Saturday, July 16, 2016

Creating a Simple, Effective Classroom Management Plan

An effective classroom management plan is a MUST-HAVE for all teachers, regardless of years of experience. A classroom cannot function successfully without a plan in place for dealing with rules, procedures, and consequences.



What is a classroom management plan?
This is how you intend for your classroom to run. It is your detailed proposal for achieving a classroom environment that is conducive to learning. Often in college education courses, prospective teachers are asked to come up with elaborate classroom management plans that detail out their teaching philosophies, how they intend to lay out their classrooms, a list of positive and negative consequences, and more. In practice, a classroom management plan should be much simpler than that. It is the list of expectations (for both you and your students) and the consequences of not meeting those expectations.

What is the goal of a classroom management plan?
The goal is to create a classroom that is safe and encourages learning. Our classrooms should be places where students expect to be respected and be given the best opportunity to learn. A classroom management plan helps us follow through on this promise.

What kinds of rules should I put in my classroom management plan?
The rules of your classroom are yours to make, but they should be rules that you will strongly and consistently enforce. Do not make the mistake of creating a rule and never enforcing it. This will lead to a yearlong power struggle in your classroom. Students need to know that you are consistent, dependable, and fair.

A general guiding principle for the creation of classroom rules is, "the fewer, the better." It is much easier to consistently implement five rules rather than twenty-five. What rules will be most important in helping you achieve the classroom environment you desire?

What kinds of consequences should I put in my classroom management plan?
Again, consistency is key here. Your consequences should be things that you can carry out swiftly, with as little disruption to the classroom environment as possible. I wrote earlier this week about making an example of students and coming down hard on all behavior problems. These are not always the best consequences. Come up with consequences that are fair, unemotional, and can be dealt out swiftly. Michael from Smart Classroom Management talks about his three choice consequences: warnings, time-outs, and letters home. If you want more information on those three methods, check out the post here.

What kinds of procedures should I put in my classroom management plan?
I cannot more strongly emphasize the importance of designing procedures and teaching them to your students. If this idea is new to you, start small with just a few. Ultimately, the classroom would be a well-oiled machine if you were to have a procedure in place for just about everything that goes on in your classroom. Think about potential behavioral pitfalls - students speaking in class, getting up from their desks, leaving the room, passing in homework. When are these behaviors acceptable? How should they be done appropriately? Elementary school teachers are the masters of teaching procedure - how to line up at the door, how to ask to go to the bathroom, how to behave at centers, etc. High school teachers should take note. We may not need our students to line up for bathroom breaks, but what is acceptable behavior in your classroom in regards to a bathroom pass?

To help you in the development of your classroom management plan, I have created a FREEBIE for you! Download this Classroom Management Plan template (Word document) and simply fill in the blanks and print!

For more inspiration, feel free to check out my classroom management plan for the 2016-2017 school year here.

Note: I think it's a good idea to review your classroom management plan at the end of every school year. As you and your classroom evolve, your management plan should too. Not all rules will work for every single classroom. I made some changes myself this year.

What rules, procedures, or consequences do you feel are necessary for your classroom?

Happy Managing!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Video Lesson: How to Plan a Full-Year Curriculum

Guys... I did a thing.

I get a lot of questions about how I lesson plan. In particular, many questions relate to long-term planning. While I have touched on my planning in posts like this and this, some things are just easier to teach when you can use visual aids and you can just talk about it.

So, I made a video lesson! Check it out and let me know what you think! Please be gentle... I'm a YouTube Virgin. ;)

Click the image to be taken to the YouTube video.

At about 7:27, I start talking about the new unit I am planning for this year for literature circles. With all of sadness and hatred and horrifying things that have happened in this country this summer, I've decided I need to do more in my little corner of the world. This year, we are going to study individuality, diversity, and acceptance through literature circles. If you would like to know a little bit more about my plans or if you would like to make a donation to help me get the novels I will need, please check out my DonorsChoose Project.

(Use the promo code LIFTOFF to have your donation matched dollar for dollar by Donors Choose THIS WEEK ONLY!)

Thanks as always for your support!

