Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tips for Surviving Your First Year of Teaching {Part One}


In celebration of my very last school day as a first-year teacher, I have decided to share some of the vast amounts of wisdom and experience I've gleaned (let's be honest--mostly from my own mistakes). And, to make it even more exciting, you get to hear one for every week of school I've taught so far (that's 39 weeks, folks, for those who have been out of school a little while).

1. You might have already heard this one from veteran teachers, but it bears repeating: be mean and overly strict with your students for the first several weeks of school. Don't joke around too much, don't laugh at their jokes, just make it seem like it's all business, all the time. That way, when you can't stand the facade anymore and need to crack a joke or two to lighten the mood, your students will still know they're expected to work hard while having fun. I know this is a hard tip to swallow because most first-year teachers really want their students to like them, so it's tempting to pull out the "fun teacher" card right away. Seriously though, I owe most of any success I've had as far as classroom management goes to this tip.

2. The first couple weeks of school can be referred to as "the honemoon stage"--your students still aren't comfortable enough with you to express their grosser flaws, and the majority still aim to please, please, please (whatever the cost). Take advantage of this natural pliability and teach and re-teach all the classroom expectations and routines while they're pretty much all willing to listen and obey.

3. If you haven't taken up caffeine yet (my drug of choice being Diet Dr. Pepper), maybe you'd better start--around the 3rd or 4th week in, the "real" work of teaching actually starts to set in, and you'll likely start finding yourself overwhelmed after spending several late afternoons or nights at the school grading homework, which brings me to...

4. DON'T TAKE HOMEWORK HOME WITH YOU. Even if it means staying at the school until all hours of the night, do not take grading or lesson plans or anything work-related home with you. I know this would be difficult to swing as a mother, but the main reason why I was able to stay mostly sane this year is because I kept my work at work, which meant that when I get home, I had absolutely nothing hanging over my head--I could simply put up my feet and relax. Other teachers who have taken work home their whole careers will think you're crazy, but trust me on this: this will SAVE your sanity (and help you to have some semblance of a normal life).

5. Take some time to get to know your fellow educators, especially the ones in your own department. You don't have to become best friends with everybody, but it IS important to establish professional relationships with your colleagues. Not only does this make you more of a team player, but it sure is handy when you just can't think of another lesson plan to save your life and you need to bum some ideas off the other teachers.

6. On the flip side of that, I recommend sometimes taking your lunch alone. Not only do you tend to get more work done, but at most schools, lunch in the faculty room (or another teacher's classroom) is where all the drama happens, and if you think like me, drama = no good. This whole year I've been trying to walk the fine line between being friendly and getting too involved in the school's politics, and for me, it's worked really well.

7. Since you hopefully learned all of your students' names the first week, once you've established your classroom routines, make a goal to go out of your way and talk to at least one of your students about something other than school at least once per day. For some teachers, this step comes more naturally and they can handle talking to several students each day, but I tend to be more reserved, so it was good for me to just focus on one each day. If you try your best to turn your focus on a different student each day, you'll find that you'll eventually establish much better relationships with all of your students (esp. if you can follow up with them about something they told you earlier).

8. Find a trustworthy, sensitive person in your life whom you can go to to vent your frustrations and celebrate your successes. After spending all of your time each day with people younger than you, it's absolutely essential to get some quality adult time in so that you don't start, you know, acting like one of your students. I am sure that I would have quit teaching halfway through the year had I not had the stabilizing force of my husband's listening ear to carry me through.

9. Prepare yourself for parent-teacher conferences (both logistically and emotionally). The more contact you can have with parents before this first conference (even if it's just a generic letter or email), the more smoothly that first conference will go. If you can let the parents know before the actual conference as well if their student is struggling, you'll save yourself even more trouble. I had a pretty negative experience my first round of parent-teacher conferences, but much of that could have been avoided had I taken the time to contact the parent beforehand and had I been mentally prepared for what I would do in an angry parent situation. In the end, try to maintain a positive relationship with all parents, even the ones who have offended you. You never know, they might turn out to be your biggest allies.

10. Know the maturity level of your students, and make sure you only share personal experiences and/or talk about subjects that they will be comfortable with. From firsthand experience, I have definitely learned to not bring up anything to do with pregnancy, kissing, or puberty with my 7th graders, unless I want to have a jittery, giggly, blushing bunch of kids for the rest of the period.

11. Since many first-year teachers are rather young, make sure you set your boundaries early for your students so they don't mistake your kindness as an invitation for you to become their friend. Luckily, I haven't had to learn this one the hard way as I was very careful about my boundaries from the beginning (no hugging from students, limiting myself on how much I asked about their lives outside of school, no having current students as Facebook friends, etc.). As you get older, I would imagine you can loosen up on this one a bit to some degree, but since I was the youngest teacher at my school, I really had to watch that I stayed professional at all times.

12. Even though this probably won't surprise most of you, it really came as a shock to me--you will not like all of your students. I strived to always CARE about each one of my students, but that's not the same as liking. Plain and simple, you will have kids that get on your every last nerve. You will have kids that make you secretly happy when they decide to be absent for the day. The important thing on this one is to still earnestly try and reach out to those kids the best that you can. I literally found myself praying on multiple occasions for help with the students that I didn't really like because I didn't want anything to prevent them from getting the education they deserved. It's a hard battle, but in the end, if you're persistent in your efforts, you might even win some of those harder kids over to your side to the point that they won't act up for you even though they will for everyone else.

