Wednesday, May 31, 2017

2016-2017: What Worked and What Didn't

185 days, 140 students, 80 final projects, 60 student podcasts, 45 lunch duties, 13 audiences for 5 theatrical productions, and 1 Chromebook lying in the bottom of the elevator shaft** later, here we are. My first official day of "summer break." Now is the time to do all of the teacher stuff I don't have time for during the year (like getting my Google Educator certification and starting my Master's program) and getting caught up on everything else in my life that gets neglected the other 10 months of the year (like reading for fun and going to the eye doctor and eating food that isn't Easy Mac or cafeteria food).

As always, I'm here today to wrap up the end of the school year and kick off my blogging season with my reflection of What Worked and What Didn't this past school year. Most of these things were discussed in my 2016 Classroom Tour, so more details can be found there.

Classroom Operations Binder
If I were to give awards to my organizational materials (But of course, how silly would that be? I mean, these items don’t have hands with which to accept such awards.), the award for Game Changer of the Year would go to my Classroom Operations Binder. I wrote about this new addition to my classroom in my one and only blog post from the school year. Not even kidding, this binder seriously revolutionized my classroom organization this year. It was with this binder’s assistance that I was able to keep “The Ungodly Stack of Miscellaneous Paper Piling Up on My Printer and I Don’t Know What the F*ck To Do With It” at bay. In addition to dealing with The Stack, it was priceless when I had those sudden unavoidable absences because I basically just had to email the school while rocking my sick toddler and say, “There’s a pink binder in my classroom somewhere. Use that!” I can’t wait to actually start the year with it next year. I could not more highly recommend creating one of these for your own classroom. It works.

Updated Absent Binder
This new system works when you actually keep up with it, and I did a really good job keeping up with it until STANDARDIZED TESTING. When STANDARDIZED TESTING hit, it hit hard and left nothing but carnage and broken #2 pencils and crushed spirits in its wake. I literally had about 6 weeks of school this year that were completely upended due to STANDARDIZED TESTING, so it was really hard to keep up with this Absent Binder system because I was doing so much planning on the fly. So, does this work? Yes, it does. But not always. Nothing survives STANDARDIZED TESTING.

I would just like for you to take a moment and imagine that STANDARDIZED TESTING is being said in the voice of God used for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It somehow makes it more bearable.

Board Dividers
I am just so happy that I taped off my boards this year and, for the most part, I kept up with those sections. Seriously, it was just so nice and so organized. Once I trained my students where to look for certain pieces of information, I swear to you that the usual questions that would be asked a hundred times in a class period were cut in half. If you are a free spirit and your sock drawer is unorganized, you probably won’t like this system. It might feel a bit confining. But if your socks are matched, folded, and they are stored in a pocket organizer on the inside of your closet door like mine, then this sectioned off white board trick just might be your jam. It works.

Desk Set Up
Believe it or not, my desks stayed this way most of the year. I was really happy with this set up, especially once I got the Chromebooks in my classroom. This set up was so easy to manage. I could see all Chromebook screens from my desk, everyone had a good view of the board, this arrangement works great for pair-and-share, large group, and solo work, and it felt like there was more room to move around in the classroom. I have no intention of rearranging my desks for the fall (unless something crazy happens to me over the summer and a Pinterest virus takes over my brain and I order everyone bean bag chairs). I liked this room set up. It works.

Paper Storage/Magazine File System
I had this dream last fall of staying one week ahead with all of my copies this year and keeping them all grouped together in those super cute magazine file folders. And I did that for the entire month of August. But I’ve learned something about myself as a teacher, something it has taken me seven years to accept about myself: that is not the way I teach. I just cannot plan down to the smallest detail like that, not that far in advance. Because here’s the thing: this year, more than any year prior, I really let my students’ needs direct my teaching. I didn’t only teach what I wanted to get done; I paid a lot of attention to feedback from students this year. During the month of August, I bet you I made 500 copies that I never ended up using. They were copies for lessons I had originally planned on doing, only to discover that my students didn’t need those particular lessons. Those lessons were either too easy, or too difficult, or just didn’t mesh with the personalities of my classes. So after wasting a ream of paper in August (sorry, admin), I decided that this was not the way for me to go. I quit making copies so far in advance. Now, that’s not to say that the paper storage systems didn’t work. They did work fantastically! But, the actual concept of making a week’s worth of copies on a Friday was just not practical for my classroom environment and my teaching personality. I will be keeping this paper storage system, knowing and accepting that I don’t actually plan to have all five days of the week full at any given point in time.

QR Codes
Flop of the Year. The issue is that my students were not allowed access to school’s WiFi on their personal devices and my classroom walls are made of lead, so there’s no getting 4G in there either. So these codes were a bust. I’m not completely giving up hope because I definitely think these could be useful… but I need to figure out ways to maneuver through some of the technological barriers in my school.

Cell Phone Tags
Such a little thing, such a huge difference in classroom management. Those little green, yellow, and red tags? They worked perfectly. Kids would glance up at the board every day to see which tags were up. My only regret is that I don’t have a set for each prep, because there were some days where my English 10 students would be allowed to have their phones out and my English 9H class wouldn’t. It wasn’t a huge deal, except that I often forgot to switch the tags, but even then it wasn’t a big deal because I had the same little cell phone icon on the Daily Slide, so kids could just look at the board to see if they board and the tags matched up. Silent classroom management is the best classroom management.

So now that's done, it's time to focus on some blogging content! What you can look forward to this summer from Eat.Write.Teach.:
- A giveaway or two! (I've got a free copy of a new teachery book to give away, courtesy of Scholastic!)
- My review of the Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why
- A list of my teaching flaws and how I'm coping with those
- A new vlog or two
- My journey as I become a Google Certified Educator
- FREE STUFF, as always! Be on the lookout for your Sanity Saver calendars for the year and other free printables!
- Some new lessons going into my Teachers Pay Teachers store!
- Some plans for next school year (because I never really stop planning)

Happy Summertime!

**I shit you not.