Monday, July 11, 2016

The 12 Worst Pieces of Advice I've Ever Received

Fellow teachers can be sources of inspiration, fresh ideas, and old tricks that still work like a charm. They can also unwittingly impart upon a new teacher some really bad advice for the modern classroom. Many veteran teachers and college professors mean well when they share these little tidbits of knowledge, but these suggestions are often outdated, impractical, or even downright detrimental to the well-being of the teacher, the students, or both.

These twelve gems are actual pieces of advice I have received from college professors or colleagues over the past several years... and my suggestion for what to do instead, should you ever hear the same thing.


1. Don't smile until Christmas. This Machiavelli-inspired suggestion is based on the premise that teachers should start their year being very strict, because it is easier to lighten up as the year goes on rather than try to become stricter when things get out of control. While I absolutely agree with the theory here, Machiavelli also said, "Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved." This is where the problem arises for me. It is one thing to be firm and consistent with your rules; it is quite another to inspire fear, which is where I believe this piece of advice really comes from. Not smiling in the presence of your students will indeed inspire fear, and as we know from the wise Master Yoda (whom I just so happen to trust more than I trust Machiavelli)...

Source

Sorry, Machiavelli, but I'm siding with Yoda here. Maybe inspiring fear will work for princes and politicians, but it doesn't work well in the long term for teachers.

So what do I do instead? Absolutely be firm and consistent with your students! Make your expectations clear, and the consequences evidence. But this can be done with kindness. You can even smile a little when you aren't being disciplinary.


2. Students will not respect you because you are too young. This is less a piece of advice and more of a self-esteem-destroying missile being launched into your fragile little first-year face. The theory here is that students don't respect their teachers until they look middle-aged. Thus, young teachers are doomed to a few years of badly behaved young punks who will walk all over them because they are too fresh-faced and sprightly.

Source

So what do I do instead? You ignore this shit, come up with a rock solid classroom management plan, you follow through, and you pat yourself on the back for not listening to those old asshats who were giving you a hard time. This one is such bullshit, seriously.


3. Do not acknowledge your mistakes in front of your students. I had a college professor who actually said this during a lecture. He was giving us some of his hard-learned advice from his two years (you caught that right?) spent teaching before he started teaching other teachers how to teach. I'm paraphrasing here, but he essentially told us that acknowledging our mistakes in front of students would make us appear weak and incapable. He advised that, if you were to ever make a mistake in the classroom (from a minor infraction such as calling someone by the wrong name, to a major infraction like putting the wrong grade in the grade book), you should never own up to it. He advised ignoring the mistake entirely or, if it came down to it, lying to the students to save face.

Source
So what do I do instead? You own your mistakes like a grown ass adult! If you mistook a student for another, you apologize and make a genuine effort to call them by the right name. If you make an error in the grade book, you talk to that student in person (and the parents too, if necessary) and apologize for the mistake, citing your fallible humanity as the source of the mistake. And if you make a whole-class mistake, you apologize to everyone and assure them that you will try to do better in the future. In my experience, students respond much better to a teacher who is human rather than a teacher who tries to be a god.

4. Respect should be earned, not given. I have met far too many teachers in my time who start their year off by treating their high school students like they are criminals as soon as they walk through the door. It hurts my heart when a teacher speaks badly about a group of students they barely know. And then you have those classes who have had a bad reputation since they were in kindergarten, so you are already completely dreading them before the first day of school starts. How terrible is that, to have a preconceived notion about what students will be like, when you haven't even given them a chance? That's called PREJUDICE and it is FROWNED UPON IN MOST CIVILIZED SOCIETIES. Wouldn't you feel disrespected if you were not given the proper chance to make a good impression?

Source

So what should I do instead? Respect is defined as "a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements." I think respect should be given to a person right off the bat. We ask our students to respect their teachers before ever meeting them; shouldn't we be asking the same thing of ourselves? We owe it to our students to greet them on the first day with respect. We may not know about their abilities, qualities, or achievements yet, but shouldn't we admire their potential, rather than following these preconceived notions?

5. Making an example of a student will keep the others in check. Ahh, the Embarrassment Method. Let's stand a kid up, put him in the stockades, and throw eggs at him while we shame him for forgetting his book in his locker. The idea with this one is that, by embarrassing the hell out of one kid for a minor infraction, we can stop all the other kids from making that same mistake. Machiavelli talked about this too. “With a few exemplary executions, [the Prince] will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies. These harm the whole people, while those executions he ordered offend only the individual.”

