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.

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Back to School Distractions

I have a part-time job in retail. This week marks the one year anniversary of me starting that job. Can we take just a moment to let that sink in, please? I started a new job the week before school started! Crazy? All signs point to yes.

This time last year, I was suffering from some twisted teacher-guilt. I was sure that my classes were all going to suffer when I took on the second gig. As it turns out, my second job has actually made me a better teacher in many ways. More on that in a future post.

I bring up the part-time job because it affected my school work for today, sort of. My hours this week happen to be in a big chunk – today, tomorrow and Thursday. As a result of this schedule, I knew my only opportunity to get into my classroom was before my shift today – otherwise I wouldn’t be able to head up to school until Friday.

Luckily, I’ve learned a little about goal-setting in my 9 years teaching. I woke up this morning, did my makeup for my moonlighting gig as SuperSalesGal, grabbed some breakfast and headed up to school. And then…

I visited with a coworker and caught up on her summer. I walked over to the other building to check out the new bookstore. And ran into one of the maintenance guys, who told me we now have a coworker lounge (with couches and everything!). So I checked out the recliners. And then headed back to my building, where I ran into another friend I haven’t seen since June. So I chatted while she painted her bulletin board…

Over an hour later and I hadn’t done any work that I could log in for the day. There is so much to do to prepare for a new school year and so many distractions to combat. New teachers, old friends, building changes, questions, hopes, worries…oh my word. It’s easy to get caught up in the distractions and that happened to me today.

I thought about counting my distracted time in my day’s total, but I decided to preserve my blog integrity and call it what it really was – procrastination. I did put in some time before I had to leave to be SuperSalesGal. I found homes for all of the items I unpacked earlier and rearranged the room. 1.5 hours and 3 bajillion seating arrangements later, the room is beginning to look like a classroom again. I hope to finish decorating Friday and will post pics when it is all ready. Of course I’ve already promised to show another teacher friend the new lounge on Friday, so…