Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Using Video Essay - Resources!!!

I realized I hadn't posted any resources in a while so have some free resources for using videos in the classroom including some advice on teaching students on how to use the video editing software.

If you want to see what else I have resources for, visit here.

Enjoy!


Saturday, April 11, 2015

An Ode to Wikipedia

It is National Poetry Month and I'm an English teacher. I feel like I should participate and write a poem.


Now, I am not a very good poet. I know the techniques, styles, and how to read them but when it comes to writing, I'm not the best. However, I should practice what I preach to my students and be willing to take a creative risk.

After much thought, I have decided to write an ode to Wikipedia.


For those of you who may not know, an ode is a poem where the author talks about one specific thing they find amazing and praise worthy. There is no hidden meaning in this poem unlike "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats. I just really like Wikipedia and my ode will tell you why.


"Ode to Wikipedia" by Dailyish Teacher

Wikipedia
You are misjudged and feared by many
Schools see you as a shortcut
Making classroom information as worthless as a penny

"Why should I learn this?"
Students cry out
"I can just look up the answer on Wikipedia!"
As the teacher sits at her desk and pouts

"Curse you Wikipedia!"
Many frustrated teachers yell
"I already have to deal with Facebook and Twitter
And kids constantly on their cells!"

But I know you better than that Wikipedia
Where others see a shortcut
And the easy way out
I see a way to get out of a rut

"In a world of instant answers
How do I teach a student
That not doing research and trusting everything written
Is an act most imprudent?"

I searched and I searched
All of the lessons were tired
They were out of date and not relatable
It was time for them to just retire

Then it hit me
Like when the name of that guy that escapes you
When you're watching a movie
And you remember his name five hours later out of the blue

"Wikipedia!"
I shouted with glee
"You're perfect for this job!"
So I sat down to plan excited as can be

First I needed to put myself in my student’s shoes
And think about why they used Wikipedia
The answer was quite simple:
Wikipedia is easier to use than any encyclopedia

Why waste time looking up information in an old book
Or typing things into a Google search
Only to sort through thousands of results when the information
Was all at one site thus simplifying research

“But anyone can edit!”
The logical side of my brain screams out
“How do I make the kids see
That you can’t trust the information without some doubt?”

Turns out Stephen Colbert already did the work for me
In his quest for “truthiness” he created “Wikiality”
Where he encouraged enough people to agree with his “facts”
In order to “bring democracy to knowledge” and increase his reality

He used satire to show the flaws
Of a system that allows edits
From anyone no matter their knowledge
Without having the proper credits

By showing the clip
I can allow my students to see
The dangers of Wikipedia
Since an edit can be made without a degree

Oh but Wikipedia
I know you are not all bad
Because there is so much good
That those that think otherwise make me sad

Although anyone can edit
The entries are policed
By those committed to making sure
That misinformation does not become an untamable beast

When edits are made
They need to ensure they have the proper citation
To include in the reference section
So that they ensure a well-information nation

If the source is deemed unreliable
The information is deleted
And the editors can discuss why in the “Talk” page
Which can sometimes can get rather heated

Many want to include opinions
But Wikipedia will not allow such things
Since the information is supposed to be factual
And not have made up information sit on top like kings

Although that is all fine and dandy
Many things go unnoticed
And opinions sneak through to confuse the reader
But that is where the lesson of research comes into focus

“You can use Wikipedia”
I tell my shell shocked students
“Just always go down to the reference section
To make sure the source is good and not a nuisance”

I sing your praises Wikipedia
Because now that my students can use you
They no longer try to hide things and now will actually
Do the research to ensure the information is not untrue

Although you are a shortcut
You are a good one
My students are now willing to do research
When before they were willing to do none

Since you require a reference page
I am not afraid to send students to you
As long as they know to check those citations
To make sure they are not taboo

So thank you Wikipedia
I owe you more than you can ever know
My students are learning good research skills and their ability
To know what is reliable and what is not continues to grow




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I'm Not Superwoman and 3 Other Things I Learned This Week

So I may or may not have had a slight break down last week.