Source

So what should I do instead? Again, I would like to make a case for compassion. Humiliation is a cruel form of punishment, and it is not disciplinary in nature, only punitive. Surely you can recall a time that you were extremely embarrassed about something... do you want to be responsible for imparting that feeling on another human being? I'm of the opinion that humiliating a person is a step in the direction of bullying. If you have a behavior problem you need to deal with, talk with the student one-on-one, in a private conversation. The message will likely come through clearer than it would through burning ears and tear-filled eyes.

6. If you don't know the answer, make something up. I know a teacher who is literally terrified of students asking her a question, because she fears not knowing the answer. So what's a teacher to do when confronted with a question that you maybe should know the answer to, but you just don't? Make something up, obvs. Gotta save face, y'know?

Source

So what should I do instead? This one ties into #3. Just own that shit, for three really important reasons. 1) It makes you more approachable when you seem like a regular flawed human being. 2) In this day and age where knowledge is readily available with a simple "Hey Siri," your ass if going to get busted by some cheeky student if you make shit up, and then what? And 3) this is what they call A TEACHABLE MOMENT!!! This is where you say, "Wow, that is a really good question, and I don't know what the answer is. Let's do some research together and figure this out!" What a great opportunity to teach kids about research and credible sources of information and intrinsic motivation (learning just for the sake of learning).

7. Come down hard on all behavior problems. I knew a teacher who wrote a student an office referral for tossing a paper wad into the trash can. On the first offense. No warning. Boom. Office referral. I know another teacher who literally said, "I wish I could have a Chokey like in Matilda. That would keep everyone in line." #yikes The belief here is that if you put the smack down on even the tiniest infraction, your classroom will operate very smoothly because everyone will be way too terrified of your wrath to even think about doing something they shouldn't.

"Shame."
Source
So what should I do instead? Yet again I argue for compassion. I also argue for fairness, and discipline that teaches and isn't just punitive in nature. If a student draws all over the desktop, they need to stay after and clean the desktop (and maybe the others while they are there). A student says an unkind thing about someone? A letter of apology is in order. I'm not saying that you should never send students to the office; serious infractions (and not paper wads) are worth a trip to the office, absolutely. But pick your battles, and pick wisely. And isn't the goal of discipline to teach a student the right way to do something when they do wrong? Even disciplinary action can be a teachable moment.

8. A silent classroom is where true learning takes place. Lots of teachers make a case for a silent classroom, arguing that a silent class is an attentive class. I think it's easy for the modern teacher to see that this is not necessarily the case. A class may be noisy because they are highly engaged in conversation as they process learning; a silent class may be a class that is asleep, even with their eyes open.

Source

So what should I do instead? Recognize that there is a time, a place, and a benefit to both the silent classroom and the noisy classroom. I would never let my students talk during a test; silence is necessary in a testing environment so all students can be 100% on task. Likewise, I know that my students often process information better when they are given the opportunity to think out loud. A lot can be learned from a lively debate, a Q&A session, a JigSaw, and other "chatty" activities.

9. Busy work reduces discipline problems in the classroom. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, right? Let's keep those kids busy busy so they simply don't have time to make trouble. I have observed several flaws in this theory. 1) Busy work has no value. It is an assignment that takes up a lot of time but does not bestow anything of educational value on a student. It is a waste of precious time. 2) Students can sniff out busy work and are often reluctant to do it, and may in fact become more problematic if they are given something boring or tedious to do. Boredom does not breed good behavior. 3) Students who are slower at completing their work are getting even more work piled on them. You may give a busy work assignment assuming that it will keep the class busy until the bell, but they won't have to take it home. And then there's Jimmy, who works hard but he's just slower, so Jimmy now has your meaningless busy work to complete on top of whatever else his teachers have given him.

Source

So what should I do instead? If you're going to assign something, make it count. Make sure you can identify the educational merit of the assignment. Or, even better, ask the students to identify the educational merit of the assignment. If they can't put into words why the assignment is valuable, you have a problem.

10. Students are not trustworthy. Those pesky teenagers... you can't trust 'em as far as you could throw 'em. You're going to let them listen to music while they work? They'll never get the work done! You're going to let them choose a book for independent reading? They are not going to read a book, ever! You're going to leave them alone with an engaging activity while you dash out of the room to go pee? The room will be on fire before you get your pants down!

