Let’s go ahead and talk about this 2014-2015 school year

This school year’s body isn’t cold yet and I’m ready to start an autopsy. So much to say about this year!

  1.  Off the bat, this year was very, very challenging. There were the usual challenges, yes. There were a lot of others as well that no one saw coming. There were some unique behaviors that really left my gobsmacked. Wow, didn’t see that coming at all.
  2. The Common Core isn’t exactly what I want and I can understand the concerns about it. That being said CCSS makes it very simple to collaborate with teachers all over the country. Couldn’t do that before.
  3. Teachers can be some of the easiest people to work with. They understand the “struggle”. No one is trying to get over on another. We all see the importance of our role. I love my co-workers and my teamies. #MissMrsJonesAlready!
  4. Routines. Routines. Routines.
  5. Complaining about students not following the routines, isn’t teaching the routine.
  6. The more you talk about reviewing the routines as a punishment the more you’re going to have to teach the routines.
  7. Sometimes seeking and getting parents involved is a bad thing. The Helicopter Parent is REAL. But to that point when you have concerned, engaged, useful parents you’ve hit a gold mine.
  8. Turning water into wine was a major miracle.
  9. Do not assume that because you’re doing right/good/going above that people notice.  People will ignore them.
  10. CrossFit saved my sanity more times than I can count. I can not say how thankful I am to be coaching now. I get to fully decompress from the teaching day in a creative and tough way. Thanks Team CFSC!
  11. I need a classroom theme next year. Stay tunded.
  12. My anchor chart system worked like a charm. It’s just that next year I may have a lot less space. So back to the drawing board.
  13. Everyone without a book bag is not unprepared and everyone with book bag is prepared.
  14. A classroom of 17 that sees 9 students come and through the year is going to have a tough time building team.
  15. Meal prep also was spot on. It helped so much with keeping me fed so I didn’t start gnawing on chalk.
  16. Oh, Promethean boards are amazing!
  17. The more kids read on their own the more they understand. Grade level is good, but if they can’t read on grade get them reading in the area of focus on the grade level they can digest.
  18. Read the standards. Know the standards.
  19. Small meaningful projects have a lot of use and give you a lot more bang for your buck.
  20. Paperwork can be managed. I’m not certain I did a perfect job. I know I didn’t do a perfect job with paper work, but I can say I didn’t have a mountain to pass back on the last day either.
  21. Using Journals to capture all the in class work was a great idea. It also worked like charm for homework!  Now to fine tune it.
  22. There is zero reason for me to have a classroom desk what so ever. Not like I ever did, but you get my point.
  23. Get data, use data, get more data.
  24. Class Dojo is still the best thing cooking! I know there are other programs out there, but as a fore runner to those CD is still out pacing them all.
  25. Teachers should become scientists. So much can be done by applying the scientific method to teaching.
  26. People say things to male teachers that, I am confident, they don’t mean.
  27. I have so much fun with my bowtie game. I can’t really explain WHY as much as it just makes me feel like I’m on point. Given that most of the time I’m huddled up in the fetal position wondering why I do this. I need as much confidence as I can muster.
  28. The most challenging student needs love. They need to know that even at the basic level “this person cares about me”. They are going to make it tough, but they need to you to care about them.
  29. They also need some degree of respect. Even when they behavior in the most vile, disrespectful manners. “Going there” with them doesn’t do anything, but solidify that they have to act a certain way to “demand” respect.
  30. I AM STILL WINNING THE PENCIL WAR!

I do have some news I want to post about my teaching career. Most of my family, friends and co-workers know. I am taking a position in another school district closer to my house. I’ve never been apart of my school community. I will NEVER run into my students at the market or out with my children. So to get closer to home and my own kids I’m moving from APS in August. It’s been an enjoyable adventure. Besides all the tissue I’m going to use up on our last teacher day I’m taking some fond, fond memories. Thanks to everyone!

 

Summer is for reflecting

I’ve had a little time this Summer to think about what I’m going to do next school year to really bring change in my class. I could really enjoy the rest of the time off and relax. But I chose to spend a little time thinking about the next school year. Here are some things I thought about.

