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Next week is the end of the third quarter.  Before the whirlwind of the final quarter hits, it’s a great time to reflect over the year.  Carve out an hour or so to look through your lesson plans, let your eyes wander around the room and just look out the window.  Ask yourself:

What do I wish had gone better this year?

What do I still want to accomplish with my students?

What remaining experiences in my classroom will have the biggest impact on their lives?

What can I do differently next year so that I can build on what I have learned this year?

Who needs just a little more of my time before they leave my care this year?

Your impact and your sense of fulfillment will grow as you give thought to these areas.

Brainteasers

On days when you take standardized tests, you don’t want to overtax the students but you also don’t want to waste time doing things that won’t benefit your students in the long run.  How about giving them some brainteasers as examples and then time to see if they can create one of their own?  Here are some ideas to prime the pump:

1. Do they have a 4th of July in England?

 2. If there are 7 months that have 31 days in them and 11 months that have 30 days in them, how many months have 28 days in them?

3. How many birthdays does the average man have?

 4. What is boiled then cooled, sweetened then soured?

5. A woman gives a beggar 50 cents; the woman is the beggar’s sister, but the beggar is not the woman’s brother. How come?

Find the answers on teach-nology.com.  It’s fun!

Food for Thought

In Mike Schmoker’s book Focus, Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning  he states on page 46, “Clearly, we need to simplify curriculum – to drastically reduce the number of standards to those with the highest priority.  A focus on high-priority standards not only optimizes essential learning, it also ensures good test scores on any state or national assessment.  As Doug Reeves (2004) contends, with great logic and clarity, a good set of priority standards addresses about 88 percent of the items on the state test, if not 100 percent.  If you go after that extra 12 percent, you will have to cover too many standards and have less time for truly essential ones.  But a focus on the essential standards promotes both learning and higher test scores.”

To that I say, “Amen!”

Today was painful.  My students are in the editing phase of a journalism assignment.  How much easier it would be if they each had a computer to work on.  Some of their writing is good – really good.  They just need to move a sentence from here to there, strengthen a verb, eliminate an extra adjective.  They would derive so much more pleasure from writing if the process wasn’t so hard.  Instead of “cut and paste” on the computer, their notebook papers are filled with red arrows, crossed out words, stars that link to a note on the bottom of the page, etc.  I fear that their enthusiasm towards expressing themselves will be dampened because so much energy is required to copy and recopy.  If only there was some way to convince the school board that the expense of computers in every room is worth it. 

I’m thankful that my students are learning self-discipline and endurance as they carefully write their final copies.  I just hope the joy of writing remains along the way.

I live in the future – not literally, of course. As a planner from birth, I maintain a calendar in my head that rarely corresponds to the one on the wall. My brain continually scans my mental datebook and automatically calculates the number of minutes, hours or days until the next “event”. My goal is to be ready before that event arrives. As a teacher, a forward sense of rhythm serves me well. It helps me to plan ahead each day or week and know what preparations need to be completed. My classroom runs smoothly because lessons are ready and supplies are at hand.

Being in continual state of next is not, however, always advantageous. Sometimes I miss the now moment because I am too busy planning ahead. If I am distracted by my mental To Do list when a student wants to talk, the message they need to communicate won’t get the priority it deserves. I must keep my ear tuned to the voices around me, even as a part of my brain prepares for the future. It’s a fine line to walk, but I pray that I will balance well the need to think ahead and to be sensitive to the present needs of my students.

Funny

Chicago Public Schools are closed for the second day in a row.  A few schools don’t have power and some staff members are waiting for plows to reach their streets.  Given Tuesday night’s blizzard, it makes sense. 

Yesterday was the first snow day in 12 years.  The only students in the system who have ever experienced an unscheduled day off are seniors – they had a day off after the blizzard of 1999. The news reported children’s reactions to the superintendent’s decision to close the schools.  Some admitted that they thought snow days were a myth!

I recently sent an e-mail to parents, asking them to purchase a newspaper if they travel out of town for work.  I wanted my students to compare and contrast papers from across the country.  Thankfully, papers from many major cities on both coasts and in between were sent to our classroom.  As students analyzed the differences, I noticed that yesterday’s Indianapolis paper had the same article which appeared in our local paper about two weeks ago.  The article was about unemployed workers trying to restore their youthful appearance through plastic surgery.  Granted, it wasn’t a time-sensitive piece, but it made me wonder how many papers include news that isn’t as recent as we assume it is.  Given the tough economy and decreased circulation of newspapers, it may happen more often than we’d like to think.