Source
Okay, I'm being facetious of course, but seriously, let's talk about this for a second. In my six years of teaching, I have discovered that, for the most part, students are trustworthy. Now, would I trust them with open flames and no supervision? No, I wouldn't. Can I trust them to have their phones out so they can listen to music while they write? Yes, I can. We need to give our students the benefit of the doubt. Oftentimes, if we trust them with a little responsibility and we quit micromanaging them so badly, something we teachers hate when it happens to us, then the students can really step up.

So what do I do instead? Start small if you have trust issues. Give students three options for an assignment, and have them choose one and complete it. Let students who have mastered the skill you are teaching teach their peers. Again, if you are firm and consistent with your expectations, you are creating a safe and supportive environment in which important qualities like trustworthiness and responsibility can flourish.

11. You're not being paid to like the kids; you're being paid to deliver the content. The belief here is that we're not there to be the students' friend; we are there to teach them grammar or physics or American history or the Pythagorean theorem. But in the words of Rita Pierson in her 2013 TED Talk, "You know, kids don't learn from people they don't like." Merriam-Webster Online gives the simple definition of "friend" as "a person who you like and enjoy being with; a person who helps or supports someone or something." So, if Rita is right (and I suspect that she is) then part of our job is, in fact, to be a friend to the students. Now, I would never suggest that you become Facebook friends with your students, or go to their parties, or spend time with them outside of a school setting or function, because there is absolutely a professional boundary that must be kept. But you can be a friend to your students in a professional sense - by liking them, and by attempting to be likable in return.

So what do I do instead? Watch Rita's TED Talk to understand the value of building relationships with students, and then get to work.



12. These kids are all the same. They are all disrespectful/entitled/rude/dramatic/lazy/*insert negative descriptor here*. The implied advice here is, "Don't worry about them too much." There's a girl in class in tears? Eh, teenage girls are all the same; they cry over anything. Don't worry about her. She'll get over it. That boy hasn't turned in a piece of homework or been prepared for class in weeks? Teenage boys are lazy, of course he's not going to do the work. Don't worry about him. He'll eventually get his head out of his ass. Of course, what you didn't bother to consider was that the girl was in tears because she's being bullied every day in gym class, or her grandma died and she just got the text message, or her mom has cancer. When you don't worry about your kids, you don't bother to find out that the boy isn't doing his homework because he can't read, or because his parents make him work like a dog when he gets home and he never has time to do the work, or because a bunch of idiots took a piss all over his book bag and he was too embarrassed to bring his backpack and urine-soaked stuff back to school. (By the way, all of these have happened to my students at one time or another over the last six years.)



So what do I do instead? Treat your students on an individual basis. Offer them grace, and kindness, and help. Write her a pass to go the bathroom when she is in tears to regain her composure, and then touch base with her after class to make sure she is okay. Ask him why he isn't getting his work done on time or why he's never prepared for class, and then help him come up with a game plan for success. Don't let a student fail because "these kids are all the same." They most certainly are not all the same, and sometimes you will be the only person in that kid's whole day who will see them as an individual.


What pieces of bad advice have you received as a teacher? What good advice do you have to offer new teachers?

With love,




Monday, June 27, 2016

Yay for More Printables!

Happy Monday! Just popping in to share with you that I've added some new goodies to my TPT store, all of which are Sanity Saver items!

So you already knew that I updated the calendar, right?




Okay, so the first BRAND NEW REALLY COOL I'M PRETTY PUMPED UP ABOUT IT item is a new Sanity Saver Month-At-A-Glance product. It looks like this!



These printables are designed to give you a quick idea of what your upcoming month looks like. Each Month-at-a-Glance page features spots to write down each month's top three goals, a grid for jotting down events, lines for brief note-taking, an an inspirational quote. The months are color-coordinated with the new calendars and would make great divider pages!

Available Products:
2016-2017 Sanity Saver: Month-At-A-Glance
2017 Sanity Saver: Month-At-A-Glance (Jan-Dec)


The next new item is actually an old product that DESPERATELY needed revamped! I present to you the new and improved Sanity Saver Ultimate Grade Book.


Each two-page spread looks like this. This grade book is unique because, instead of trying to cram the test name, date, and any special notes you have onto the score page, you have a table where you can write down this information. Each test is numbered, so you can just plug in the score next to the student's name and then write down all the notes your heart desires on the adjacent table.