It was one of those weeks where I was not only emotionally compromised due to the anniversary of the death of a coworker and friend, but my grades were due and a bunch of stuff for grad school was due as well.

The only shining beacon is that spring break started last Friday.

::cue sounds of angels singing::

I am the type of person that decompresses by being alone. Unfortunately, Saturday and Sunday were spent with family and friends from out of town so it was not until Monday that I actually got to decompress.

In the past two days I have drank some wine, slept A LOT, drank a little more wine, read for pleasure, drank just one more glass of wine, and finally was able to gain perspective on the entire ordeal.

In total, I learned five things. I'm going to put them in a list because I love lists.*

What Daily(ish) Teacher Has Learned Since Last Thursday


1. I am not superwoman.....

I wish I could stay on top of my grading AND my grad work while I am coaching softball (with no assistant coach ::cue crazy smile::) all while still having a social life. Needless to say something had to give and sadly, the thing that gave was my sanity.

I can't do it all.

I can't do it all.

I can't do it all.

I say it over and over again because I can actually say it now. Growing up, my mother and I would get into the biggest fights ever because I would refuse to ask for help because I didn't want to seem broken or weak.** I have slowly gotten better over the years but it took until this moment to fully realize that I really can't do everything.

By far, one of toughest things to learn is your own failings.



2. ....but I am superwoman to my students

I have talked before about how my students value me beyond what I'm teaching them in the classroom and although that is nice, it isn't what made me think of that this time.

On Thursday, we had a half day and I happened to have all of my sophomore classes that day. The day before, their research project that they have all been stressing over was due.

I could have given them some bonus assignment on Shakespeare (our next unit) or actually tried to teach. Instead, I gave them coloring pages.

Yes, I gave a bunch of 15 and 16 year old students coloring pages.

They were beyond excited.

As they walked out, a lot of them said to me "Thank you. I really needed this" with a look of gratefulness on their face.

Although I am not superwoman, I just saved my students from having a break down by giving them 30 minutes of freedom from high school
I even got in on the stress relieving drawing craze


3. Laughing is vital to survival

If it wasn't for laughing, last week would have been worse off. And, it isn't just about yourself laughing, it is about making others laugh as well.

For example, I am an avid Doctor Who fan and so is one of my fellow English teachers. When the Weeping Angels came up on my daily calendar of Doctor Who villains, I freaked but knew I had to play a practical joke on my coworker since she was also dealing with stressed out sophomores. So this is what I put in her grade book when she wasn't in her classroom


If you have no idea why this is freaky, see the video below***. Regardless, for any Doctor Who fan, this is something that is going to make you jump and freak out as it did to my coworker in the middle of her class.

I know her sense of humor so I had no fear she would laugh. It was a good and much needed laugh for her which also helps me because I know for a moment that I brought a smile to someone's face.

4. My students will constantly surprise me

I felt like giving up. I was realizing why nearly half of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years.

It is stressful. It is time consuming. It is emotionally draining because of how much you care.

You care and you care and you care yet you feel like this article from The Onion (that has NSFW language).

Recently, I gave them an assignment to look at a story from a different perspective and create a podcast about it. The goal was to put them in the shoes of someone else and to see the story through their eyes. I was expecting kids to do this last second and not put a lot of thought into it and just tell the same story I had heard over, and over again.

Although I got that, I also got some really really really awesome ones that made me so happy. The stories they were able to retell were AMAZING. They really grasped the concept of a podcast and two boys, who are on the quiet side, were able to actually tell a story in an amazing way. I put together a video of their podcasts so you can enjoy my student's work as much as I do.

Seriously, It is wonderful and I was pleasantly surprised. It is times like this that I remember why I do what I do.


I learned that I love teaching and even though I am stressed, I wouldn't trade it for anything.


video



*if you think that is strange you have obviously never hung around teachers who, by nature, break EVERYTHING down into lists for students.

