Thirteen days down…

Just 167 days of school to go!

The year started out well in many ways.  I like my students.  I enjoy my co-workers.  We have several new teachers who seem to be both good teachers and good people.  We have new administrators who are friendly and encouraging and visible.

There have been a good number of challenges, though.  The middle school English department (which consists of me and half of another teacher) requested new textbooks at the end of last year.  They just came in yesterday.  And even then, it wasn’t all of them.  We have the books for seventh and eighth grade, but the sixth grade books have not arrived.  We expected students to have their iPads (we have 1:1 technology in the middle school) the first week of school, but they still have not been distributed due to a number of glitches in getting them set up.  And our two photocopiers, both of which are old in the first place, have been down more than they’ve been working these three weeks.

Also, I found out that each faculty member is expected to be on an accreditation subcommittee as we work toward renewing our accreditation this year.  I wasn’t anticipating that, and it adds a third thing (on top of mentoring and middle school newspaper) that I’ll have meetings for.  It’s fine — or, it will be, at least.  It was just not in my plan.

My new plan of teaching vocabulary by having the students take notes on the words and then use them in their own conversations or find them in writing is going pretty well.  I learned that I may have to make it a little more challenging than I did the first time.  Several students met the requirements in one class period.  (I intended it to take at least a few days.)  My new method of having students take notes in organized three-ring binders is going okay.  I am keeping the binders in my room because I thought it would keep kids from having an excuse for not having the binder with them.  But they take up a lot of room on my shelves — room that I could really use for the new textbooks I finally got, and which are currently being stored in boxes in the corner of my classroom.  My grammar lessons are going okay, too.  Right now I’m reviewing parts of speech, which none of my students understand nearly well enough for their grade level.  Still, I’m going through it quickly, knowing that I’ll be looping back through all the material with each new lesson.

I’m teaching The Giver now to my seventh graders, and I usually do that in the spring of the year, so I’m finding they are not ready to do the kind of discussion I typically do with that book.  (I moved it up because the movie came out just as school began, and I thought that since kids would inevitably go see it, I might as well just teach the book at the same time.)  I’m having to adjust some things mid-stream.

We are required to turn in weekly lesson plans to our administrators, and one of my colleagues found a website called planbookedu.com.  You can enter your lesson plans and link them to your state standards (or to Common Core, if you use that.)  You can get a free trial, and then some of the features are free, but to get the good stuff there is a charge of $25 per year.  I think I might purchase it.  I used it today, and while it’s a little tedious to scroll through the standards and click each one that I hit on a particular day, it may be helpful later to be able to look back and see all the times I taught a particular standard.  (This is not a paid endorsement, by the way.  I don’t know enough about it yet to endorse it.)

All of my classes are exceedingly talkative, and I have not yet found a solution.  Taking points away does not seem to work.  Some days I shout, some days I talk very quietly until I have their attention, some days I ring a tiny bell, some days I give them visual cues (“If you can hear me, touch your nose”), and some days I stand and wait.  Each of those methods seems to work momentarily, but nothing is making an overall difference.  I’m glad all my students like each other, but it is time-wasting to get their attention at the beginning of class or when we are changing gears — or for that matter, in the middle of taking notes!  I need to figure something out, though.

For now, however, it’s the beginning of a three day weekend.  My week is over, and I can sit at home with my shoes off and my feet up and watch the episodes of Doctor Who that just came from Netflix.

Happy Labor Day!

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