The grade book includes five sections: tests, quizzes, homework, and then two that are not labeled so that you can use them for whatever you like. This would be a great place to keep track of Socratic Seminar participation, classroom activities, special projects, writer's workshop products, etc. Or, you could use it as a generalized checklist. The fonts and colors also go along very nicely with the other new Sanity Saver products for this year.

I learned the hard way this year that it's just a bad plan to rely solely on your school's grade book software of choice. I will be returning back to keeping a paper copy of my grades this year in addition to the one on the computer.


And finally, the third item is a tidied up Sanity Saver Attendance Record.


One thing I always found troubling about generic teacher grade books and attendance records is that there wasn't enough space. I feel like so many of them had only twenty-five or thirty spaces. I have some really big classes and I needed to space to accommodate that. This spread has space for forty-one student names and ten weeks worth of attendance. You could print one per class per semester (or however you want to do it) and you would have room for ALL the attendance!

Changes to this include a tidier layout and cleaner fonts that match the new Sanity Saver materials.

IMPORTANT: if you already bought this attendance record from my store, you should be receiving a notification from Teachers Pay Teachers that there is an updated version. Since the changes were minimal to this product, you would not have to buy it again. Just download the update!

Psst... not sure what a Sanity Saver is? Check out the origin story and the update from 2015-2016.

Happy Planning!





Friday, June 24, 2016

A Day in the Life of a High School English Teacher



6:00 a.m. - My alarm begins blaring on my cell phone. I have always had a hard time waking up in the mornings, so I have an app that requires me to complete ten math problems before I can turn off the alarm. Needless to say, after fumbling my way drunkenly through ten not-exactly-difficult-but-not-too-easy-either math problems, I'm pretty much too annoyed to go back to sleep. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't. I hear my toddler's chirps over the baby monitor and if I don't attend to him soon (attend - bring him into the bedroom and give him a sippy cup of milk and some Cheerios) then our morning will not be off to a good start. I get ready for work while kiddo sits contentedly munching on cereal, and then I get him dressed and ready for daycare. My husband works out of town quite frequently right now, so it's just little man and me today. After my son is dressed, he plays in the living room for a few minutes while I get my lunch packed. My life is a lot easier if I prepare all meals in advance, so all I have to do is pull containers out of refrigerator and toss them in my lunch bag. I take breakfast on the road -  peanut butter spread on toast. We feed the dog, and we're out the door by 7:20.

7:30 a.m. - I take my son to daycare, where he runs to his little chair so he can promptly have second breakfast, Hobbit-style. Once he's got breakfast in front of him, he's pretty content to wave bye-bye as I leave.

7:50 a.m. - I arrive to school. My first stop each morning is my classroom, so I can drop off my bag and fire up the computer. The bell will ring in about twenty minutes, which is just enough time for me to get settled in for the morning. I don't come in to work early like so many other teachers do for a couple of reasons. First, I do have my kiddo to think about. I like spending the fairly leisurely hour each morning with him, and he likes sleeping until between 6:00 and 6:30 each morning. Second, I stay late after school most evenings, so I don't feel guilty about coming in at 7:50 or even 8:00 (official arrival time according to contract). And third and most importantly, I am not a morning person. I never have been. I'm a cranky bear in the morning and it takes me a solid ninety minutes to wake up. It's a wonder I can put on pants in the morning. If I came in earlier, I would get nothing accomplished. No point. So, instead, I take the twenty minutes in the morning to check my mailbox, get my water bottle and my tea together, and open up my email, grade book, and attendance software. A few students come milling in early to chat for a couple minutes before the day starts.

8:10 a.m. - The first bell of the day, and the beginning of our longest passing period. Sometimes I hang out in the hallway, but most of the time I have students who come in right away who need something from me - a pass to the library during advisory, help with a homework assignment, a question about the afternoon's theatre practice, etc. I spend the beginning of every morning fielding questions, requests, and conversations with students. At this point in my day, I haven't even spoken to anyone above the age of 18.

