Finally, on Monday, I had everything caught up. All my grading was done, all my planning was complete for the week, and all the items on my to-do list were crossed off. I didn’t have to stay an hour after school was over in order to get things finished and ready for the next day. I didn’t have anything hanging over my head when I went home. I walked out to my car without my school bag or my computer. I spent the evening reading and having dinner with friends and family.
One tool that helped me get that done is Edmodo. I tell people it’s like Facebook for school. I create a group for each of my classes, and each day I post what we did that day. When students are absent, they can check Edmodo to get homework. When we take notes, I take a photo of what I write on the board and post that, too. When I have handouts, I post them to Edmodo so that if a student misplaces it, he or she can download it and print it. In fact, since all my middle schoolers have iPads, I eliminate a lot of photocopying by just posting files or documents to Edmodo and having students pull them up to look at the information. The kids can either save the information on the iPad or in a Dropbox folder, or they can look it up again on Edmodo when they need it. Not only that, but I can create quizzes on Edmodo, and the program grades them for me. Hooray! I gave a grammar quiz this week that was mostly multiple choice. I typed it into Edmodo, posted it for each class, and when students were done, I just had to look at their scores instead of spending an hour or two grading. Not only that, but students get instant feedback: once a student submits the quiz, he can see the score immediately and see the correct answers to the ones he missed.
The lessons I have coming up are less intensive for me as far as grading goes. Seventh graders are doing a research project. I will grade outlines and notes, but this time they are not writing papers. Instead, they will give speeches on their topics. I love speeches because it teaches them writing skills, but I grade them in class instead of having a stack of papers to take home. Eighth graders are reading Animal Farm, and while I will have a couple of writing assignments for them to do, I also give them grades on class discussion, which is again no take-home work for me.
We have a week off for fall break this year, which is throwing a bit of a kink in my plans. I have to make sure I finish Animal Farm before break begins. With the seventh grade, I’d like to have all the research done before break and have them do their speeches after break. I figure at least I will have all the research instruction done before break (I have about a week and a half), and if they still need to do work over break, then so be it. I won’t purposely give students homework over the vacation, but if they don’t use their time wisely enough, they may have to do some then. It’s going to be tight with seventh grade, though.
I was feeling so overwhelmed and behind, and my husband said, “It’s always like this at the beginning of the school year though. It will get better.” And in the midst of my piles of papers and all the other things I needed to accomplish, I didn’t quite believe him. It seemed worse than I remembered last year being. But, it turns out he was right. I had to admit that to him the other day. I am just thankful he didn’t gloat.