  • This year I’m going to spend a lot more time budgeting time. I have been blessed to work with some new teachers this summer. The only sliver of advice I believe I was supposed to give them was to not try to manage the kids, cause you can’t. Manage resources, opportunities and privileges to steer the students where you want them to go. Last year I feel I wasted a lot of time putting out small fires and not pouring water on my garden. A lot of my mental energy and resources were wasted doing other things that didn’t add to my students learning. This year it’s going to be very, very different. I have to be intentional. Watch.
  • I’m not going to do a classroom theme this year. This kind of stinks cause I have a great plan laid out and I think it would win awards. However, I don’t think it will help my students learn. Last year’s 7 habits theme was a bust to say the least. I will take 100% of the blame cause I don’t believe my students left that room with 1 better habit than the walked in with. I let them down. So this year I’m going to have a great room. It’s going to be inviting and it’s going to be engaging. But it’s not going to be a theme. I need to spend more of my energy on getting as much info in the minds of these kids and doing all I can to get them to love learning. Help me Lord.
  • This has nothing to do with education but, I regret wholeheartedly switching my blog from Typepad. I know that WordPress is supposed to be the business, but I haven’t found the “ahha” that’s WP. I’m sure it’s me, but I think I’m going to have to go back to TypePad. If anyone wants to give me a call, text, email or Skype me please do. I’m about to switch back to TypePad cause this for the birds. (That rant really felt good.)
  • I’ve resolved to remain a classroom teacher and God willing a 2nd grade classroom teacher. I like the idea of being out of the class, but the practical truth is I want to be in the trenches rubbing elbows with the kids who’ll one day have to make decisions that may effect me. I salute all those who want to and are outside the classroom.
  • You all know I’m not he meeting guy. I am all about collaboration. So this year I’m going to join some blogs and some online forums to share ideas and get new insights. At the moment GA is all in on Common Core so I need to make sure that my students are getting the best that they can get.

I have had such a restful few weeks off. I know that next week starts the slow build up to Day 1. I’m actually excited. I have a belief that things are going to work out a lot better than last year and that this year is going to be the start of something great.

Unique ways to call on kids to enter discussion

Been thinking of different ways to call on kids so that I’m not always calling on the “hand raised high cause I have no clue what the answer is” crowd. Some kids are going to lay low. Especially if you immediately tell them their answers are wrong! Know that student isn’t going to put themselves out there again. So here are some ideas I came up with

  1. Pull a name out of hat, bowl, cup ( No need for hand raising)
  2. Pick a color and anyone with that color on has to answer
  3. Alternate boy/girl (I want to hear from a boy/girl on this question)
  4. Glasses/no glasses (This really works if  you have a large be-speckled community)
  5. Jeans/school uniform (Alright, I need a school uniform wearer to answer me)
  6. Walkers/Car Riders/Bus riders (Let me hear from someone who walks home on this question)
  7. Scan from left to right or scan from right to left
  8. Seat the class from shortest to tallest call on names in reverse order
  9. Allow students to work in groups. Have them discuss the answer and one partner shares out the answer. Rotate the next question.
  10. Pick the person next to the person that always answers
  11. Call students who’s birthday is closest to today (Who’s birthday is on or near the 19th? Well, little Johnny you can answer this.)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just some ways I hope to stir up your imagination. Please feel free to send me any more ideas you have or what works in your class.

I want to add this one last point. I do my best to not tell a kid their WRONG. I certainly let them know that 1) they’re thinking and 2) they’re in the car. Now I need to call on someone else to drive the car down the correct street and get us home. Most of the time it sounds better than “you’re wrong” and they keep making attempts. Now, I will tell them when they’re just guessing and not helping us move the car home.

Have a great week. I’m starting to work on my classroom theme for next year. I think this going to be my best one to date.

 

Happy Father’s day

image

Bet you can’t guess what my girls got me for Father’s day.  1 guess.
Wow, you’re pretty good. Got any good stock tips you want to share?

I enjoy this time of year.  Mother’s day last month now a celebration of dads. My girls have so much fun. When we factor in that this how God wants to bring about change/legacy in the earth, it’s refreshing to be on this venture with this little family I have.
This year I have a glut of pics from my social media friends of them and their dads. I need to make a trip up north to get some pics of my dad and I. One common thread I saw with a lot of these pictures and even my own was a sense of hope. Some know they don’t have a good relationship with their fathers. Some do, but in each old picture you catch this sense that there’s a belief that things will be better. Faith for the future.
I also noticed how many young dad’s took pictures with their kids. They then put them side by side with a old pictures of their dad holding them that same way. Besides the fact that we do start to look like our dads, this was an awesome testament to what I said before. We believe that something was good, something long-lasting, there was noteworthy and we need to preserve it.
Well, I’m going to go look for some pictures of me and my dad. Maybe I’ll just book a flight.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Summer Academy has been awesome. I have the best group of students and student teachers in the history of 2014 summer academy.  We’re all learning so much. I’ll be a better teacher next year because of these youngsters. 

