The Sum of Three Days

Sorry for the long delay between posts.  Here’s a summary:

Friday was mid-quarter.  Yikes!  Where did the time go?  Usually mid-quarter finds me frantically updating grades online and feeling guilty when I receive the friendly reminder from my principal that this task is an expectation for the job.  This year I felt (surprisingly) guilt-free.  I’m going to credit all the hours I spent organizing the room back in August for this one.  My new grading system is efficient.  Students turn work in to their class tray.  I clear the tray at the end of the day. and move it to the grading file on my desk.  Once it’s graded it is stored in the “to be returned” hanging file holder.  I’ve also been using the participation logs to indicate when a student turns in a digital assignment (dropbox, email, shared folder, etc).  These practices have made me much more aware of students with missing grades which is a huge relief at mid-quarter.

I had a closing shift at my other job on Friday, so my total hours for the log were just the regular school day, 8.5.

Sunday I spent 1.5 hours prepping lessons for the upcoming week.

Monday evening marked the first meeting with my retreat team for the senior class retreat in January.  Several teachers meet with the two student teams for four months leading up to the actual retreats.  In total we will meet for Formation Meetings six times, have one workday and one run-through of the retreat.  It is a huge commitment from the students and for me as one of the adult leaders.  I love these meetings, but they are exhausting.  School day, an extra hour prepping and grading, and the meeting meant an 11 hour day for me on Monday.

Tuesday was my crazy block day.  Crazy. I teach all four block periods with only an hour free for lunch and “activity”.  Yesterday, the yearbook staff had their virtual artist session during this period.  The girls brought their lunches to my room and we had a conference call with a designer who showed us some ideas for our cover.  Pretty cool technology and the girls loved every minute of it, but it meant I was racing yesterday from one class to another from 7-3 without any real break.  Which left me totally burnt out and unwilling to bring any additional work home with me that night.  8 hours for that day, but it felt like 80.

So from Friday through Tuesday I’m logging 29 hours.

It’s going to be a long day today because I’m the freshman class moderator and we have their induction ceremony tonight.  More on that in another post!


Lessons Learned from My Retail Gig

The past two days have been a blur of prepping lessons, grading assignments, emailing parents, arranging details for an upcoming field trip and budgeting yearbook.  Oh yeah, I’ve done some teaching as well.

With so much going on, I consider my greatest accomplishment to be my ability to stay present with my classes.  Each time the bell rings, I force myself to put away my current task and switch gears to welcome a new class.  It can be frustrating at times because I’m rarely finished with a task before I’m forced to shift my focus to something else.  It feel like there are way too many loose ends.

This is one way that my part-time job as SuperSalesGal has actually helped me as a teacher.  Working 15-20 hours at another job forces me to get comfortable with the unfinished.  I’ve had to learn to ask myself, “Is there any point in bringing your lesson plan book home tonight?” Or, “Grading tonight. The prepping will need to wait until tomorrow.”  I’ve learned a lot about priorities now that my time is divided between two jobs.

I also feel like the retail job can help to keep me sane when teaching has me jumping from one unfinished task to another. My coworkers think I’m crazy, but I love finding little projects and tasks to be done around the store.  Tonight I spent the better part of a 4.5 hour shift organizing a makeup drawer.  I cleaned, labeled and sorted.  And I didn’t stop until I was finished.  There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a task that I don’t think teachers always get to experience.  As SuperSalesGal, I see visible results of my efforts – a clean drawer, an organized shelf, products with the correct pricetags.  With teaching, the outcomes are more gradual and not always obvious.

Between yesterday and today, I put in 18 hours.


When Inspiration Strikes

I’ve been struggling with selecting the next topic of study in my senior theology course.  The course is Faith and Media and the primary objective is to consume secular media through the lens of faith.  I switch up the various topics we study from quarter to quarter because I teach the course so often throughout the year and I like to try to keep things fresh.

The last unit we studied was Religious Hypocrisy and it was very successful.  The students were engaged and the subject matter was relevant.  We watched a movie which lead to lively discussions and thoughtful reflections.  We then examined the hypocrisy prevalent in the music industry and the students further explored the subject through a creative project.

Of course, I wanted to keep the momentum going with the next topic.  Unfortunately I was short on ideas.

This past weekend, I picked up a new book at the local bookstore.  It’s part of the new trend of dystopian stories flooding pop culture today.  Books, movies, tv shows…it’s everywhere.

And that was the inspiration I needed.  These stories carry powerful messages about doubt and faith.  It’s relevant and fun.  And just what I was looking for.

Friday was just an eight hour day.  I spent about 2.5 hours this weekend working on lessons and ideas for yearbook.  Nine hours today.  Midquarter is Friday – where is the time going?