8:20 a.m. - The final bell rings and advisory period begins. This is homeroom, essentially. I take attendance and double-check student progress reports to see if anyone needs a pep talk about getting their grades up. A few students have to meet other teachers to make up missed tests this morning; several honors students go to the library or to another teacher's classroom to work on assignments. Several others get passes to go eat breakfast. This leaves me with about four students in my classroom who work quietly. Students are in and out of my classroom during advisory period. A couple of my honors freshmen come in to ask questions about Romeo and Juliet, the current unit of study. Two students stop by to pick up drama club schedules since they missed yesterday's meeting. Three sophomores come in to make up missed quizzes, and I track down the other two that are supposed to come in and email their advisory teacher. They show up shortly thereafter. The morning announcements come on at about 8:45 and the bell rings at 8:55. Everyone scatters. This particular morning, my first class is meeting in the computer lab, so I lock up my classroom and head upstairs. I write the agenda for class on the whiteboard in the lab.

9:00 a.m. - My first period general English 10 class has just started their debates unit. The debates require a great deal of research, and we have limited access to technology in my building. There aren't enough computers for the 32 students in this lab, but fortunately they are working in teams on the debate, so it's okay if a couple of students don't have computers. The students meet with their teammates. I walk them through the day's agenda, which includes reviewing the feedback I have given them on their team's thesis statements, resubmitting a revised thesis statement if necessary, creating source cards for the websites they are using, and writing their supporting evidence for their claims on fact cards. I spend the forty-five minute period wandering from group to group, answering questions or playing devil's advocate to their reasoning in the hopes that they will build stronger arguments for the debate. The students access the classroom website very regularly during this time, because this is where they can find the instructions for how to create source cards and fact cards using MLA formatting. There is also a video lesson they watched a few days before about how to write a thesis statement. A few students watch the video again before submitting their revised thesis statements. I remind the students that we will be back in the classroom tomorrow to work on our formal debate outlines, and the bell rings at 9:45. My next class is my new theatre arts class. We are meeting on the stage today, so I go there next.

9:50 a.m. - Second period theatre arts contains thirteen very eager students who are thrilled to be there pretty much every day. Today is no exception. We are doing physicality work today, so several of them go to the dressing rooms to dress out, like they would for gym class. By 9:55, we are in a circle on the stage, and I am leading them through warm ups. A few of the students in the class have never done theatre before; they are taking the class for the fun fine arts elective. They are quickly learning how physical theatre can be as I lead them through squats, arm circles, calf raises, and several yoga poses to help them limber up. I know from experience that if we don't warm up, they will be very sore or could get injured. After we've done a thorough warm-up, they don their neutral masks. We've been studying Jacques Cousteau and acting methodology behind using the neutral mask. We work through the seven levels of energy, moving from being sluggish, spineless, wobbling creatures to frantic, high strung, high energy people. After a short break, they are allowed time to work with their teammates on their masked morality plays they will be staging in a week. They watch each other move and offer critical feedback on how the actor should use his body to better convey meaning, since wearing the neutral mask means they may not make a sound. By 10:35, they are both tired and exhilarated by the work they have done, and I'm immensely pleased by the effort they have put forth. The bell rings, and I go to my classroom to meet my third period students.

10:40 a.m. - My honors English 9 students meet me at the door. For the most part, they are a very punctual group and very eager to come to class. I let them in the room and they check the drawer by the door to see if they have a new handout today, which they do not. The students who are eager to read aloud today grab one of the half dozen Shakespeare character cards attached to the board, the name of the character they want to be. Students argue lightly over who gets to be Romeo; the students who want to participate but don't have the confidence to read one of the lead roles choose the "Random Character" cards from the board, knowing they'll be assigned a servant or some other minor character who doesn't have to say much. As always, Friar Lawrence is left on the board, the last kid to get picked for the basketball team. A little cajoling on my end gets a student to pick up this card, so we've fleshed out our cast. By the time students have made it to their desks and Shakespeare cards have been nabbed, I have the instructions up on the board. Students check the board, get out their Smash Books, and start updating the complex character web and calendar of events that we've created for this play. I play music - the musical selection of the day is The Piano Guys - for the first five to ten minutes of class as students work, chatting quietly. I take the opportunity to move around the room, sometimes reviewing a student's work in the Smash Book, sometimes asking them how basketball practice is going or what they're doing over the weekend or what piece of music they are working on in concert band. It's at this point that I remember to take attendance - I am seriously bad at remembering this - so I put in attendance while I chat over my shoulder with a student about a great movie he saw recently. I get out a mini sticky note, write down the student's movie suggestion, and stick it to my desk. Students always watch to see if I'm going to write down their recommendation, and they tend to follow up in a couple weeks, to see if I read the book/watched the movie/listened to the song/tried the restaurant. I try really hard to get to all of their suggestions so we can have another conversation. Plus, I like when they teach me things too. After we've caught up in the Smash Books, I ask the students to recap the major events of Romeo and Juliet thus far. I put my own version of the character web and the calendar up on the Smart Board, and I update it as they tell me to. If I notice something isn't quite right, I double-check with the student. Another student jumps in and makes the necessary correction. After we're all back on track with what's been going on, we start reading Act V. It's one of the few acts that we will read through and watch through. That will be tomorrow. I timed it as I hoped, and the bell rings right at the point that Romeo tosses back the poison and Juliet wakes up. They all groan in frustration, and I laugh because I'm twisted like that. I erase all of the new notes and put the instructions back on the board for 4th period.