2013-14 School year. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Is there a  school out there that does an end of the year survey of what worked, what didn’t and what certainly doesn’t need to happen again? There has to be some value to hearing what the staff thought about the last 170 or so days. Deep down inside I fear it would become a gripe session for some and the most constructive comments won’t be shared for fear of reprisal. So this year I’m going to talk about what happened in my little slice of  APS. Room 157.

The Good

  • BOWTIES!
  • More times than not, I kept my cool. Once I made a slight change in my perspective it really became easy.
  • Everyone is moving on to 3rd grade. Except me, Thank You Jesus!
  • I started with good systems in place.
  • Homework and classroom journals, ROCKED!
  • Time management.
  • College road trip
  • I stuck to my AM schedule like a champ.
  • I stayed true to Jason. I didn’t let anyone impress me to be someone else.
  • Lesson plans in general were on point.
  • I was able to roll with most of the changes that come with working in a school.
  • I remained true to a lot of my physical goals. All be it they hit a deep pot hole.

The Bad

  • Paperwork management.
  • My “7 Habits of Happy Kids” theme didn’t help with good habits.
  • Still think I talk to much. I repeat myself a lot!
  • Paperwork.
  • Sad face for science.
  • I didn’t vocally encourage my student’s as much as I mentally thought it.
  • I relied on copies a lot more than I intended.
  • Some of my systems fell apart by year’s end.
  • Drumming up parental buy in.
  • Waste
  • I didn’t start one new project in the building. I have nice ideas, but I didn’t stick my neck out there once.

The Ugly

  • The system of identifying struggling students didn’t work well.
  • Creating plans for struggling students just became blah. Nothing exciting. Nothing that pulled them into the lesson.
  • I wore a horrible bowtie/shirt combo once and my coworkers still dog me out about it.
  • There are a few days where I know I didn’t even remotely make the sale. I didn’t get the kids to WANT to learn.
  • I don’t hug my students. They probably needed a hug more than I realized.
  • I left Crossfit. Major sad face.

Please feel free to give your feedback on your year in the comments and take my “scientific” poll.

No goals left behind

I like this time of year, December-February. I enjoy planning, thinking and setting goals for the year. I always set aside time during this season to just think, dream and plan. 5 out of 7 years I set and accomplish the goals I set. This year I'm going BIG. I'm going to accomplish 100% of my goals. And, I'm not going to set only 2 goals so I can get it done. I have 9 good, strong, SMART, life changing goals set out with a plan to get each of them done. There are 2 elusive goals, however that have evaded me for YEARS. This year the year I turn 40 I will see them accomplished. No goals left behind. Here we go. Want to know what my goals are for 2014? Just watch…you'll see them soon enough. 

Here's my plan. I will share my goals at the end of January. 

1. Research my goals. I like to know what I'm getting myself into. I'm not GREAT at research, but I'm pretty good. 

2. I Decided that either I'm going to obsess over this or not. If I'm not going to obsess over it, then I'm not going to do it. 

3. Reduce the picture. Small bite sized pieces, daily steps, weekly steps, monthly steps you get the point. 

4. Make it public. I chose to blog about it. You can ask me questions about my goals. I'll gladly share where I am. 

5. Seek accountability. I LOVE to surround myself with people doing stuff. I want them to intentionally and unintentionally prod me on. 

6. I now expect it to be hard, but along with the struggle I expect, seek, look for the strength to get this thing done! 

7. Encourage and seek encouragement. 

8. Visualize the goal completion. I spend a little time daily thinking what it will be like to be as fit as I can at 40, to be debt free, to make my job the career I never hat to work at ever again, to be a multi book author. I like the picture now I need do it so you can see it, too.  

9. Learn from failures. If the goal is worthy of my time then failure isn't a STOP sign. It's a This ain't the way sign. 

10. Focus on 1 goal at one time. I need help on this. I tend to keep my goals in a family so I can do more than 1 in at a time cause they're related. 

11. Practice walking goal out every single day. I have to obsess about being the man God wants me to go. It has to consume my thoughts, words, actions and deeds. Then it will become easy.

12. Take responsibility for all of it. It's all mine. The success, the failures, the set backs the set ups. They are all mine. 

Lucky Number 13. Celebrate cause the journey was well worth it. 