**The short version: I knew I was smart but hated that I just couldn't remember to do or complete things which I felt made me appear dumb so I refused to ask for help since I wanted to prove that I could do it. Curses of ADD

***Yeah, I'm just giving you a link to the video and not embedding it because they freak me out too much. Go here to get the short version as to what they are.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Magical Formula

Dear stressed out self of the future:

I totally know how you are feeling right now. I was grading until 3am last night and woke up again at 5am to finish said grades for my 7:40am deadline. I'm so far behind on grad school that I'm afraid I may not graduate, and I have no idea how I'm teaching the next unit.

Yes, spring break officially started an hour ago but I don't get to take advantage of that. I have a softball game that is 45 min away and coming back, with the oh so lovely traffic, will cause my spring break to start around 7pm tonight.

Did I mention I also have only 9 players for today's game?

You may be wondering why I'm writing this since all it seems like is a pity party.


That is exactly why I'm writing it.


Seriously future self, you're so stressed that you just want to curl up and cry because of the exhaustion and never ending load of work. You feel like you never have time for yourself because when you do take a night off from grading/planning/prepping to cope with the one year anniversary of a friend's death, you actually end up feeling worse because you ended up not being prepared for work the next day and end up in a frazzle.

People are going to tell you that you assign too much work or that you can't let the little things get to you or that it isn't the end of the world.

Future self, screw them.


Every assignment you give to your students is designed as part of a larger purpose. Those assignments should be graded because if you don't grade, your underclassmen will fail since their paper writing isn't developed enough yet. You also can't "go easy" on them when it comes to paper writing because they won't become better writers that way.

You know it isn't the end of the world and you know that you should let the little things go. However, you also know you have ADHD which makes these things nearly impossible to do. You struggle to remain focused which leads to disorganization which then leads to guilt and anxiety because your failings are hurting your students. You then get frustrated when no one believes you because "ADHD is a kid thing" and "everyone now has ADHD." You feel alone and isolated because no one can seem to comprehend that you actually want to let the little things go but doing so makes you think that you have completely failed.

Future self, I wish that I could tell you I have it all figured out. That I know how to get out of the hole you're in and not make your job consume your life. I wish I knew how to be an effective teacher without having to give up so much of my time that I don't feel like I can ever relax again.

I honestly don't know what to do or say to you.

So why do I write this future self?


I write it because I want you to know that you're not alone. I'm where you are now. I know how you feel and although I'm talking to myself, it is always nice to know someone else feels the same way you do.


Now future self, I must go and see if I can find this magical formula to combat this overwhelming stress.

Hopefully, I can give you an answer soon.


Sincerely,

Your past self


Monday, March 2, 2015

Believing in Angels

I have freshmen essays to grade and the new season of House of Cards is calling my name.* In an effort to remain productive in someway, I have decided to write a blog post.

I could continue on why life isn't fair but, as I've learned over the last year, one of the best ways not to fall into a deep vortex of life sucking is to find positive things.

Last night, my boyfriend and I were watching a stand up comedian named Matt Braunger. Like most comedians, he was talking about how he has been going through some depressing things. His way through this hard stuff is by believing in angels**. As he says, angels are "anything that makes you laugh when you don't think you can possibly laugh."

I love this term. So, I'm going to borrow it and expand it a little to include things that made me smile and give you a few angels in my life that have helped over the past week.

The 3 Angels in Dailyish Teacher's Life the Past Week


  1. Hungry Hungry Hippos: Alright, I know. You may be saying to yourself "Why on Earth would a board game be your angel?" I wouldn't blame you if you did. But watch this video to see why:



    Okay so that video was posted by a coworker on Facebook with the caption, "Alright we need to do this at the next pep rally" and tagged over 30 teachers and admin. The best part about this is that EVERYONE was game to do it. So much so that I think we convinced the head of student life to plan it even though she is out on maternity leave. If this actually happens, I will be so pumped! Even if it doesn't happen, it still makes me laugh because of how awesome it is and how awesome the teachers/faculty are at that school for doing it. I'm so game for life size Hungry Hungry Hippo
  2. Twitter: Again, this may seem strange but I'm very thankful for Twitter. I constantly search for my name on Twitter to see what the kids are saying about me. This may seem narcissistic but I do it for two reasons: 1) Teenagers tend to use Twitter to vent and if they are saying bad things about me then I know I'm doing something wrong and 2) If they are saying bad things about me, I can use it not to just change but to make it a lesson in digital citizenship and being aware of what is put out on the Internet. Anyway, I mentioned the other day how I wrote sympathy cards to my students. I didn't expect to hear from them at all but low and behold, when I searched my name tonight this gem popped up:



    I made a difference. I know it was small but to these teenagers, it meant the world which is why I do what I do.




