Back to School Night

Tonight we had Back to School Night. At my school, this is a night when parents run through their daughters’ schedules and spend 15 minutes with each of their teachers.  As a teacher of both under- and upperclassmen, I get both ends of the attendance spectrum.  Freshman and sophomore classes = standing room only. Senior class…ummm…not so much.

Basically I try to show the parents my website and talk about the methods of evaluation.  I try to keep it light and lively. I teach all the afternoon sessions, so the majority of my parents were coming to me at the end of the night. They were tired. I was tired. I felt like I was repeating myself over and over again.  It makes for a long day.  Luckily for me, our school had early dismissal today so the students were out at 1:35.  I stuck around for the afternoon and worked on my websites and lesson plan book for next week, but I took a break before the parent night to get dinner with some friends. 

In total, I logged 10 hours today.


Posted by one of my favorite Facebook pages, “teachers with a sense of humor” (click on the picture to check out their page). I made this my new screensaver. I’m pretty sure this is like a mirror image of me when this happens in my class.


Get to Know You Gallery Walk

You know it’s going to be a long day when your students can’t talk about anything except what they’re going to do over the long weekend – and it’s only Monday.

Between lesson plans and grading, planning a yearbook theme and preparing for back-to-school night, it’s easy to just get sucked into the whirlwind of the work week. Time flies and, before you know it, your students are racing for the parking lot on Friday afternoon.

But every now and then, a moment stops you and tells you to just slow down and enjoy yourself.  It’s important to embrace those moments.  It’s in them that relationships are formed and you begin to build trust with your students.

My frosh classes had a quiz today.  Generally I like to follow up a quiz with an independent assignment.  That way, students can work at their own paces and they each have something to work on once they finish.  Today was a bit different though. Last week when I informed the classes that we’d have a quiz on Monday, they told me that many of their other classes were giving tests and quizzes as well.  I hated to add to their stress, so I promised them some “lighter work” after the quiz.

So after the quiz, we did a little in-school service and I sent the girls around to take out the classroom recycling bins.  I consider this one of those moments I mentioned earlier. It’s easy to get caught up in the work. In the curriculum. In the grades. It’s easy to want to plow onward. To get caught up in our own goals. To forget that learning is a cooperative act. And that students are much more willing to cooperate if they know they are respected, cared for and part of a team.

So I slowed down. I took a moment to do something else and it was a good experience for all of us.  The students got a well-deserved break during a stressful day. The teachers got their recycling cleared (yay!). And it gave me the opportunity to get to know some of my students better – which ones jumped right into the task, which were hesitant, which had the most fun with it.

After the recycling was taken care of, we began the last of the icebreakers I use with the frosh.  Last week, I assigned them each to create an “About Me Collage”. I showed them an example of my own and required them to include specifics about their families, interests/hobbies/skills and virtues.  They were encouraged to decorate the collage and to use pictures.  I use Interactive Student Notebooks with my freshmen so the collages go on the first page.

So today we did an About Me Gallery Walk.  I asked for nine volunteers to share their collages (we will do three sessions of this activity, so everyone will take a turn eventually).  The nine volunteers each claimed a spot around the classroom as their station.  The rest of the class was divided into pairs. Each pair took a turn at each of the stations where the volunteer shared their collages.  90 seconds per station and then we rotate.

My class requires a lot of collaborative work among the students, so I want them to learn a little about one another.  This icebreaker is a fun no-stress activity that allows them to do so.  I take a turn at each station also and make it a point to comment on each student’s collage.

Seems as though the school year is in full-swing now.  Grading, planning, prepping, and writing another article for the school’s publications (this one was on an award the yearbook staff just received) = 11 hours today.

Highlights from the First Day of Classes

Today was the first day of classes…finally.  This is the beginning of my ninth year as a teacher and I still feel the nerves, excitement and stress of the first day. And even though I know to expect it and I try to prepare myself, I’m still surprised be the bone-weary feeling of exhaustion after the first day.  It’s 8:40pm and I’m feeling like my brain could turn to mush any second now; so for today’s post, here are a few highlights from the first day of school.


Starting the day and year off right! StuCo brought a little treat to every teacher.

