Classroom Observations – Gasp!

Wednesday was the day of Freshman Induction.  As the freshman class moderator, I’m one of the leads in charge of organizing the students for the ceremony.  So my day on Wednesday was filled with assigning my assisting coworkers responsibilities for the practice and the ceremony, organizing last-minute details and assisting with the preparations in the gym.  The free block period on Wednesday was reserved for our rehearsal.  The freshman class was so great during the rehearsal and my coworkers were willing to pitch in so all went smoothly, which of course scared me for what was to come that night.  Turned out there was nothing to fear, and although it was a long day for me, everything went off without a hitch.  Including the induction ceremony and dinner that followed, I’m logging 11 hours for the day.

Thursday was my chance to breathe again now that Induction was behind me.  So of course my assistant principal showed up to observe one of my classes.  

It was my first observation of the year and my first one ever with the assistant principal.  She asked if she could observe (and can you really say no?) and I explained that she was welcome to do so, but that we were having a “bit of everything class” that day.  

And when I say “bit of everything,” that’s exactly what I mean.  It was one of my sophomore scriptures classes and not my most objective-driven lesson.  You know this classes when there’s just a lot of loose ends to tie up? I knew that the tasks we had scheduled were important and needed to get done, but I was definitely nervous about being observed on this particular day.  Still…we pushed forward.

The girls had designed prayer cards for their bibles earlier in the week.  I returned the graded cards and passed out clear contact paper so we could laminate the cards.  The girls and I spent about 10 minutes helping each other to cover the cards.  After the cards were preserved, I passed out a new assignment that the girls will be working on throughout the school year.  I explained the assignment and took questions.  Once we had the assignment marked in our planners, the girls played an online review game of books in the Old Testament.  We’ve been playing the game periodically for the past month and the girls try to improve their scores from week to week.  By the time we finished the game, there was about 5 minutes left in class.  It had absolutely nothing to do with Scriptures, but I had planned on showing this video to the girls if there was time.  I figured “why not?” and went ahead and showed it even though I was being observed.  I like the message (especially at an all girls’ school) and we spent the last few minutes of class laughing and conversing.  It felt like a risk to show something unrelated to the subject material, but it was true to me as a teacher so I was prepared to defend it if necessary.

My observation evaluation was waiting in my inbox immediately following class.  It was a glowing eval.  The assistant principal recognized the organization of the class that we were able to move seamlessly from one task to another.  She remarked that the atmosphere was relaxed yet productive and that, although the class was a “hodge-podge of activity,” there was clear indication of a cohesive and controlled learning environment.  She even liked the video.  

Whew! I was thoroughly worried about how this particular class would be received by and outside observer, but it was such a validation in the end.  It’s nice to hear feedback that you’re on the right track…even when you feel like you’re completely off the map!

I spent about an hour and half making hotel reservations and ordering decoder glasses for yearbook (yep, you read that correctly).  A total of 9.5 hours on Thursday.

Friday we had the day off school and, though I had big plans for the day, I didn’t do a darn thing for school! It was great!  I had a 9 hour shift with the other job today, so I guess the schoolwork will just have to wait until tomorrow!

Lose the Remote. Actively Engage Your Students.

Confession: I lost the remote. Not the DVD remote – that would be too awful for words. The smartboard projector remote. The one with the magic button that allows me to freeze the screen. How I miss that remote.

On my most productive days, I would freeze the screen when I was projecting instructions for an assignment. Then while my students worked, I could catch up on emails, prep the next part of the lesson or even update grades.

But my remote has disappeared and taken my freedom along with it. (Perhaps, I'm exaggerating slightly here.) As a result, student work time was a new experience for me today.

My frosh were working on an assignment in their interactive student notebooks after we finished our lecture notes for the day. I had an example of the assignment projected on the smartboard. I knew I couldn't remove the example and, since I had no way of freezing the screen, I couldn't work on my laptop while they worked.

So instead, I walked around the room and checked in with my classes while they worked. This is something I do all the time of course, but usually it's just a quick spin around the room to make sure everyone is on task and not Twitter. Today was different for me. Today I took my time and really tried to engage my students instead of just rushing through. I complimented artistic talent. I received invitations to several upcoming sports games. I even traded book recommendations with a couple students. This may sound like we were off-topic but actually the time was quite productive. We only had about 15 minutes to spend on this assignment and at the end of that time, several volunteers shared their complete assignments with the class.

And it turned out I didn't really miss that remote as much as I thought. (I do need to find it though. Where could I have put it?)

When not teaching today, I spent most of my time creating a PowerPoint for my sophomore class. The material in the book is important, but so dry. I've been using really interactive powerpoints to try to add a little something to the material. So far, so good. Believe it or not, the PowerPoint took me about three hours to create, bringing my day's total to 11 hours.

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.

Image