  3. Love, Teach: Oh my gosh do I love her posts. Every single one makes me either laugh out loud or go "awwww." Mostly they make me laugh out loud. Still, she is one of my angels.*** Seriously, look at these Facebook updates:














  4. Are you not entertained?! Seriously though, go read her blog. I promise you will love it.


It always amazes me how much social media can make my day. Without it, I would never have been able to laugh and smile this past week. Thank you Facebook and Twitter. You've been amazing.


"Loss of life is to be mourned but only if that life was wasted" ~Spock
Live Long and Prosper Leonard Nimoy


*The essays make me want to jump off a bridge at times and House of Cards kind of promotes doing that, or at least pushing someone off of it....needless to say not a good combination.

**Watch the clip. It is hilarious. Just be aware, some language is NSFW so you may not want to pull it up on your lunch break without head phones.

***Nominated for Best Education Blog for the Webblog Awards. You should go vote for her. http://2015.bloggi.es/

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Not Fair

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post about how to help teenagers through a tragedy as a teacher. This was sparked due to the death of a teacher. I have to do it all over again but this time due to the death of a student.

The student that died I did not personally have. He passed away Monday night in his sleep after going to sleep excited to drive to school for the first time on Tuesday. The cause of death is still unknown.

I am on the verge of tears. Not because of the child dying even though that is a tragedy, but because of how much pain my students are in and I can't do a damn thing about it.

There are literally zero words I can say to them that can make them feel better. I could feed them the classic lines of "he is in a better place" or "everything happens for a reason" but I know those are hollow words to the majority of teenagers right after this happens.

There is reason I constantly refer to my students as "my kids." I invest so much time, effort, and emotions into them that they may as well be my children. I want to throw them out the window because they can be so annoying at times, but in general, I love my students and want to help, protect, and inspire them to be the best human being they can be. Sometimes, I even get results.

I wrote five sympathy cards today to students that I knew were struggling. I did this because I knew that it was the only thing I could do to try and help. I let each of them know that I was there for them to talk to if they needed me because they might feel so alone which I never want for them to feel. Also, in each one I wrote the words "It sucks and it isn't fair" because it isn't.

It isn't fair that a 16 year old kid and athlete died in his sleep.

It isn't fair that my students have to feel this pain and sorrow as a teenager. You're not supposed to deal with this type of pain until you are older and know how to cope.

It isn't fair that my students have to go two years in a row with loss.

It isn't fair that life can't stop for my kids so that they can grieve.

It isn't fair that there isn't anything I can do to make them feel better.

It isn't fuckin fair.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Being a Young Teacher: A Pro/Con List

Recently, my students completed evaluations of all their teachers. After the evaluations were complete, I was able to request my results. Like the majority of evaluations from students, they said I gave "alot of work" (yes, "alot"). There was also the one random kid who either really does not like me or is not happy with their grade so they say I'm a horrible teacher.

Over the course of four years, I have learned to ignore these types of reviews. My subject tends to have a lot more "work" because they have reading and when 99%* of the reviews say they strongly agree or agree, then I know I can ignore the one that puts "strongly disagree" for everything.

The rankings were nice but the really telling part were the comments. When I first began to read them, I was loving them. They made me smile and sail on cloud 9.

My freshmen talked mostly about my instructional ability:

"Ms. **** is supportive, educated, and hardworking."
"She knows how to help someone get something if they don't get it"
"makes class less stressful keeps class on track"
"She is good at giving us helpful study guides and preparing us for tests. She assigns helpful homework that helps us to learn the course material"
"Knows how to make class fun"
"I don't think that I would have understood anything if she did not explain it the way she did."

My sophomores did the same but I am apparently making a bigger impact with them beyond the classroom. I put any of  the lines that really got to me from longer comments in bold.

