Make me learn. I dare you.

Do you ever have those interactions with students where you ask them to do something (usually put the phone away, take the ear buds out, or get their head up) and they’re completely pissed at you for enforcing the rules? This student (let’s call her Walnut, since her name is actually a nut), was texting and I called her on it several times. She did what I asked. But afterwards, I was the recipient of the stare of death for the rest of the hour. I do not have the super power of mind reading (thank God), but I think I can make a pretty good guess as to what was going through Walnut’s head. I’m sure I was being called several nasty names and an internal, profanity laced tirade. Her eyes had that tense, pointed stare, the head was slightly tilted, arms crossed, the hint of a lip curl. If looks could kill, I was getting the daggers launched at me. It takes a bit of energy to keep that look going. So eventually she put her head down. I know I’m supposed to not let that happen. But as a teacher, you make those decisions everyday about how many battles you want to wage with one student.

It has been over a week, since the stare of death from Walnut. She seems to be softening. I haven’t gotten that look since. But it’s going to take a good chunk of time to win her over. Slowly, she’s learning that I enforce the rules, and I’m there to help her learn. Just because she’s a pain in the ass some days, doesn’t mean I’m not going to help her. Those days where she’s a pain become less frequent, we develop a relationship, and eventually she learns. It takes time.

In our meeting with the “Data Driven” lady yesterday, she gave us a list of instructional strategies by John Hattie that have “the greatest influence on student learning.” The link is only a partial list of what we were given. But building relationships with students ranks really high. However he has analyzed his data, the strategies with effect size of .4 or greater are the ones that will help close the achievement gap. So apparently my usual mode of operation to get to know the students is a good thing.

We’re already four weeks in to the school year. I have learned most of my 150 students’ names. I’ve had individual conversations with several of them. So I’m working on the “developing personal relationships.” Did I need a researcher to tell me this is a good strategy? I don’t think so. It’s nice to know that what I’ve been doing over my career is a good strategy. It is something that takes time, but I do like to do it. When I know my students and their little quirks, it makes the job fun. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to get to know them. Teaching without the relationships with your students is not nearly as rewarding. So eventually, I hope Walnut and I will come to an understanding and she’ll realize that I’m actually ok and she doesn’t need to put up a tough front. I think she will let down her guard enough to learn. But it will take some careful and deliberate interactions to gain her trust.


Back in the pool

Back in August, I wrote about my new activity – lap swimming. This past week I was finally able to swim after a month off. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I have a skin scan every August and February. This time I had another re-excision with 5 internal stitches and 6 external stitches. I needed to heal from my excisions and wait until my stitches were out before I could go back in the pool.

Monday after school I went to the community center. It was glorious! I did my 33 laps (1 mile). Twenty of my laps were doing the breast stroke. There were people at the pool but I didn’t have to share a lane. It seemed like as soon as someone was done, someone else showed up. I did get a bit of a cramp in my leg at the end, but I kept going and stretched it out. After I was done, I felt so good! It was like I was on some sort of swimmer’s high. I had accomplished a lot and it was only 5pm. I was really excited to find out that going right after school was a great time and fit perfectly into my schedule.

Tuesday, I went again. This time as I was walking in, I could see that there was no one in the pool! When I got to the pool, however, there was one person that was lap swimming. This time I did 26 laps of breast stroke and 10 of others. People come and go. Sometimes I was by myself in the pool. At the end of my laps there were people coming after work. When I got home there was an email from my mom, saying that she had spotted me swimming.

Thursday was my other day to swim this week. I did 30 laps of breast stroke and 6 of using a kick board. I could tell I was faster. I actually think I did 37 laps total and lost count. But this day, there was a pretty good chunk of time when I was the only one in the entire pool area! Well, just me and the lifeguard. There weren’t even parents with their kids in the kiddie pool area. Once again, people did start to come closer to 5pm.

In the meantime, I’ve been scoping out another option for swimming. I haven’t yet joined the community center. I’ve just bought 20 passes to see how much I’ll use it first. I probably will end up joining. But for the time being, I can swim at school with the girls swim team. Normally I would cringe at this idea. But there are only 5 girls on the team and 3 of them are my locker clean-out crew. For matches, they combine with another school. I talked to the coach on Friday to see if he was ok with me swimming during their practice. He was fine with it. He may even give me some pointers or workout ideas. I’ll still go to the community center. But I think I’ll try a couple of days with the girls this week. And hey, it’s free and convenient! In 17 years at my school, I’ve never been swimming in the pool there. It should be interesting!

“Data Driven”

Anybody else out there hearing these words a lot lately? Along with our new 7-period day, we’re now a part of a data team. Mine is with colleagues that teach Algebra 2 and Pre Calculus. Part of the task we’ve been given is to collect data and use it to make decisions to guide our instruction and measure progress. I get it. That makes sense to me. They want us to make decisions that are “data driven.” But when can my professional experience, expertise and common sense override the need to collect data?

