Got a new “student” Friday

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I got a smart board and it was a breath of fresh air to a tough week. Watching the kids get amped up about all the new things we can do was cool. It’s touch screen so just know that we’re going to go all kinds of crazy with it.

Yeah,  that’s Kool and the Gang playing “Celebration” .

Lots of other really neat things happening, too.

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I don’t have to wonder where my smartboard is any longer.  Owwww!

Great CrossFit experiences this week. Excellent meal prep. My portions have been almost spot on. Now the cut my snacking. I can truly see my overall health improving, less stress and more energy. I think it’s also helping me get ready for the day. No stress in the morning cause I have a lunch prep routine. When I pack my lunch I usually go and lay out my clothes for the next day. Not hours, but both of them shave a few minutes off my morning run around.

This has ZERO to do with teaching

You know that recently I finished my CrossFit level 1 cert. That was so much fun and it took a huge thing off my “to do” list. Now I’m focusing on a much healthier Jason. I really, truly do my best to be an easy going guy. I’m not as successful as I’d like to be, but I’m getting there. One thing that keeps me sane is prepaing my food. I know it’s a small thing for most of us. I can’t eat school lunch under any circumstances. I’ve gone an entire day sans food, because I just can’t bring myself to get food from the cafe. I have been known to eat cole slaw from there in years past, but we’ll talk about that later.

For the last month I’ve been doing a major “meal prep” on Saturday or Sunday night. (This week I’m going to do it while cooking out for Labor Day.) This is a serious undertaking. I cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for myself for 5 days and my wife lunch for 5 days. It’s much easier than it sounds. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned.

  • Follow Meal prep blogs. You can get a ton of neat ideas from Instagram.
  • Buy a good set of plastic wear or glassware for carrying your lunch in. Plastic isn’t the choice, but if you’re on a budget it’s what you may have. Glass is better of course. But it’s more expensive.
  • Incorporate your MP in with your normal cooking. I adore my Big Green Egg and it obliges me to cook all my meal prep every weekend. Cooking outside has also kept my house cool.
  • When you’re grocery shopping, look for deals. I’ve been known to hit up the market multiple times a week to get all my fixings for my meal prep.
  • Also don’t be afraid to store things in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Chicken is on sale? Buy it ALL. Put some in the freezer and you’ll be happy you did.
  • Variety, variety, variety. My wife hates my bacon wrapped chicken thighs. I just keep finding bacon and chicken on sale. (I need to stop making bacon wrapped chicken thighs for a while)

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Not sure if everyone does it, but I’m all in for meal prepping. Now if I were all in for prepping my lesson plans.

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.

A look at mentors

I have no issue saying that I don't know everything. This has been a HUGE turn around for me. I don't know everything. There are a few people I consider mentors. Some by design and others by default. 

One was a manager I had. I wouldn't consider him a mentor at the time, but his words were helpful. Granted I don't think he managed me to success, but that's neither here nor there.

After a sales meeting he pulled me aside. We discussed my progress and the last thing I remember him saying was, 

"Get out there and push somethings around. You're a young guy and you should push more and make things happen." Again, I didn't take it to heart when he said it, but later I thought about it. I really am not pushing stuff around like I could. I'm not forcing things to happen and seeing results. 

I'm teaching and organizing my class. I'm rocking and rolling, but I'm not seeing the results I expect. I need to push somethings around. There has to be a result that equals the kind of effort I'm putting into it. 

So this week I'm going to push and I'm going to push HARD. I have to get these babies excited about learning and exploring. They have to see that this is worth it. 

On to another topic. I've been practicing taking off from Friday evening to Saturday evening. It's some good ol' Jason time. Not sure why more people don't practice this self-regulated margin. I feel recharged and I'm ready for another great week of pushing and bow ties. 

The Pencil demon has been excised

In years past I just couldn't find a solution to the pencil drama in my class

1. Let kids sharpen pencils at all. -13 bow ties!

2. Sharpen pencils only at key times. A little better idea, but still only 2 bow ties. 

3. I sharpen a glut of pencils and kids swap them out as needed. This worked, but it still resulted in a lot of pencils being used and kids destroying them. 4.5 bow ties. 

4. Let students use their own personal pencil sharpeners. Back to -4 bow ties. Plus the floor was a MESS!

This year I started the year off with a caddy on each table with all the supplies the kids might need for the day. In there are 5 good sharp pencils. So far this has been a great idea. The kids don't feel like they have to horde the pencils, becuase I gave them to them. No one sharpens pencils. No mess on the floor and most all all zero down time for pencil disputes. I have one little one ask to sharpen her pencil. I asked her why when there are 3 right in front of her. 

