One down

I’ve said this before: I don’t know how to relax. I had my first day of Real Summer Break today, distinguished from the end of last week (which seems like a distant memory already) by the fact that my wife had to go back to work and the boy and I had to fend for ourselves all day. I don’t have a routine yet, or (much of) a plan for one, but I did spend some time this morning planning for next year and Sending Important Emails that I’ve been putting off.

Specifically, I’m putting together a list of 28 (seven per quarter) skills that I feel like my kids should have mastered before 8th grade– some of them, well before 8th grade– and which we’re going to be working on during one of the two class periods I’ll have with each of my kids next year. I’m experimenting with several things at once here that I don’t have a lot of experience with– heavy differentiation, complete with (maybe?) centers, where, in theory, the kids in the room could be working on as many as 8 or 9 different skills at once, since I’m going to have kids who can “pass” a standard almost immediately if they already know how to do it, as well as standards-based grading and much heavier skills tracking than I’ve used in previous years.

What I need is for this to actually work, and not collapse under the weight of discipline issues and the number of kids in the room who are going to try and choose to opt out of being educated at all. I’m worried that I’m going to spend the entire summer planning and then end up abandoning the whole thing by the middle of September.

(Thinks about something, throws an email at his boss)

I did some initial studying today, too, and some of the Important Emails that got Sent were trying to nail down exactly how this process of National Boardsing actually works; I had my plan provisionally approved by my coach, who doesn’t actually have to approve my plan, but it was nice that she did, but now I need to know what to do to actually, like, tell these people that I want to take their lil’ math test, and it would probably be useful for me to know when/how often that test is administered, too.

And then there’s all the other stuff. I got some organizing done in my office, mostly finished a bookbinding project I’ve been working on for a while, and did some light cleaning. Played some Returnal and discovered that suddenly I suck at it. Would have jumped in the pool, but it rained all day so I didn’t.

I need to get into a rhythm as quickly as I can, and I probably need to get into the habit of being showered and dressed as quickly as I typically was during the school year. I’m going to focus a bit more on the cleaning and organizing side of things tomorrow; we’ll see how well I do. Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll have my topics pulled together and can start organizing them by quarter and figuring out how this entire process is actually going to work.

Let’s go.

It’s June, y’all

June first seems as appropriate a date as I’ll find to replace the Pride flag in front of the house with Pride II: The Repridening. The old one’s brown stripe had turned orange and the pink stripe had disappeared, and it had started to fray around the edges, and I figure if the thing is literally called a Pride flag I probably ought to care about its appearance. So: new flag! Yay!

Today was the third of the four Last Days of School, this one being the one where now all the kids have gone away. Tomorrow is a teacher record day, and if I’m at school past noon something has gone terribly wrong. Then I’m going to take a couple of days and do nothing but try to beat Returnal. After that, it’s time to start heavy-duty planning for next year and reteaching myself All of Mathematics.

I think I’m going to have to start doing stations next year, guys.

I have been thinking about two things lately: how to handle transitioning back into a two-class-period block, meaning I will have half as many students (good) but will have each of them for twice as long (which I have mixed feelings about.). My kids were already wildly behind, and over a year of quarantine has NOT helped. I got a look at this year’s ILEARN results for my kids, and while I’m going to spare you any sort of standardized testing rant right now, they weren’t good. They weren’t good at all. And regardless of how I feel about this particular method of assessing my kids, the simple fact is that there is no method of assessing my kids that doesn’t lead inescapably to the conclusion that they’re well behind other kids their age.

So I’m thinking right now that the way I’m going to handle my two class periods is that that first class period is going to be nothing but remediation. That’s going to look very different for different kids. Some of my kids are still struggling with basic operations; I have a handful who couldn’t multiply their way out of a paper bag. Others may just need extra time with 7th grade standards. There may even be some I can push past the 8th grade curriculum, although that won’t be many. The second class period is still going to be 8th grade standards, and I’ve still got thinking to do about how to do that given the things I learned this year, but that first period is going to be the focus of most of my attention.

The problem, of course, is that the kids are all over the place in terms of what they can do, and if I’m going to do this right I’m going to need to be pitching differently to all 70 or so of them. There are ways I am very good at differentiation and ways I am not good at it, and one thing I have never been able to manage properly is a room where 32 kids may be working on 8 different things. There are teachers who can do this beautifully; I am not one of them. This will have to change. (Frankly, given the emphasis that NBCT puts on differentiation, it had to anyway, so it’s useful that that’s dovetailing with something I need to do instructionally anyway.) So first I need to figure out what I’m going to do, and the next step is to figure out how to do it– and the how, of course, is very much the tougher part. And I’ve got to figure all that out. I need to hit the ground running next year to a degree that I never have before, and I need to run the year perfectly.

It’s gonna be a fun summer. But it’s going to have to wait until next week to start.