College road trip week

 

IMG_20131119_064619-1.jpg

 

I've been having a ball during this College Road Trip week. My only goal is; to make college sound like an obtainable goal. I know it's a long shot and most of my kids have a rough time thinking past next week. But if there was hope for me, I can at least hold out hope for them. If nothing else my students won't pull one of these on me. (They don't have a choice, but know where I went to college.) 

To get the kids hyped up I mixed up our Class Dojo for the week. Everyday they want to earn 3 points (which should be pretty easy) to move to the next "grade". They seem receptive to it,which is a major plus! 

  • Monday 3= Freshman
  • Tuesday 3 = Sophmore
  • Wednesday 3 = Junior
  • Thursday 3 = Senior
  • Friday Graduation Day! We celebrate my decorating these Class of 2027 badges I have and making Coke Floats for our science lesson. 

So far this is what I've done. 

Monday I wore my cap and gown around to tell them that they have to start today thinking about what they'll have to do to get to high school graduation in 10 years and college in 14. 

Tuesday I wore my Morehouse apron all day coupled with that gigantic flag I picked up last week. 

Wednesday I'm rocking the highly anticipated Morehouse bow tie.

Thursday I'm pulling out the Morehouse sweater. A true fan favorite. 

Friday I'm doning the cap and gown to celebrate our kids moving forward in life. I put it out there and I hope some of the other teachers wear their's as well. What else you going to do with it? 

Pictures will follow. I really wish I could've done more. I've already put in some ideas for next year. We do this again I'm going BIG or going home. 

The Longest days

The Longest days are those that the kids tend to grasp the least information. But also I'm teaching, grouping and talking a lot. I did not expect after this amount of time and practice my students would still be struggling with double digit addition with regrouping. It's tough. I just didn't think I wasn't reaching them that much! Wow! Got to moved on and start other skills, though. 

I'm amped up that we're doing a College and Career day in a few weeks. I've been gathering various college banners from friends. I'm decking out my classroom door to look like a huge Morehouse College application. I'm getting my Cricut ready for some grade A cutting. Got a lot to do in a few days. Pictures will follow. 

My foray into the 7 habits has been hit and miss. I'm not getting the students excited about anything. I've tried to review the 1st four habits a lot to no avail. I'm looking at me and my style to see why I'm not getting them on par. There are a ton of good, high quality excuses, but I have to find a better solution. We're just in November. 

How are you keeping the motovation high in your class? Are you? I'm putting up the SOS for new ideas and plans. 

Teachers UNITE!

So now the October stretch has started. This is the time when teachers (ME) question: 

  • Am I making a difference? 
  • Am I in the profession?
  • What the HECK am I doing? 

This week has been a trip. Just a lot of off task-ness and refocusing. I even had a kid steal one of my fidget bands from off the bottom of a chair. #WhoDoesThat!? 

The super frustrating thing is that this week's lessons/content weren't very hard. It was more of a stretch week than a new subject. So there was a lot of room for the kids to grow and feel successful. Can't honestly say that it panned out like that. 

The feeling that I'm getting from the group is "Mr. Whitaker, you're cool and all and I'm going to let you finish this lesson. But you ain't speakin' my language and I don't care to learn yours." I'm starting to get a sense of what it's like for a person from another country to come to America. Total immersion. Is there a Rosetta Stone for teaching in the inner city? 

This week I knew thoughtI was killin' it on my imagery and word pictures. I thought I was breaking it down to the very last compound. I thought I was making my case for them to desire to learn like Johnny Cochran.  What I saw was my words fall flat like a tire. I'm just not speaking their language. Now we can certainly debate culture, but that's another blog post for sure. These babies just don't know how or want to learn. 

All Therosist need not apply. I don't care what a book says or some gal on Oprah. I want trench dwelling teachers to tell me what they do to motivate the unmotivated. Help!

I know a lot of my teacher friends read, but don't comment on blogs. I'd love to hear you thoughts. Pass this question on to others in your circle, cause I cherish the feedback. 

Related articles

I might be Teacher of the Year!

That kind of week

Every teacher can feel my when I say it was "that kind of week". Having a challenging time reaching my students. I just haven't found the combination to unlock an appreciation of learning for them. I have a list of things that worked pretty well. Some that surprised me and a lot that just about smashed me into the floor. Needless to say I'm clocking in tomorrow with nothing less than the high expectation that this day I will make it THAT kind of week! 

How are you doing? What's your first 8 weeks of school been like?