessons and activities that will help your students reach those goals.

It could be just the fact that this is only my fifth year of teaching and before I was just trying to keep my head above water. How could I not have known this? In the past I have just looked at the textbook and followed along with whatever was there. Every once in a while I would maybe add in something that I thought was fun or interesting for the kids. Ultimately, I never really thought of where I was going, just where I was in that moment.

The idea of planning a whole unit before it even starts was really overwhelming for me. How could I possibly know where my students would be in a few weeks let alone in just a few days? Well, backwards planning has actually helped me get a bigger picture of planning. I know where I want to go so I’m able to actually understand what I need to cover and do with my kids. Instead of just planning 50 minutes of activities that kind of all revolve around a topic, my lesson now has a purpose and each activity is laying down the pavement for where we are going to go.

This year I am at a brand new school and I don’t have a textbook. At first I thought that this was going to be a huge opportunity to do what I want. Then I realized I don’t have a textbook to follow and guide me. How do I know what I’m going to teach?! The fear set it and I realized that I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Through my grad school classes I was able to realize that what we really strive for with our kids is proficiency in the language and the ability to communicate with others. This helped me sit down and think about what are my ultimate goals for my students. What do I want them to be able to do or talk about? I want my units to be meaningful and engaging to them so that they understand why they are learning what they are. I’m teaching it because it’s useful and necessary, not just because the textbook has it in there.

The topics or the ideas for my unit plans could be really similar to what is seen in a textbook, but now that I have taken a step back and realized why I’m teaching it and how it’s useful to the students I am able to add in a wider variety of tasks and activities. I want my students to feel that they are learning something that they could actually use in real life one day.

Now that I’ve got a plan for the big unit, I’m able to sit down and make lesson plans that are meaningful and get us to the end goal.

 

How to keep resources organized

When I’ve got resources coming in from many different places it can be hard to keep things straight. I’ve kept my files in a binder, on my desktop, in my Dropbox, in Google Drive, in a notebook…the list could go on and on. Sometimes it feels like I’ve tried keeping my teaching resources organized in every way imaginable.

I decided that enough was enough. I sat down and gathered all my resources from all the places that I’ve been keeping them. I looked at the most useful and easily accessible tool to keep everything together- I decided to use Google Drive.

I created folders for each of my units and then began to drag the different resources into the unit that I would use them. Honestly, this is probably the part that took the longest. I wanted to get EVERYTHING put into units of how I’ve used them previously.

After putting the different files into the units, I looked at what types of files I have in each unit. For me, I have worksheets, handouts, assessments, in class activities, culture, and presentations. I decided to create a folder for each type of file within each unit so that I would be able to find them when I need them.

I’m actually really happy with how quick and easy it is to find the files. This also gives me a better idea of what kind of resources I have for each unit and what I might want to add to.

Everyone has their own way of organizing things. What do you do?

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Reasons why teachers SHOULD get summers off

  1. 5 hours of prep per week does not equal grading 6 hours worth of homework, time to plan, time to copy and time to breathe.
  2. We use summers to attend workshops, read books on education, and work on their curriculum. It’s never really over for us!
  3. We like to experience what these magical things called hobbies. Sometimes I forget that people read for fun, sit outside, garden, cook, travel!
  4. Summers usually include beautiful weather and it would be just plain cruel to put us in a classroom full of kids that are aching to be outside. Just lock us in the classrooms when they wouldn’t survive the weather outside. Then they have no choice!
  5. It takes about three months to forget the feeling of being pulled in to 20 different directions- 5 to answer questions about the work, 5 to get kids back on track, 3 to take away cell phones, 2 to stop conflicts from happening, and 5 more that are just us spinning in circles.
  6. It’s good to give parents a taste of what we experience for 9 months out of the year. It usually instills a little bit of gratitude and appreciation.
  7. We need to time to recharge, rest, meditate, and get ready to do a job that we love with all our hearts.

It might sound like I don’t like my job, but in reality I LOVE it! Sometimes I have thoughts like these running through my mind and I wonder why even do what I do, but everyday in one way or another I’m reminded of what makes it all worth it- the kids!

How am I living my life?

Now that I am living in Crookston, it seems that there is a lot more time for reflection. I guess that’s what happens when you are getting used to a new place and don’t really know many others there. I’m embracing this time and using it to think and grow.

This morning, my thoughts are really revolving around my faith life. God has given many guidelines as to how we should live our lives. He teaches us how to use money, how we should treat our neighbors and how we should treat ourselves. It makes me stop and think about whether or not I have been following these guidelines.

In regards to money, it seems like there is never enough or the money that is available is not always used in the wisest ways. God also warns against being in debt, but it seems so easy to use credit when there is something new and shiny in the store window. I know that if I remembered how God would want me to treat money, it would cause a lot less stress in my life.

When comes to treating myself or my body, God tells me to treat it like a temple. That means I should be feeding it with the best and treating it well so that it is in the best condition. This is something that I think I need to remember. In order for something to work well, it needs to be taken care of.

God tells us to treat our neighbors as we treat ourselves and since he wants us to treat ourselves as temples, we should also give that respect to our neighbors. I should love them the way He calls me to love myself. I hate the feeling of being judged by others, so I should avoid doing that to others.Love is the way to go.

I’ve been pondering these things and am challenging myself to do what God asks of me. Will it be easy? No. In moments, it will be hard to remember exactly what God calls me to do, but I know the more time I spend with Him, He will help me learn it more and more solidly until it becomes a habit.

What I learned as a high school teacher 2

I’m sure my lists could go on and on…

5. YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP. There is so much pressure to look towards the future and have your things figured out. There is so much emphasis put into careers, college, and knowing exactly what you want so that you can begin working towards it right away. I admire the people that have their lives all figured out, but it’s not realistic for everyone to be in that boat. It’s okay to now know what you want to do in 5 years or maybe even next month. You just have to take life one day at a time and give that day the best you’ve got. When I was in high school, I never even considered being a teacher and now eight years after I graduated high school I’m a teacher and even going to begin my Master’s so that I can learn more and more. Who would have thought?

6. FRIENDSHIPS ARE TO BE TREATED LIKE TREASURES. Life is full of ups and downs. You want to make sure that you have people by your side that won’t run away when life gets hard. It’s been said many times, but I would rather have a handful of great friends than hundreds of acquaintances that don’t really know me. The best kinds of friendships are with those people that you can truly be yourself around. Why would you want to fake it around people just so they like you? It’s exhausting and way to hard to please everyone. Just value those people that love the real you.

7. REAL LIFE AND HIGH SCHOOL AREN’T THAT DIFFERENT. When you are young, you always look towards the future as an escape from the drama, emotions and constant ups and downs. Kids look at adults and wish they were older. Things don’t change all that much once you become an adult. In fact, you have to pay bills, be in charge of your own decisions, and still deal with drama, emotions and ups and downs. Life and high school are what you make of them. You can get sucked into drama or you can live life to the fullest and make the most of what you’ve got.

Summer time is such a nice time to take a step back and do lots of reflection. I’m so blessed from all that I have learned in the last four years of my life. I’m looking forward to the many more lessons that life will throw my way!