11:30 a.m. - Fourth period is still honors English 9, but it's a completely different group. Third period is a class of 30 students, with 26 of them identifying as extroverts. They love to talk about anything. Fourth period is a class of 17, and 15 identify as introverts. They come in quietly. Only one student picks up a name off the board unprovoked (I'm sure you could guess that he's an extrovert and is dying for the opportunity to use his voice). They all settle in to work, whispering to the student next to them. I play The Piano Guys again, but I don't move in and around with this group. It makes them noticeably uncomfortable if I stop by for a chat when they are trying to work. So instead, I perch on the edge of a desk. I don't grade papers or allow myself to look busy in any way; I just sit there, making myself available to a kid if they need me. A few do; they come up and ask me questions one-on-one. One raises her hand, and I go to the front of the room to her seat to talk to her. One student does engage me in conversation about comic books, a commonality that he and I share. The classroom's resident politician sits nearby; he makes a comment that turns the conversation on it's head and the next thing I know, we're having a serious discussion about the pros and cons of socialism. A few other students take part in the conversation, most just watch it go down. They are engaged in the conversation, but they just don't have anything to say. Most of these students are listeners, not talkers. After the allotted five to ten minutes, I hold up the Shakespeare character cards that haven't been taken and start pressing for someone to pick up the cards. It doesn't take too long before a few kids come up to take the remaining cards. The rest of the class goes in much the same way that third period did. Once we are into the lesson, the lesson flows smoothly, But getting my fourth period comfortable and eager to participate is a totally different game than working with third period.

12:15 p.m. - Lunchtime, and I finally get to go pee. I also refill my water bottle, heat up my lunch, and then return to my classroom. I prefer to eat in my classroom rather than the cafeteria because it is just too noisy in there and I have trouble hearing conversation when there is a lot of background noise. Also, as an introvert myself, I need thirty minutes by myself to recharge a bit. I listen to music, eat my lunch, and assess last year's Romeo and Juliet test review game to see if it still meets my needs. I tweak it here and there, changing the wording of a question, replacing another question entirely. Five minutes before the bell, I pack up and head back up the computer lab.

12: 50 p.m. - Fifth period is noisy. They are friendly as can be, but they know how to generate some noise. They are general sophomores so class runs basically the same way as first period, except a problem arises. A student from one of the teams has been assigned to the alternative school for the remainder of the year. The team is in a state of panic of this because that was, of course, the kid who had all of the papers they had done so far and had all of their notes and HAD EVERYTHING. I sit down with the team and we come up with a game plan for reassigning who will do what for this big project. I print them new copies of the worksheets that are now missing (fortunately there are only two) and I help them get those filled out. I spend the majority of my time getting this team back on track, kind of leaving the others to the wolves. I feel badly about that, but there's only one of me and there are 35 of them. With the exception of one team who is obviously not on task, the others do a great job for the class period. When the bell rings, I hold back the team that wasn't on task and I ask them why they think I kept them after. They know why, and they tell me why. When I ask them what they think I ought to do about this, one says, "Take away our computer privileges." I ask them to come up with a game plan so that they will stay on task in the future, knowing that the penalty for not doing so will be the loss of computer privileges, as suggested.

