Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sweet Kids

Ran a fever all weekend and have been out sick the past two days.

I hate, hate, hate to be out, but I was not in any condition to teach this week. Students had a big Black History Month project due tonight (by midnight), and they have been emailing me their submissions all day.

Two standouts that really made me smile:

L: Mrs. S----, here's my project. I really missed you today and hope you'll be back tomorrow!

J: Mrs. S----, here's my project. I hope you are having a good day!

I realize that neither of these will seem like much to most people, but when you are feeling pretty pitiful, and you get 130+ messages that just say, "My project is attached," or "I need your help with ____," the fact that two of those kids took a second to say something nice really makes a difference.

It also makes me realize I should be taking more time to slow down and do these small kindnesses for other people, too. You really never know what little thing you do that makes someone's day.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Today was a good day.

Our instructional rounds were scheduled for today. IR for our district consists of several teams (of central office personnel and administrators from other schools as well as our own) spending fifteen minutes in each classroom, observing instruction and focusing on student engagement. The instructional rounds are centered around a "problem of practice" (read more here), and our problem of practice is research-based instructional strategies.

I began my day a bundle of nerves because these were the first instructional rounds I've experienced at my current school and because they were scheduled for today of all days---a Friday, the day after a weather day (so it might as well have been a Monday), and Valentine's Day, when the kids were all hyped up on candy. Could there been a worse day to schedule these?

I don't think I have ever been happier about the way a class period went. My students brought their A-game, and made me feel awesome about the job I'm doing with them. Highlights:
  • Lots of accountable talk. One standout was, "I think A_____ was right when she said _____, but I also think _____." (I wish, wish, wish that I could remember exactly what we were discussing so I could record the exact quote.) Another was, "Mrs. S_____, I'm really confused about why we used the opposite signs to find the point on the left. Can you say more about that?"
  • Lots of focus. I redirected their attention just once the IR team came in, but after that, everyone seemed to be paying close attention to the lesson.
  • Lots of volunteers. Even students who don't normally volunteer did volunteer today, and it was so unexpected because usually my kids clam up when administrators walk in.
  • Lots of confidence. One of the key ideas I've been trying to get my kids to understand is that it's OK to be wrong. I would much rather them give the wrong answer in class when we're just learning than have a misconception that screws them up on the test, but more than that, mistakes make learning possible. I saw signs of lots of buy-in today, which makes my teacher heart thud like crazy!
  • Lots of noticing. I have really been working on asking my kids to notice more, especially after seeing the video included at the bottom of this post. Some days, it feels natural for me to ask this of them, but other days, I have to consciously remind myself to do it. Today, I did it several times without even thinking. I remembered to give them some reflection time and asked, "What do you notice about _____?" and "What makes this example different from the previous example?" and "How do you think that's going to change the way that we approach this problem?" I was so impressed by their thoughtful responses. Still definitely have a long way to go with noticing and wondering, but it's a start!

I was so, so proud of my kids, and I don't think I could be any more pleased with how today went!

Here's the video of Annie Fetter presenting about Noticing and Wondering at an NCTM conference. It's well worth the five minutes it takes to watch it!