Monday, February 19, 2018

What's on my desk? Miriam Edition

Ah, the desk! The center of our working universe (during planning at least), the hub of procedure, the choice hiding spot. I am always fascinated by what teachers choose to have on/in their desks and how it affects what they do in the classroom. I go between have an overly neat desk and a cavern of never-ending stuffs that seems disorganised but, in reality, is a treasure trove of semi-orginisation. So, without further ado, here are the contents of my desk:

On My Desk

One of the desk owls
  1. A desk fan - I get super hot when I teach. I tend to keep my room absolutely as cold as possible and I have a variety of fans in my room should it get too warm. A must have on my desk is a small USB fan gifted by my school one year. I use this daily, even in winter. It is easy to use, easy to store, and quite effective. 
  2. A desk lamp - Sometimes when we watch things or the kids are playing a game, I'll still do some work at my desk. This small lamp is cute and projects enough light for me to easily do what I need to do without disturbing the scene. 
  3. A variety of stuffed animals - These vary, but the tend to be the ones kids love the most. They are the most grabbed, most loved animals. They sit here because, (a) they get left out the most often, and (b) they are easy to grab for a lesson. Right now, that list includes: a kangaroo, a frog, an elephant, a raccoon, two owls, and an octopus that, being quite honest, was a gift from a friend and is my animal. :)
  4. A coffee cup - This should be self explanatory. :) 
  5. My Traveler's journal - This is my planner this year. I LOVE my planners and this year embarked on the bullet journal journey. I have a (what some would describe as) unhealthy obsession with stationary items. This goes with me everywhere. I try to keep myself really focused and organised. At home I keep all my pens, markers, washi tape, etc. This keeps me very accountable and I love it. 
  6. My favourite grading pen - It is purple. It fits in my left hand quite nicely and I use it for "grading". I say "grading" because my opinion on grading has changed. I have moved away from marking what's "wrong" and proceeded to asking questions that might evoke a more detailed/more proficient response. 
  7. (next to my desk) My "Go" Bag - This is my bag of things I have, just in case. It has my ankle braces (2 different kinds), 2 pairs of socks, my emergency medicine, and extra shoes (depending on the ankle braces I wear). You'll find many students/teachers with issues have these. This greatly effects my teaching because it allows me to teach safely. 
    My Go Bag
    My Traveler's Journal

In My Desk

In addition to the normal, regular, madness  I have:
  1. chapstick, headache relief, and stain remover - just in case. 
  2. My "silent ball" ball - This is a go to brain break for me. I love silent ball and it is easy to pull out at any time. I can also use this ball for circling, or a trasketball/word chunk game.
  3. Grading Folders - I keep all documents needing to be graded in folders marked by period and this hangs in the back of my room. In my desk I have file folders, also marked by period, that are of graded papers so that I can quickly hand them back at any time I wish. 
  4. My Sub Folder - My sub folder is a purple binder that I've marked in blank marker. I keep it at my desk so that it is quick and easy to grab. In my sub binder are:
    * a map of the school with colour coded routes for severe weather, evacuation, and my morning duty.
    * current rosters
    * two copies of my lesson plans
    * the emergency evacuation paperwork (multiple copies)
    * notes on any students and how to handle any situations. 
  5. A box of various colour pens - I keep a box of pens for when we do take a quiz/written assessment. I don't do this often anymore, but on the rare occasion we do, having this box means I can quickly pass out pens, grade items as a class, and get them back. 
  6. A box of snacks - I keep a few healthy snacks in my desk. Right now I am kind of low, so it is just pistachio nuts, but usually I keep some apple sauce in there as well. Mostly these are for me, but sometimes I have students who haven't eaten. I am able to offer something to them quickly. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Creating Classroom Culture: Taking Time with Students

This year when we returned from Winter Break, I set my Latin I students on a task: think of every Latin word worked on last semester that you can and write it down. The goal was to remind them of how much they've grown and learned since they started at the beginning of the school year (called "Collective Memory," the brainchild of Bob Patrick; after they listed words, I'd ask them to group them into themes, then we'd write the themes and words on the board, then have them try to think up new words for the themes and ultimately we'd have more than one hundred Latin words gathered).

While they started their lists, I took the opportunity to do something I really like to do, but often forget: I sat down by each group of students and asked each student how he or she was and what he or she did on break.

This seems like a small thing, but it tells my students I care. When I ask and they say, "Oh, nothing really," I push a little bit. "In a good way or a bad way? Because sometimes I like a vacation where I do nothing." And then I get a little bit more. And that means I'm not just paying lip service to checking in on them, I'm listening to their replies and I'm responding with a little information about myself.

And yes, in a class of 30 kids, this takes T-I-M-E with not just a capital "T" but every letter capitalized. I got through a good third of the class, then put students on the next step, and sometimes, I was in the middle of a conversation when it was time to transition, and I chose the conversation over the transition. But I don't regret that choice.

Because I got to know my kids better, and I am creating a culture in my classroom that values them.

They know I care. They know I love them most.

That means that when I chase them down, tackle them (metaphorically of course), and force them to do an assignment, it's because I want them to be successful. They know I'm on their side. So that time I gave up to talk to them at the beginning of the semester is time saved trying to convince them that I want their success now.

It seems like a little thing, but talk to your students. Get to know them. Ask them questions and really listen. Build a relationship with them so you have that to fall back on when you need them to trust you and your intentions later on.