Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Building Relationships

Relationships matter!  No matter what happens the first day, my AP's motto is get them in class, get them fed, and get them home.  Not a small task for at the high school where I work with over 3000 students.  That's the overall school goal.  My classroom goal is to learn their names and figure out who they are.  Our new teachers were encouraged to integrate team building games to foster relationships on the first day of school rather than the cursory reading over the syllabus.  During the first week, I like to incorporate relationship building activities that embed reading and writing strategies.
        On the first day of school I have my students write a Dear Dr. S letter in response to a letter that I've written them.  I have them tell me about themselves as a reader, writer, learner and a human.  One of my professors at the University of Florida did this as part of our first days of school and I've used this for 25 years.  It allows me to get a writing sample on the first day of school.  I've often thought about digitizing this assignment or letting students add images, but paper and pen always work on the first day of school.  Everyone has access.  For my ELLs or other struggling writers, I've offered a writing frame and sentences starters, but regardless of where my students are as writers, they always get something on the page.
        I've used a book pass (Allen, 1995) during the first week of school too.  I have integrated this strategy in my first week of school since 1996.  The book pass allows me to see what my students are interested as readers, how they respond to books verbally and non-verbally and gives me a way to get an independent reading book in students' hands before the end of the week.  It's simple too do aka not high tech- pen, paper, and a copy of different books for each kid.   I review how to preview a book, teach them how to fold their paper into three columns rather than hot-dog style. Next I give students one minute to preview their book by jotting down the title, the author and comments about the book.  They then pass and review another, we typically do about 10-15.  I gauge the time of this activity based on their wiggliness.  Afterward I ask them to star their top three and allow students to share their favorites where others can see books they might have missed and add them to the beginning of their TBR list (to-be-read). This step allows me to see student's off-the-cuff speaking skills as well as beginning to building the social culture of reading in my class.
        My last and most complex task is having students write Poems for Two Voices as a way for them to publish their first piece of writing and learn about each other. Friday is our performance day.  I want to go digital with this by recording this. It, however, runs best with paper and pen for drafting and the computer for finalizing the writing and accessing RhymeZone to find words for tricky rhymes.  I learned this strategy at my first AVID conference in 2004 and have used this with all ages successfully.  I integrate writing frames.  While students are writing, I bother each one and gather data from them to write a poem for many voices to be performed with all members of the class.
      All of these work as formative assessment for me.  By the end of the first week, I know more about my students as readers, writers and learners than I would by just examining their test scores.  In doing so, I have also build the foundation for community of readers and writers.

What do you like to do for your first days of school?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Take Care of Yourself!

My 250th Check-in on August 8, 2016. 
As we are getting ready for the upcoming school year (some of us in our minds as we relish the last days of summer, some pre-planning, and some already in the midst of students),  I  wanted to take a few moments to remind myself  about the relationship that I need to continue to build with myself.  My next step will be to build relationships with my students and colleagues, but first I need to take care of myself, aka teacher self-care.

 Teaching is an incredibly demanding job like many jobs where you are care-giving. It gets intense responding to the needs of students throughout the school day.  My work week sprints from the starter gun on Mondays to the finish line on Friday. When I started doing yoga, I just scoffed at the idea of laying down for ten minutes on a mat to breathe. I rarely had ten minutes to pee during the day much less breathe.  Self-care, however, is a valuable component to my teaching life.

I do Camp Gladiator most days as part of my self-care routine. Based on the photo to the left and my current data, I have spent a minimum of 135 hours doing CG this past year. I will add about 45 Sundays of net-walking and an assortment of swim days at the springs and the beach.  I can sprinkle in days spent hiking too.  All of that motion adds up. During my best of self-care weeks, I workout at least 5 times, the worst three times.  I think do a solid job of physical self-care.

Reading each night is a my form of mental self-care.   I read each and every night,  some nights more pages than others. I am sure the number of books by my pillow is annoying to my husband at times and I often wake up with my glasses lost in the blankets, but reading nightly is my self-care ritual. My daughter has joined me in this practice since she was born, which makes it seem a little less selfish as a parent.  I say this because self-care can feel selfish, but it is a valuable practice to model this for your kids.

My self-care is a work in progress though. Last year, I made a conscious effort to do no work for my day job on Saturdays.  I tried to live my Saturdays throughout the year as summer days.  I also hermit-ed on Sundays afternoons by getting my exercise and grocery shopping for the week completed by 10 am.   This year I resolve to write more, blog weekly, attend that yoga\mediation class that I have been researching for four months.  These are some steps I want to take to better my care and the start of the school year is always a fine time to do that.    How will you put yourself first this upcoming school year?