September 26:

I’ve done a pretty shoddy job of keeping up with this 30 day challenge thing. I’m pretty sure I skipped the whole weekend and maybe a little more. But I’m back with four more days to go. Working on the strong finish.

I made the mistake of getting into the football ⚽️ game during lunch duty today. Oh it was fun, but when I went back into the building for advisory class, I felt like I had just worn my clothes in the shower. I don’t know how kids do that every day and then sit through two more classes. I was so uncomfortable. And then of course, when I got home I had to ice my knee a bit. Turf + running + Doc Martens = not that great for knees. But whatever. It was fun mixing it up with the kids and having a laugh. It’s always a good thing to let students see their teachers as genuine people having fun.

That was definitely the highlight of the day. The afternoon was a staff meeting filled with frustrating talk of how to use our grade reporting system. I can’t think of a much less exciting conversation. Assigning a number value to students work seems so out dated. I would rather give feedback and discuss with students how they can grow than give them a number that comes with all kinds of social pressures and stigmas. Maybe another time I’ll go a little deeper into this but right now I just need to shake it off and go enjoy my book.

September 22: Hard Conversations

I guess I missed another day yesterday. I just had a little too much on my mind. There were some hard conversations yesterday that got me pretty riled up and also made me super proud of my kid. But those aren’t the ones I’m planning on writing about tonight.

At the beginning of the year, I put up “You Belong Here” posters in my room from Emily Meadows.

You Belong Here Poster

She created these posters specifically for classrooms and currently has 25 languages available. If you’re wishing you had them for you room, click here for her graciously shared Google Drive folder.

Yesterday, my daughter discovered that one of the posters in my room had been purposely torn. This was the second time it had happened. Of course, I replaced the poster, but that didn’t quite feel like enough. I talked about it with my wife, who happens to be an amazing ES counselor, and realized I had not talked about the posters with my students and I needed to have a conversation.

So today, it became my ‘design of the day’ which is usually some sort of slightly random, unusual product or design that I share with students to start a conversation and get us in the proper frame of mind for class. I was not sure what to expect from the conversation or how my students would react. Jordan is a conservative culture and our school has not fostered many conversations around the topic of inclusion.

The conversations were fantastic. I was really impressed. I set the stage, told them what had happened and then asked them why this would be designed for display in a classroom. Students listened to each other, shared their knowledge and insights, asked questions and respected each other’s views. There were students that we’re very knowledgeable about the flag and identity and those who it seemed had not ever really talked about it with anyone before. It made me see how important it is to help students have these conversations and provide a space for them to question and learn.

One group continued the conversation well into class when we moved to work on projects. They were sharing with each other about the different beliefs of their religions and where they thought some of those ideas came from. It was wonderful to hear them talking with each other, and most of all, listening to each other.

I’ve got three more classes to have this conversation with tomorrow and I’m excited to see how those go. Today was 8th grade and a pretty mature group. Tomorrow I have two classes of 7th grade and they still have some maturing to do, as they should at this age. It will most definitely make for a different conversation, but I’m excited to provide the space and see what comes of it.

September 20: Changemakers

Tonight I dragged myself to an online event hosted by ELMLE at the end of a long day that included basketball practice and a walk home from school. I was on the fence about attending, feeling tired and frustrated but I decided to give it a go.

For some reason I wasn’t properly registered and could not access the event. I must have reread the confirmation email ten times trying to get my tired brain to see what I had to be missing but to no avail. I turned to Twitter and thankfully the great people of ELMLE hooked me up and got me in just as I was about to give up. Thank goodness I didn’t.

The session was hosted by students from Frankfurt International School who are a part of their Changemakers club. They led us through a series of models and strategies that they use for identifying issues and working to implement change in the world. The students were incredibly impressive and obviously passionate about their work. It was a fantastic way to end my day.

I’ve got a page full of notes and thoughts to look over tomorrow when my brain has had a chance to reset. I’m not sure I have the space to take on a club right now, but I am sure I can figure out ways to work this into my classes.

September 19: One of those days

Yeh, today was one of those days where things just didn’t seem to go quite right. A long morning of Map Testing seemed to set the mood.

My plan for the day shifted when I got notification that the Microsoft accounts I had requested for my classes were ready. I decided I would go ahead and try to get the students logged in and set up since we had a shortened schedule and so that they would have access to explore on their own. From there it just kind of tumbled.

Today’s schedule meant that I started with my most challenging class. My first mistake was not giving them a link but just asking them to type it in. Then when I tried to get one of the students to connect to the Chromecast I realized they were on a different network and I wouldn’t be able to show an example. In a class full of impatient kids, this was one too any delays.

I won’t go into details of the continued flailing around and torched lesson plan. In the end, we did get everyone signed in and we even got a part of my original lesson completed but it wasn’t pretty.

Looking back, I probably should have waited, developed a video tutorial and had them follow that on their own with me there for troubleshooting and support. But that hindsight is 20/20. Funny thing is, somewhere in there I knew better, but I pushed through anyway.

I’ll have to do a little damage repair on the second part of the lesson as I was so frustrated by the time we got there, it lost its effectiveness and I used it more as a independent work task than the think, share and discover activity I had hoped it would be. But, these things happen.

So, lesson learned. I’ll reset now that I’ve reflected and keep figuring out ways to do this teaching thing better.

September 18: Off day

I’m leaving work out of this one. It was a good, weekend day of a lazy morning, getting out of the city, relaxing and spending some time with my kids.

