I'm very pleased to say that we're a half-day short of the five week mark and I've only come home once vowing not to go back. This is a big deal, really. Last year I came home almost every day and said things like, "I don't think I"m cut out for middle school," or "maybe I'm not healthy (physically or emotionally!) for a full time job..." I knew this year would have to be different, or I wouldn't survive.
Here's a fancy student trick:
Know what I love best about this picture? My quick snap of a fun student trick actually captured some of the things that have been crucial to preserving my sanity this year. 1) the math bag. The ziploc you see in the bottom right corner that is supposed to come every day stocked with composition book, pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a calculator. Then I can expect that they have nothing on their desks except their bags. No digging through pencil cases and book bags, no stuff all over the place, which leads me to 2) the hooks you can see on the wall. Everything but your bag gets hung up. No backpacks, computer bags, purses, or lunch boxes should ever be at the tables. Now the aisles are clear and I can walk around helping people without risking life and limb. (Although I did slip today in the creamed corn someone spilled in the hall. Landed right on my ass in a puddle of corn juice. On the incident report, for "witnesses" I wrote, "the entire 5th period class" but I declined the option to turn the page over and provide a sketch of the humiliation.)
Lastly, I love 3) the bucket and seating assignment. The bucket has glue sticks and scissors, plus whatever lost and found pencils and pens I find. It represents the notebooks, which I love, and the group assignments, which I love. sigh...
Here's another thing that has made this year unbelievably better, represented in an email from a parent:
I made a giant decision to ditch our school's digital curriculum. I know, I know. It's risky for teachers to go out on a limb like that. BUT, I'm still using digital tools provided by the district for formative assessments and daily practice, as well as for summative assessments. I'm also using the curriculum for pacing, and to gauge my rigor. I'm just not using the lessons they provided, or the homeworks they provide, or the tests they provide! If you want to have a private conversation about why not, message me. beccaphillips72 (at) gmail.com.
Instead, I'm using a whole lot more stuff I'm pulling from the interwebs. Group work, hands-on stuff, and real-world questions. Thanks goodness for twitter! (Too bad we can't access it at school.) I'm using videos from youtube to get their attention and shift their moods. I'm also working to find the balance between self-discovery and just telling them. Because, honestly, sometimes you just have to be told. I'm sure I'll write an entire post about that struggle, if I find time to breathe.
The best part of the year, though, is that we are ALL - me and the kids - just having more fun. A student wrote this on my door yesterday. It says, "Mrs. Phillips classroom - awesomeness in progress"
I couldn't be more pleased.