1:40 p.m. - Sixth period general English 10 is my most challenging class of the day. They are a hugely diverse group with very different needs. I have seven students in this class with I.E.P.s, more than in any other class. I have five with behavior issues, and these five thrive off of each other. I have many very good students in this class, but unfortunately they are often overshadowed by their peers. Two of the five troublesome students, however, are in the office for the class period. The structure of the teams and the absence of these two students allows for a fairly smooth class period. Three students lose their computer privileges for the period for playing games instead of using their time well; they will have to use their advisory period tomorrow morning to get today's classwork done. Since they lose computer privileges, I give them an on-topic task that they can do by hand. They grumble, but they comply. They'll be better tomorrow, I am confident.

2:30 p.m. - Seventh period is my prep period. I head back down to my classroom. For the first time today, I start responding to emails that didn't require an urgent response. Three parent emails, a couple from administration. I have four evaluations to fill out on I.E.P. students before an upcoming conference, so I take care of those. I also had two students ask me to write them letters of recommendation earlier in the week, and I need to get those done. Time slips through my fingers. At 3:00, I start getting my classroom prepped for the next day. I erase today's agenda and objectives, filling in tomorrow's information as I go. I have handouts for tomorrow's English 10 class that I copied earlier in the week, so I drop those into their drawer. I straighten the desks, pick up the trash off the floor, and get all of my personal belongings together.

3:15 p.m. - The bell rings and I go out into the commons for afternoon hallway duty. Kids stream by, heading out to the buses. Several stop and make conversation on their way out. After the halls clear, I head up to our auditeria for drama practice.

3:30 p.m. - We're about two weeks out from production, so we're now having five-day-a-week practices that last until 5:00. Also, because we are so close, that means that I have the full club in attendance right now - all 40ish kids. I corral them all together and give each team their assignments: stage crew, double-check all props, set the stage, and make a list of anything that is still missing; tech crew, we're running from the top today, so please go double-check all of your sound and light cues; costume and makeup, help the cast get into costume and do a makeup inventory; cast, get into costumes and begin warm ups. Show time is at 4:00. It all runs very smoothly; this is a student-led and operated program and I'm just there to put out any figurative or literal fires that pop up. The run-through goes well but we're still missing a couple of items, so I'll be making a last minute shopping run this weekend.

5:30 p.m. - I finally get to see my little boy. I pick him up from daycare and, as always, he is starving. We head directly home.

6:00 p.m. - Dinnertime for my son. Right now he's still young enough that he eats dinner and goes to bed way before I'm ready. So he has his dinner in the kitchen while I start my own dinner and sing to him and talk to him. Dinner is followed up by bath time, jammies, a book, and then bed. He is usually in bed between 6:45 and 7:00. This is a wonderful thing because I do get some time to myself in the evening, something I desperately crave after being "on" all day long. It also sucks, though, because I don't get much time with him weeknights. We more than make up for this on the weekends, though, when we play and do fun things all day long. Since having my son, I've made it a point to not bring home any school work on weekends unless it is absolutely essential. I have learned a lot about how to better manage my time so I can be 100% in family mode when I'm with my son. Weekends are for family. It makes me feel less guilty about the time lost during the week.

7:00 p.m. - My kiddo is in bed and I am finishing dinner and working. I want to find a video of a masked theatre group doing physicality work, so my theatre students can see professionals doing the very thing they are learning. I also have to finish writing my Romeo and Juliet test for the next week. My freshmen this year are really excelling at this unit, so I've upped my game and made it more rigorous than ever. They've risen to the challenge beautifully. The test needs to reflect this, so it requires an update. I also need to work on the playbill for the upcoming theatre production. One of my students has an intense interest in graphic design, so I'm coaching him on the side. The playbill is his current project; it is something we've been collaborating on using Google Drive. I need to review his latest changes and give feedback. My husband calls, so I stop working for a bit to talk to him. Some things don't get done that evening that I wanted to accomplish, but that's why I work in advance. I have to allow lots of extra time for other priorities if I'm going to do it all.

9:00 p.m. - I take an hour and a half to unwind before bed. I watch Game of Thrones because I am obsessed. After Thrones is over and I have experienced all the feels that a person possibly can in one 60-minute show, I check on my son and then get ready for bed. I read in bed for just a bit and then it's lights out at 10:30. I lay awake for a really long time because I have trouble closing all the browser windows that are open in my head, but eventually I get to sleep.

Then I wake up and do a variation of this day all over again.