  1. I played a new icebreaker with my two sections of sophomores – silent interviews.  Basically I paired the students up randomly and they had to “tell” their partner about themselves silently.  It was like charades but the clues were all about themselves.  And it was hilarious.  They were laughing.  I was laughing. And in the end, each pair introduced one another, said what they think they learned about their partner and cleared up any miscommunications.   Seriously, so much fun.
  2. Lots of laughs when my freshmen classes tried to guess information about me during a “get to know the teacher” game. I loved hearing them come out of their shells and work together on the questions.  I intentionally drop hints about the answers in all of our previous encounters and it’s fun to hear them proudly recalling the info. “Guys, she went to France this summer. I’m sure of it.”  “She likes to read, right?  Maybe her dog is named after her favorite hobbit.” Just a note – this icebreaker is the only one where I am the primary focus.  I only use this one with my frosh, since they don’t know me and it fits perfectly in my first day activities.  It’s non-intimidating because it doesn’t put any of them on the spot, but it allows them the opportunity to work collaboratively as a class.  Just wanted to put that disclaimer out there. I don’t have a huge ego, I swear. 😉
  3. There is something so exciting about having seniors on their first day of their last year.  They just have such a hopeful energy about them right now.  College stress isn’t at its max yet and senioritis hasn’t kicked in.  They’re just enjoying their moment.  It’s refreshing (if only it weren’t also so fleeting). 

There were probably more great things that happened but, honestly, I’m out for the night.  I’m going to watch an hour of mindless reality tv and then go to bed.

11.5 hours on the first day of school.




Easy, Quick Ice Breaker

Quick post today – on my way to the other job as SuperSalesGal.

After my long day yesterday, I was able to enjoy a leisurely morning.  Took my time getting ready.  It’s a big day after all – meeting my frosh for the first time!

I got to school just in time for our department meeting.  We discussed department goals and a department-wide reflection assignment on the school motto.  We spent some time together in prayer and our department chair updated us on the latest news from academic council.  

After the meeting, I had time to grab a little lunch before heading back to the classroom to meet my freshmen for the the first time.  

At our school, the freshmen have a three day orientation program that acclimates them to the school before classes start.  It’s lead by some of the seniors and involves many different sessions and activities.  One of the activities is a dry run of the schedule.  Each freshman follows her personal schedule; this allows them to get a feel for how they will need to get from one building to another.  It also allows the freshmen a chance to meet their teachers in a relaxed and fun setting.

We had 12 minutes with each of our classes.  As my students entered, I had each of them grab a question from the “Chat Pack”.  The Chat Pack is a set of cards I found that has funny and thought-provoking questions.  Each student took a question and I gave them a minute to think about their answer.  They could trade out for a different card if they wanted to.  Then I called on them one at a time and they shared their answer with the class.  I made jokes with them and praised their answers.  It was the perfect way to fill the 12 minutes and I think they had fun listening to one another’s answers.  

After that, I went on a hunt for new desks.  I have large classes this year and the huge desks I had were taking up way too much space.  Luckily we found some smaller ones in the attic and the maintanence guys have agreed to bring them over tomorrow.  So I spent a little time moving out the old ones with the help of a coworker and several students.  

I added another update to the freshman class website and called it a day.  6 hours for me today.  

I’ll leave you with a pic of the Chat Pack.


The Challenge of Back to School Meetings

For me, Back to School time is kind of like a race. 

On August 1, my mind grabs a microphone and commands, “Start your engines!”  So I revise my syllabi.  I organize and decorate the classroom.  I distribute the yearbook and begin working with my staff to develop this year’s theme.  New classes are prepared.  Advisement Welcome Back card’s are mailed.  The countdown is on to Back to School week.

And finally, it’s here.  This is the week when I’ll be helping to train the frosh on our technology procedures, meeting my freshmen classes during their orientation and leading them on their first service event.  The campus is brought back to life this week.  Freshmen will be here for orientation and seniors are here to lead it.  The sports teams are hosting tryouts.  You can feel the energy around school and you’re ready to dive right in.  The checkered flag is waved. “Go!”

“Go…to your meetings,” that is.  It’s so anticlimactic.

We are a private school, so no district-wide PD for us.  Instead we meet as an entire coworker group to review, update and remind.  It’s important.  It matters.  It’s worthwhile.  But it’s also tedious.

I don’t know about all you other teachers, but when I’m in “teaching mode,” I have the focus of a Jedi.  I’ve psyched myself up.  I’m excited and rejuvenated.  The last thing I feel like I should be doing is sitting around and talking about teaching. Just let me teach already!

I know the Back to School meetings are important (especially for teachers who are new to the school).  It’s just a challenge to be “back to school,” and yet, not.

Today we had a meeting in the morning, followed by lunch in the cafeteria.  (We were the guinea pigs for the cafe’s new healthy menu.)  After lunch, I worked in the classroom – AGAIN.  Le sigh.  I know I’ve said this before, but I really do feel like I’ll be able to finish up the room tomorrow.  Today, I got all the posters on the walls and worked some more on the bulletin boards.  