I think we were leaning toward doing some sort of practice test of the one required for graduation. This would help us focus on the areas that students find most difficult. We could see where these topics fit into our existing curriculum and embed topics and practice questions while we teach our various classes. We would do a pre test near the beginning of the year, and a post test prior to the actual test in April. This makes sense to me.

While we were discussing our general task for this data team, one colleague asked about the necessity of pre tests when you’re teaching a brand new topic and you already know that the kids don’t know anything about it. The answer? Test them. Huh? So now I’m supposed to create a test, administer it, tabulate the data and share it with my colleagues just to show that they don’t know diddly squat? It seems like a lot of work when I can just look out at 35 confused faces and know in an instant that they’re clueless. If it’s not showing in their faces, we can do the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” technique. Seems a hell of a lot quicker and more practical to me. I suppose testing them will show that they did know zilch and now they know more than zilch. But at what expense?

What happened to my professional judgement? I can tell when a kid doesn’t get it. I differentiate my instruction or do various intervention techniques. I do recognize the importance of data. But there’s got to be some common sense thrown in there. I already feel completely rushed in my newly truncated school day. Where is the time to do all of this testing and data compilation? I could be teaching and they could be learning lots of material in the time it takes to do a test. I wonder if the person who came up with this idea actually taught a full teaching load? Did they have adequate time to plan for all of their preps? Right now, I’m not seeing it.

So what am I going to do? I’m not sure. Whatever we do, it has to be feasible and make sense. If it doesn’t, it’s a waste of time. And right now, I’m not sure how we can do something that makes sense while jumping through the hoop.

One letter.

What’s the difference between a Y and an I? I’d rather have the I than the Y. But, it was the Y today. What’s the word? Lime vs Lyme.

I was getting my stitches removed from my latest re-excision when the nurse asked me about a skin irritation on my leg. I noticed it late last week and it was itchy. I thought the redness was from me trying to deal with the itchy-ness. But the nurse noticed that it had a bullseye appearance. This is something that is often associated with Lyme’s Disease. So today, I made an appointment to see a doctor at my regular clinic. The decision was made to do 2 weeks worth of Doxycycline. The test for Lyme’s takes awhile and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I don’t remember seeing a tick recently. I was up north over Labor Day weekend. So it’s entirely possible that I was bit there. For now, I’m taking meds…


Trying Something New


Tonight I tried out a recipe from Everyday Food. I mostly followed the recipe. When I went to get groceries I had to go from memory for the ingredients. It’s basically, a small yellow onion, a package of fresh mushrooms, a package of spinach, shredded cheese and some small tortillas.

Fry the onions in some olive oil then add the mushrooms. When they’re done, put all of that in a bowl with the spinach and a cup of shredded cheese. Mix it up and put it in a large muffin tin that you’ve fitted small tortillas in the pan as cups. Use a little cooking spray first. After you’ve filled the cups, sprinkle on some more cheese. Put them in a 450 degree oven for about 7 minutes, or until the tortilla edges start to turn brown and the cheese is melted. I forgot to get avocado. Everyday Food put avocado on the top, but I added tomato since that’s what I had on hand.

It tasted quite good. The combinations of filling can be altered pretty easily for other ideas. Give it a try. It was super easy!

What a week.

It’s been quite a week. The first week is short, but it feels like it lasts forever.

I’m trying to get used to teaching 47 minute classes. My entire career I’ve taught under a 4-period day schedule with 84 minute periods. It feels like I barely get attendance taken and I’m sending them on their way. Developing routine is important in the first days. There is so much to do. And too top it off, I have close to 150 names to learn!

I had a few surprises on the first day. My Promethean bulb burned out. I at least had it happen after the district figured out their process for changing the bulb. My bulb got changed today – a mere 2 days after it went out. I only had to use my overhead projector for one day.

When I got to my lunch period on Tuesday, I wolfed down my lunch in about 20 minutes only to realize that it was only 10:30 am by the time I was finished. Lunch? I have a mid-morning snack! I have since learned to eat only part of my lunch during that time and I finish it during my prep with my collaborative team.

Because I’m in charge of all of the lockers, I’m also on that job. There’s always a certain amount of fixing that needs to happen. So in between planning, shuffling double the amount of papers as in the past, union steward stuff, and various other issues, I’m working late. I normally stay about an hour or an hour and a half after school gets out. This week it has been between 2 or 3. I’m hoping that it can get back to normal soon.

There’s one more day left. I am really looking forward to having a weekend. I suppose the good thing about in being Friday tomorrow is that these classes pass so fast that it will be over before I know it.

Last Weekend of the Summer


I escaped to the north country for the weekend. Lots of other people did too. But I suppose that’s to be expected. Some much-needed relaxation before school starts tomorrow was very appreciated.


Grandpa even had a helper while cleaning fish.


And even though it’s blurry, I did catch a smile from Bryce!