"Ms. ***** is my favorite teacher because she keeps it real and is so understanding. She makes sure that the student is comfortable with what they're doing and is willing to reach out with a helping hand. We need more teachers like that. Her humor is spot on and her music taste is out of this world. She makes me feel important."
"An iconic role-model, really."
"Constantly reminds us of the times she'd be available whether it's before or after school. Even sets apart a time for the student to sign up for a time slot for the specific assignment. Ms. **** still goes to class. How she still makes time for us, I don't know. I aspire to be like her"
"I have dreams to be a teacher and I want to be like her."
"Great role model, easy to talk to about grades and assignments, awesome and amazing"

When I first read these, I felt honored. I was helping my kids more than I realized. I was doing such a good job that they want to be like me.

As time went on, it hit me:

They want to be like me.

I am 26 years old. I barely feel like an adult.

On Instagram, I use the hashtag #adulting when I feel like I did something adult worthy like cooking dinner.  I have less than $100 in my checking account and the only reason I actually no longer have car payments is because I got in college. I'm swimming in student load debt and I routinely have boxed or canned food. I drink crappy wine and beer because I can't afford anything else. I read articles like this one from Buzzfeed and do a laugh/cry because it pretty much sums up my life. The only thing I'm 100% sure about in my life is that I'm actually in the correct career which is more than I can say for some of my friends.

And these kids look up to me.

I can't decide if being a young teacher, especially to students that are barely 10 years younger than me is a good thing or bad thing. So, I decided to make a list.

Pros of Being a Young Teacher


  • I get the majority of their references which makes it easier to know if they are doing something they should not be doing.
  • I can relate to them because the pop culture references I pull from are exactly the same ones they would pull from
  • They feel more comfortable around me because I remind them more of an older sister than a mother
  • I can still remember what it felt like being a teenager so I'm more willing to cut them some slack
  • They are able to look up to me because I'm closer to their age

Cons of Being a Young Teacher

  • They look up to me and I barely have my life together
  • I barely have my life together
  • I barely have my life together
  • I barely have my life together
  • If you didn't notice, I barely have my life together.

Normally, I'm able to come to some conclusion about what I'm writing about at the end of my post. This case, however, I still don't know how I feel about the kids looking up to me. I'm glad that I'm making such a positive influence on them. I love my job and the comments about what I do well validate my teaching. 

I just hope they don't put me on a pedal stool and expect me to be perfect because I'm so far from that it isn't even funny.

I just hope they know I'm not infallible.  


*This is one percentage I know for sure is correct because only 100 kids filled it out.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

All About Taking Risks

I love my job and I love my school.

Why?

I have a wonderful gift of freedom to allow my creative side shine. Yes, I have to adhere to a curriculum but I do not have to give the same exact assignment as my fellow teachers.

Does this mean that my students may not focus on the same thing as the other freshmen and sophomores in another teacher's English class?

Yes

Is that a bad thing?

No.

With literature, there is so much you can teach that you have to pick and choose the larger picture part which allows for each teacher to teach what they enjoy about the readings from the curriculum and teach it how they want to teach it.

This allows me to use techniques and tools that I believe will reach out to my kids.

In the past, I have used memes, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pintrest with various degrees of success depending upon the lesson I was trying to have the students learn. Some lessons bombed and didn't do what I thought they would. Others were better than I could ever imagine.

Most recently, I have started having my students blog. With my sophomores, I had them mimic the style of the poems we were reading in class and then, in another unit, write about and reflect upon a particular theme that appears in the novel.

The poems worked fairly well but my sophomores seem to struggle with the reflection aspect. I know they are reading because they have lively discussions in class. The problem seems to be that they are afraid of writing especially when I don't tell them exactly what I want them to write.

This is a constant struggle I have with my sophomores. They are so afraid of being "wrong" that they are afraid of trying. Currently, the use of the blogs is only achieving the goal I want with only a few students.

However, I have faith that if I force them to keep with it, they will finally start to open up and reflect upon everything.

I know this because of my freshmen.