Besides working on the classroom, I also met with one of my co-teachers.  The two of us split the freshmen class for theology.  We do things are own ways, but it’s good to share ideas and collaborate.  Last year, I began using interactive student notebooks with my frosh.  I’ve adjusted the way I plan to use them this year, so I gave her a tutorial on the system.

So my total for the first day back is 9 hours.  One more meeting day to go, and then, (finally!) the race will be on!

Distribution Day – One Yearbook Out, Let the Next One Begin!

I’m just going to come right out and say it, I’m logging a bajillion hours for today.  That’s what it feels like I worked.  Today was the day every yearbook adviser dreads and looks forward to at the same time…Distribution Day (but mostly dreads).

I started out early today and gave myself plenty of time to stop for iced coffee on the way to school (a MUST!). Once there, I grabbed my supplies from the classroom and headed over to the cafeteria for distribution.  Normally I would have my staff up there to actually take care of the distribution; but this year, I’m in the (terrifying!) unique position of having only one returning staffer. My staff last year consisted of 11 seniors and two freshman. One of the now-sophomores is coming back, but this is a major rebuilding year, so I expected to do a lot of the work I would normally delegate to the editors.

My set up for distribution was pretty low-key. Our distribution is part of a back-to-school event where students have the yearbook picture taken, pick up their laptops and organize their lockers. Our distribution table is just one of several stops for the students. I placed class lists by grade level at the front of the table with pens. Students checked off their names and grabbed a book. No fuss.*

Once they opened the cafeteria doors, it was non-stop from 9am until noon. I spent most of that time unpacking more yearbooks, fixing laptops issues, pointing out lockers (to the freshmen) and catching up with students. Several advisees stopped by to thank me for their welcome back cards.

After distribution, I went out to grab a quick lunch and then came back to work on…you guessed it…my classroom. Again. I’m beginning to think that my classroom door is leading me into some kind of space-time vortex. I keep going in and thinking, “I’m almost done” and then, hours later, leaving and thinking, “There’s so much to do!” To prove I’ve been working, here’s a list of what I did today:
– switched a “hodge-podge” bulletin board to a picture board showcasing photos given to me by students
– found a place for the three boxes of extra yearbooks that will be picked up over the next couple of weeks
– cleaned and organized my desk drawer (This was a JOB, let me tell you.)
– set-up a new organization/file system for my advisement (So exciting! More in a future post.)
– pulled all the desks that need to be replaced

I also spent some time teaching a coworker how to set up her seating arrangements using our online system. So maybe not a bajillion, but eight hours of work on a Saturday still has me feeling fairly accomplished. 🙂

Don’t expect a post from me tomorrow. I have to work open to close at the retail job, and then I hope to spend my last night of “vacation” with my family.*I should mention I work at a private school where the yearbook is included in the activity fees. This means every student gets a book and makes distribution much easier.

Classroom Decor that Shows Personality

No post yesterday because I didn’t do any school work. Instead, I made the four hour journey to be with my family for the night. (See previous post for more.) So unless y’all let me count sitting in the hospital waiting room, searching Etsy for a mouse pad for my ShinyNewMonitor(!), I don’t have anything to report from yesterday. (Although all of my Etsy purchases will make their homes in the classroom. Sneak peek of my finds at the bottom of the post.)

So today I made the return journey and drove straight up to school. I worked in the classroom for two hours and, honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever entered a school year with a room this clean and organized. I really am down to the finishing touches, but it’s still not quite there. I was able to borrow a cart from the office down the hall today. I used it to haul out all the recycling and trash. Turns out I can accumulate an awful lot after being in the same classroom for five years.

Here’s a review of some of my Etsy purchases.  Click on the pictures to go to the Etsy shops and let the fun begin!

Don't you think this mouse pad will be the perfect complement to ShinyNewMonitor(!)? I think so, too.  The room is decorated in purple with accents of orange.

Don’t you think this mouse pad will be the perfect complement to ShinyNewMonitor(!)? I think so, too. The room is decorated in purple with accents of orange. It’s like a sunset and I love it. From Laa766.

Can this bumper sticker count as room decor if I intend to hang it on my personal bulletin board near my desk?  I'm thinking an extra credit point to any student who can explain the reference. ;)

Can this bumper sticker count as room decor if I intend to hang it on my personal bulletin board near my desk? I’m thinking an extra credit point to any student who can explain the reference. 😉 From one of my fave shops – BookFiend.

A comfortable place to rest my beverages and a fun way to make the Boy Who Lived part of my classroom?  Sold.  From the Breakable Designs.

A comfortable place to rest my beverages and a fun way to make the Boy Who Lived part of my classroom? Sold. From the Breakable Designs.