Brainstorming on Pinterest

Today was a productive 11 hour day for me.  It was the first night off I’ve had from my SuperSalesGal job all week, so I had a lot of projects I was hoping to complete.  Well, complete may have been a bit overly-ambitious…

So my biggest accomplishment (and by “my,” I really mean “my yearbook staff’s”) was making real progress on our theme plan for this year’s book.  I have a pretty inexperienced staff and, although we’ve been developing theme for three weeks, they’ve been very hesitant to commit to any ideas.  I haven’t rushed the process, but I admit that I entered class today thinking, “We are never going to have a theme.”

So I took roll and put the list we had brainstormed up on the board.  I asked which of the 3 they’d focused on yesterday was standing out to them today.

They chose number 4. Le sigh.

But then something magical happened.  Something about #4 (which had been on the list for weeks, but never really considered) clicked with them today. I asked why it would be relevant…they named off reason after reason.  I asked how it would apply to coverage, theme pages and spin-offs…they chimed in like they had the routine rehearsed.  It was amazing.

They were clearly on a roll, so I wanted to keep the momentum going. The only problem was that I hadn’t prepared any material on the next step of theme development – brainstorming relevant visuals.

So I went to the best way I know to create a visual brainstorming board – Pinterest.  

The wealth of visuals we found on Pinterest occupied us for the remainder of class.  Before long, we were sketching out original ideas and piecing together a viable theme plan for the book.

Thank goodness the TechGuys unblocked Pinterest on the school network this year. 😉

Review Games Bring Fun and Relevance

I’ve mentioned before that we are on a modified block schedule. Today was our four period block day – my busiest schedule all week.

My sophomore classes were on Day 2 of a two period lecture.  Finishing up the topic today only took about 30 minutes.  And I had expected it to take 50.  Le sigh.

So I got them started on the second activity of the day – they are creating brochures that address the main objectives of the unit.  I allowed them the option of working with a partner for this assignment and many of them chose to do so. I knew that allowing too much time for partner work could have disastrous results, so while they worked I turned to my trust lesson plan book for something I could shift around to fill the last 20 minutes of class.

The problem was that we are getting to the end of the unit and none of the few remaining activities would be a smooth transition for today.  

So I jumped on the internet and did a quick search on one of my favorite sites, Sporcle.  If you are unfamiliar with the site, don’t check it out until you have some time to get distracted.  This website is filled with trivia games galore.  Two small disclaimers:

1. Some of the games may contain material that is not 100% “classroom friendly” – especially if you have elementary or middle school students.

2. You should play the game first before sharing it with the class to make sure that the information is accurate.  Some of the games have been denoted “Sporcle verified,” but many are not.

My sophomores take Scriptures.  Currently we are studying the Old Testament, so I found a game that asked the students to name (and correctly spell!) as many of the Old Testament books as possible in a specific timeframe.  I posted a link to the game on my website and each student played on her own laptop.  As they finished, I recorded each girl’s score on my weekly participation log.  We will play again over the course of our study and see if each student can improve their own personal best.

After each student was warmed up and had played once individually, we played once more as a class.  I called this Sporcle Sparkle.  You know the Sparkle game – the teacher gives a word and the students have to spell out the word one letter at a time. If a student misses their letter, they sit down and the play proceeds to the next player.  So for today’s version, we went around the class and each student had to name a book in the Old Testament.  If they could name one, they remained standing.  If not, they were out.  

This activity was easy and quick.  It took about 20 minutes to complete, which made it the perfect time-filler.  The girls really had fun quizzing themselves and comparing their scores with their friends.  And best of all, it was relevant to the lesson.

After school, I spent an hour working with a new web-based program I’m really excited about.  I’ll blog more about it once I’ve tried it out in class.  Then I changed into my SuperSalesGal uniform and headed off to job #2.  So in total, I spent 9 hours on school stuff.

August Wrap-up and Welcome September

The Friday after Back to School Night was a shortened day.  We had a late start to compensate for the extra hours from the night before. I had to work most of the weekend and even found a few moments for some downtime away from school “stuff”. So adding in seven hours from Friday brought the August total to…

178 hours

So after a long weekend away, September has come rushing in. I can’t believe it. We are truly in full-swing now. At my school, this means committees. Today I spent my planning period (and half of lunch) in a meeting with some members of our administration. Tomorrow I don’t have a planning period at all (due to the block day). Thursday, I’ll spend it meeting with the other adult leaders of the senior retreat. And Friday I’m supposed to meet with a rep from a yearbook publisher.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So…planning period…what’s that again?

Today’s total = 10 hours.

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.