 

At the end of the day the Table Manager brings me all pencils and I swap them out for new ones. So far I've only had to do a mass pencil sharpening 1 time. That was mainly because I'm used to sharpening at the end of the day. I keep the dull ones in a cup for sharpening later. My table managers are reliable enough I may just let them do the swapping out at the end of the day themselves.  We'll see. 

A lot of credit has to go to going over the routines with the kids. They know what to do and usually they want to do right. So far, thankfully I've not lost much time with the pencil demon. Now if I could figure out how to improve the handwriting! I call it foot writing cause it looks like they write with their toes. What do you do to fix this problem? 

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I may have fixed a HUGE problem in my classroom

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If you know me or follow my blog you know I'm not very organized. I want to be. However, BEING has alluded me to years. Last year I was buried in paper work. I honestly can't say I know what happened to it all, but I can tell you my inner tree hugger is silently crying. 

In order to save a tree or two and to keep my sanity I did something different this year. To my surprise so far it's been a 10 bow tie idea! I have the students keep the "Red Number Journal" for all class work and the "Blue Number Journal" for all their homework assignments that require them to write or what not.

  • I'm not sure, but I certainly feel I've used a lot less paper. 
  • I was able to check homework today in less than 3 minutes where as before I'd have to hunt down papers and the such. 
  • The kids have a great note system whenever we go back over their journals and put a sticky for key info. 
  • The kids can get to work quickly in the morning. No searching for paper or writing sheets. Just go to the next empty page, date and start. 
  • Whenever I have parent conferences I know I can quickly put my hands on ALL the kids class and homework in less than a minute. 
  • I feel as if the class moves better and flows easily. Translation…less stress. 

 

 Most teachers waste these composition books. During pre-planning I sent my helpers to find as many partially used comp books as they could. We neatly tore out the used pages and slapped a sticker over the name. I'm pretty sure I have almost 50+ recycled journals ready for duty. 

Not sure where I got this idea. I don't think it qualifies as a true interactive notebook,but I will give Pinterest credit either way. The teachers on my hall used to have 3 journals. 1 for Reading, Math, Social Studies and Science. That made me even crazier, cause I know most of the students didn't use them fully. Plus the kids didn't have a good place in my room to put their stuff so instant insanity. This year, thankfully I have a much better system and I see it working. 

One day I will report that I've found a great way to do my lessons in advance. Yeah, right. Anyone have any good suggestions on what to do with lesson planning so not to have to do them Sunday night? 

Tomorrow I must talk about what I did to defeat the ugly "Mr. Whitaker can I sharpen my pencil" monster. 

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Observation time

I'm sure all teachers know about Formal Observations. For all the rest of you it's the time when your administration stops by your room for 30-60 minutes and evaluates your teaching. For some it's pretty stressful. For others it's just another day in the classroom. 

No matter how you deal with the evaluation there is a factor you can't control, students. They may do exactly like they do any other day OR they may do exactly as they do any other day. As a teacher there is no worse feeling as watching your evaluation start to fade away as little Johnny and Sally stage a coup. 

So here's my question; how do you prepare your class for the observation? There seems to be 3 schools of thought. 

1) Tell them that this is an observation for THEM and that they administration wants to see that each of them is ready for X grade next year. Point out that they need to be on their very best behavior to show Mr./Ms. Principal that they're ready for the next grade. 

2) Tell them that this observation is for you the teacher and it could bode well or bad for you if the kids don't do their best. 

3) Just let the chips fall where they will. Don't make a big deal out of it. Act as if this is a surprise to you and pray the shock will remain through the entire session.

 I can see the merit and the ill with all three of these tactics. I'll tell you what I did when I see how it goes tomorrow. 

In the mean time let me go workout so I can relax and be ready for show time. 

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Blog abandonment

This week was so draining. I don't want to drone on and on about how this week was a BEAST. You don't want to hear that. 

What I will say is this, no question this week built my faith. I have been working on building margin in my life. Even with this week beating me up I didn't get to my limits.  I know this week coming, I'm going to be pushed more than last week. Thankfully, I've already planned for it and I feel grace to do it. I can see that consistent on going improvement will yield huge results. 

To give balance I've found it really tough to plan/think LONG term about my lessons and class learning. I talked about in in my Avengers post aout making the lessons catchy to get the kids excited about the next lesson. I've had some success in my re-growing veggies lessons in science, but not so much in my other lessons. Just need to work on this for sure. 

I have an evaluation this week and I feel good about it. I picked up some great skills at a workshop a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, I've been kicking it hard so Monday will be the best teaching anyone has seen cause I've been doling out the best daily. 

Crossfit this week was strong. I didn't make it to Crossfit South Cobb everyday, but I was able to sneak into Basement Crossfit and keep my goals in line. I've been juicing well. It's not hard now at all. I'm down nearly 13 pounds. I hope to be able to plant our garden next week or the following week. 

Let's get at it.