My freshmen were told to reflect upon The Odyssey as we read it in class. They started off timid; not really sure what to write. As time went on, the blog posts got better. They began to rant about Odysseus and the gods. They would try to tackle what they should have done and the motivations behind the characters actions. They well exceeded the 300 word limit and they were wonderful to read. I was (and am) so proud of them. Now, as we read Oedipus, they are much more open about debating in class. The class discussions have gotten better all because they learned to express their feelings through a blog that is not only personal but feels safe since there is no one making faces at them or giggling when they voice their opinion. They gain the confidence they needed to be able to find the excitement in English.

I can never be that teacher that does the same thing over and over and over and over again. I want to be the teacher that takes risks and is constantly trying to find new ways to reach out to their students. Not only do I want to be that teacher that takes risks, but I want other teachers to do the same.

Why?

Because if we all take risks, we'll be more willing to work together and only together can we change the things that we need to change about education.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Finding Meaning in the Crazy

My life is crazy.

No, really.

I teach 9th and 10th graders full time. I have 6 classes for a total of 121 students. Not only that, but I teach English which means my grading takes at LEAST twice as long to complete than the average math or science teacher.

I am also enrolled in grad school full time. Yes, full time. 9 credits. Luckily it is my last semester.

I also am the head JV softball coach. "That isn't so bad. You have assistants to help you out." Yeah...not so much this year. The assistant varsity coach will be on maturity leave during the season so the head varsity coach took my assistant coach thus leaving me with no full time assistant this year. It is also very difficult to find a replacement because there are not that many people who can get off work at 3pm every single day.

So yes, my life is completely crazy. My boyfriend and I get into stupid fights because "I don't make time for him" but he "doesn't want me to give up what I love"

Which means I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I've learned the only way to combat this feeling of complete craziness is to remember why you got into the crazy in the first place. If you can't remember why, then you should just cut it out of your life.

Softball
I have been involved with softball since I was 5. I played it until I was 18. My freshmen year of college, I missed it so much that I found a local team to help coach. I was an assistant varsity coach for three years. After college, I came back home. I decided not to coach my first year teaching because I figured that would be too crazy even for me. I realized I missed it way to much.

Last year, the JV coach left and they needed someone. I stepped up to the plate* and decided to coach knowing full well I would have to balance grad school as well as teaching.

It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The girls were a blast to work with and that intense happy/satisfied feeling softball brought me as a player came back as a coach. Not coaching would leave me with a hole that can only be filled by softball.

Grad School
Obviously, I can't just "quit" grad school. Even though I can't get rid of it, I have to remind myself why I do it.

I do it because I want to learn more about profession. I want to become a better teacher. I want to impact my students in new ways. I don't want to become the boring, old, repetitive teacher; I want to constantly be current and engaging.

Even though it drives me crazy every once and a while, grad school is important to everything I do.

Teaching
The burnout rate for teachers is less than 5 years.

I'm in year 4 and I can completely relate to that statistic.

I am constantly tired because I stay at school for over 12 hours. I work on the weekends and sometimes freak out when I don't. I've gotten better at making sure I set aside time for myself but it is difficult when I feel like I don't have enough hours in a day to do my job well.

Every time I think I reach my breaking point, something happens to remind me why I teach. This time it was an argument.

My sophomores are reading Things Fall Apart. Like most assigned reading for school, my students were not excited to read the novel. However, due to my hard work in grad school, I was able to devise a unit that would at least force the students to read and not rely upon SparkNotes.

On Friday, they were assigned various aspects of the Ibo culture to examine and draw conclusions about based upon what is presented in the novel. Two of those topics were "manhood" and "womanhood." My students began to debate, totally unprompted by me, about Okonkwo and if he really was "manly" or not. They were using examples from the text and finally agreed that it depended upon the definition of "manly" that was used.

They were not only reading but having an emotional response to the reading. They were exploring the human concept of "strength" and "weakness" on their own. They were doing everything I had hoped they would do and more.

It seems small and it seems insignificant but, it the meaning in my crazy. It is the reason I do what I do and it is the reason that, although I'm exhausted, I'm no where near burned out.