That’s all, folks

Year seventeen of my teaching career, done and dusted. This was absolutely the oddest year of my time in this profession, but unlike most of the teachers in this country it wasn’t the longest or the most stressful. Honestly, as ridiculous as it sounds, personally this was one of the easiest years I’ve ever had. I can’t claim that’s true for a lot of my students, mind you, and we’re going to pay for this next year– but a year where a computer did my grading and I had no discipline problems to worry about papers over a lot of problems. In a lot of ways, for the kids who showed up, at least, I got to be the teacher I have always wanted to be this year– and I got this intensely gratifying result from my end-of-year survey today as well:

This is only 50 of the 139 I have on roster, so hopefully I’ll get at least a few dozen more responses over the next few days, but this is on a scale where 1 is “I completely disagree” and 5 is “I completely agree.” So there’s a small handful of kids who either think I have favorites or I pick on certain kids, but if anyone thinks I pick on certain kids, no one thinks those certain kids are them. There’s a lot more to dig into on the survey, but these were the two results that really stood out for me and really made me feel like I was on the right track this year. I also got a handful of really nice thank-you notes, which hasn’t happened in a while, and a few kids said they were bringing things for me to the end-of-year recognition ceremony tomorrow.

(Which is going to be at school, and not outdoors in the rain, alhamdullilah.)

At the end of next year, I will have been teaching for as long as our high school seniors have been alive. That’ll be … fun. I haven’t had to teach the child of any former students yet, helped out by the fact that I don’t live in Chicago any longer and reset the clock when I moved back to South Bend, but that’s coming. I know enough of them have children that the oldest of them will be passing through middle school in a few more years.

I’m going into this summer, for the first time in a while, with no real plan to even try writing a book. What I need to do is study for my National Boards test and start seriously planning for next year. Some things are going to change again (we’re going back to block scheduling) and I want to hit the ground running in a way I never have before, so it’s going to take a lot of thinking and planning. I don’t see any real way next year can be better than this year was– structurally, given what’s coming it’s just not possible– but that doesn’t mean I can’t go in ready for it.

Bring it on.

In which I experiment

I decided today that I’m not writing up any more Black boys this school year. I’m still kind of processing the decision, honestly, but I’m sticking to it. It’s not as if there are a ton of school days left, I think I can probably find alternate ways to deal with classroom disruptions for six days. I’m also exempting suspension-level stuff; if somebody gets into a fight or steals something or something like that I’ll still do the referral. And this does not mean that I’m going to ignore misbehavior, either; I’m just going to find other ways to deal with issues for the last few days of class.

(Why only Black boys? Because I’ve literally only written up Black boys since I’ve been back. This still amounts to less than a half-dozen referrals. But a pattern is a pattern, and I don’t like this one. The fight I broke up the other day was between two white girls, but I didn’t do the referral for that so it doesn’t count.)

I also found out today that the rumor that we were moving back to blocked classes next year is true, so instead of my current setup where I have six groups for 41 minutes, I will have three groups for an hour and a half or so. I am vastly entertained that I have managed to hold down a single job for three years, something I haven’t done in a while, and I’m still going to have to reinvent my instruction again next year, even though I’m going back to a model I’m used to. That means I’ve had the same job for three years running and I’ve had to completely reinvent how I do it for each of those three years.

Christ.

Not much tonight, I know, but end of the year teacher tired is real, y’all. It’s 7:16 and I could go to bed right now.

I can do this

10 days left with my kids this year, and I had my first “maybe I should turn around and go home or at least drive off a bridge” moment on my way in to work this morning, which is really weird, because this hasn’t been that kind of year. Like, yesterday was probably the worst day since I’ve been back, and yesterday was nothing when compared to a bad day in literally any other year I’ve been teaching. Like, darn, I had two hard classes and wrote two kids up. Suck it up, Buttercup; I think my record was, what, seventeen in a day at the Hell School in Chicago? And that was a year when I only had maybe 60 kids in a day and not 140?

(Well, okay, I’m probably not actually seeing sixty kids a day right now, but you know what I mean.)

I’ve got the rest of the year planned out; I need one good day and I can actually get all the assignments written out for those classes. Hell, if I had any balls I’d just put all of them online right now as a grand experiment in what the kids would actually do. “Here is all of your work for the rest of the year; go for it” might be a really interesting thing to say, and it’s not like anybody is watching me too closely right now or would be mad about it if they were.

… hell, I might actually do that, just to see. The data collection aspect of it might be too much of a pain in the ass to be worth it, though. But it would be a fun story.

I need to start some hard-core planning for next year. I’m getting lazy, and I need to break out of that; it’s been a long time since I had the same job for three years in a row, and I need to make sure I’m actually doing a better job next year than I have been. (Not that I’ve been doing poorly, mind you, but the thing about even my first year at my current school was I had to hit the ground running, and this last year and the last quarter of the year before that have been “figure-it-out-as-you-go” kinds of years. I need this one to be well-planned and effective, and I probably ought to alter some things about my practice or at least try out some new shit and see how it works.

Lots to think about. That makes it video game time, obviously.