I really enjoy my weekend mornings this time of year. There’s a crispness to the air as morning temps are 15-18 degrees and I wake up early enough that the neighborhood is quiet. It makes for a nice morning walk with my dog before heading up to the roof with my breakfast and coffee. Sometimes I stay up there for hours enjoying the quiet, reading, scrolling and talking with my wife.

Today we also managed to get out of the city for a hike in one of our favorite spots. Things are pretty brown around here right now, but the blue skies and perfect temperatures make it a great time of year to get out on the trails. You can see the energy coming back to all of us (after the kids complain a bit about going, but that’s their job) as we clear the area filled with rubbish and come out to the views across the valleys. The dog takes off running, happy to be free and the kids talk our ears off. Its a great way to spend some time.

After a brief refueling and perhaps a wee bit of a nap it was off to the gym with my kids for a bit of basketball. Neither one of them can get enough these days and we end up back at the school for a shoot around at least once a weekend. This time it is me that is grumbling on the way out, but it always turns out fun and it is cool to see them improve and try new things.

This week will be full of new projects for class so I’m excited to see how things go.

September 17: Book club

At some point I mentioned that both my kids are in middle school with me this year and that my son is in my class. I don’t teach my daughter, but I do see her quite often throughout the days. Mostly at lunch or at some point when she realizes she left something in my classroom that morning.

Over the past week, we’ve been doing a little mini book club together. We most finished our own books at the same time (I was reading The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle, it was good) and she needed a new book. I had just gotten a notification that a hold from the digital library was ready so I asked if she wanted to read a book with me.

Quite honestly, I had forgotten why I had put the book on hold, but I knew it was a YA novel and that it was somehow about Justice and I figured she would dig it. Oh, by the way, the book was Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh. It turned out to be a fantastic book and she told me about half way through that she loved it. It was right up her alley, a story of an underdog, middle school, girl fighting racism, bullies and depression. At times it was difficult as there were some scenes of gruesome deaths during war, thoughts of self harm and loss of loved ones. My girl shed some tears, but she kept on reading.

Now the book club part might just be a few check-ins about where we are in the book and me making sure she doesn’t have questions about the difficult scenes more than deep analysis of themes or author’s purpose, but I love that we are having a shared experience and I know that there will be more conversations when she is ready. I also love that we can just share the love of a good book

She’s still got a few chapters to go, but I got pretty into it and finished the book today, so now I guess I have to find something new. What are you reading now?

September 16: Half way

Well, we made it to another weekend and I guess I’ve also made it halfway through my 30 day challenge. I think I’ve only missed two days of writing so far which I feel like is pretty good. If I was a baseball player, that would be like batting .875 and that’s definitely Hall of Fane stats. But I digress.

Had a pretty easy day today. Two 8th grade classes of design Tech 2 where we just did a little bit of housekeeping type work today. Students did a self-assessment on their first project, updated their design journals, gave me some feedback on the project and then I introduced the next project, Design Ventura.

I’m excited to see how the project works out with everyone participating this time. I’ve got some details I still need to iron out but students seemed interested in the concept of a competition that involves developing a real product.

Maybe I’ll get into sharing some details next week, but right now it’s the weekend and I’m tired.

September 15:

I think I forgot to write last night. I guess I could check. Yep. I did. This 30 day challenge is hard. I originally planned to write at the end of my school day as reflection time. Then coaching and activities started and the end of my day became 5:00 instead of 3:00 almost every day. Either I’m coaching or one of the kids has an activity or sometimes both. It’s busy, but I’m so glad my kids have these opportunities.

We’ve finished building shelters in DT 2 and they came out pretty fantastic. I think there were only two maybe three groups that did not complete construction. At least one said they would come at lunch tomorrow to finish, but we’ll see. That’s tough for a kid to give up lunch, especially when they call it recess. 😁

Completed constructions

One group decided they were too frustrated and decided to just call it quits. After some discussion we decided it was ok as long as they reflected on what went wrong and why they were not able to complete the construction. I don’t want to call it a failure or incomplete, because if learning is really about the process, then I have to think the final product is not the most important part. We had a good conversation about why they struggled. I’ll have to keep an eye on them moving foryand make sure that they feel some success in the next project so that they don’t get the idea that incomplete is always ok. It was almost obvious that they were trying and just could not get their ideas to work. Every kid is different, learns in their own way and has their own strengths and weaknesses.

One more day in the week and we get to start new projects in all my classes now. I’m excited to see what it brings.

September 12: Products

Students are making some great progress on their shelters they’ve been building. A few have even finished construction. They’re coming up with a pretty wide variety of ideas for solving the problem of paper construction without any type of adhesives. I really enjoy when projects get to the stage where I’m just offering feedback or suggestions and helping locate supplies.

I think my favorite part is when students slowly begin to see each other as resources. I have to encourage them to get up and look around at what others are doing. For many of them, it goes against everything they know about school. They are constantly being told to do their own work or keep their eyes on their own papers, so when I tell them to go look at what someone else is doing they often look at me like they think it’s a trick. But then, they see I’m serious and they start having conversations with peers and borrowing ideas and it is super rare that they actually copy anything. Mostly because they are not all working to create identical products. They have developed their own unique plans to solve their choice of problems, so getting an idea from their peers is just good learning.

Here’s just a few examples so far. I’m looking forward to creating a whole gallery soon.