13. Since week 13 is when the first trimester's grades come due at my school, my last piece of advice for this first bit would be this: discipline yourself to do a little bit of grading each and every day. I seemingly have to learn this lesson over and over and over again as the end of the trimester always seems to find me scrambling around with a stress ulcer trying to get everything done before the deadlines. If you can get over any procrastination habits, your spouse, your students, your principal, and YOU will all thank you later.

What tips can you add? Any tips you wish you could have shared with your teachers growing up?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday Tell-Something


Judging by the fact that I got home from the school at about 8:15 PM tonight (almost six HOURS after the dismissal bell rang), you are not going to get a Tuesday Tell-ALL today.

However, I will tell you 3 things:

1. I finally finished grading the last of my students' book projects. For the assignment, they had to decorate a container on the outside to represent the theme of the science fiction book they'd read. Apparently, I should have been more specific about the container being clean, hygienic, and relatively odor- and sticky-free. You might be wondering what kind of project spurred on the necessity of such a footnote. Well friends, I had a student submit a well-used gym shoe (that REEKED) as the container for his book project. AND he had shoved the papers for the project all the way back into the toe, so I had to reach my hand into the stench to fish all of them out, one by one. And if that wasn't enough, I had another (male) student who clearly had finished his project last-minute right after lunch. After draining his purple Powerade, he hastily scribbled some general notes on some note paper and shoved them inside the bottle, WITHOUT EVEN BOTHERING TO RINSE IT OUT. So guess what I get? Sticky purple slime-paper adhering to my fingers as I squeamishly try and unravel the wet mass in order to grade it.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried, people.

2. One of my brightest students today informed me of the following, "Mrs. Meidell, you're the nicest teacher out of all the Language Arts teachers. But even though Mrs. [other 7th grade LA teacher's name] is the meanest, she's also the best.

I hate to admit it, but that really stung. What can I say? I feel like I've been kind of running on empty for the past month, so I seem to be taking things pretty personally lately. It didn't help that today was one of those days where you come home and cry your eyes out until they're puffy and raccoonish and watery snot is dribbling down to your collar while your husband is quietly nodding his head and holding you.

3. God's tender mercies are everywhere. After almost 6 hours of straight grading today after school, I was feeling overwhelmed and empty, empty, empty. Then, right before I left, I had the feeling that I should check my email, and what did I find? The sweetest letter from one of my students, thanking me for everything I'd taught her over the course of this whole year and how every time she read certain scriptures on charity, she thought of me and the example I was for her.

Thanks to her, I think I'll get through this week. (It also helped that she left a P.S. at the bottom of the letter that explained that she'd gotten the scriptures off of lds.org, but that she hoped I wouldn't mind that she didn't fully cite them on a works cited page. She does my old teacher heart proud!)

Two more days.

I can do this.

I hope.

Monday, May 27, 2013

What Does Memorial Day Mean to You?



What does Memorial Day mean to me?

Perhaps not surprisingly, I found that it means a lot of things:

It means the gathering of family at cemeteries, to remember those we love and miss. I love how the photo below shows the bringing together of posterity that happened because of one truly great man: my grandfather. Even though some of those we love have passed on, they bring us together still.
 
Memorial Day means a day free from the day-to-day schedules that often hold us bound: school, work, routine. It's a day to enjoy vicariously the vitality and spontaneity of childhood through my growing nieces and nephews as they play in the sandbox, as they explore their growing motor functioning, as they seem to grow up in front of my eyes.
 


 It's a day of barbecuing, watermelon-seed-spitting, corn-husking, and ice-cream-licking. Truly, is there anything more American about Memorial Day than a plethora of grilled goodies--juicy hamburgers, hand-skewered vegetable kabobs, and freshly mashed avocado salsa?




It's a day of pausing to be a little more consciously grateful of the liberties afforded us because of the sacrifice and dedication of millions who have gone on before.


So, in summation, Memorial Day for me is a bringing together--not only of loving ones living, but of the very blood that connects us to those who have gone on before. Tonight, upon arriving back home to Logan, Matt and I took a trip to another cemetery, this one a little closer to home. There, we found the headstone of my great-great-great-grandmother, and flowers were laid down in her memorial for perhaps the first time in several decades (since we only recently found her grave last year).

As we quietly walked back to the car afterwards, I shared with Matt her story--how she'd spent her whole life in poverty, losing her first husband (whom she loved dearly) and later having to marry for convenience a man whom she later divorced, and how she came across the plains in search of the truth after hearing the Mormon missionaries. She devoted the last part of her life seeking out her own ancestors and leaving behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.

Memorial Day reminds me that wherever I have gone in life is not to my own credit, but that I stand on the backs of all of those who have gone on before.

Truly I am grateful for ALL those who lift me up daily, both living and deceased.


What does Memorial Day mean to you?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

First Harvest


With some things, I have an extraordinary amount of patience (like with 12- and 13-year-olds, apparently).

However, when it comes to other things, such as learning new skills, finishing books, and now, waiting for my own vegetables to come to harvest, I'm not.

So when I found out that there was a vegetable that could go from seed to harvest in just over a month, I jumped right on that bandwagon.

(Even if that vegetable ended up being radishes, which are only the sub-par version of veggies in my book.)

Today, after transplanting the rest of our vegetable plants closer to the watering source, we decided to see if we had any ready radishes on hand. Even though some of them are still pretty teensy, once I started plucking them, it was kinda hard to stop.


Of course, after biting into one of them and feeling my tongue explode with heat, I was out.

But somehow, thinking about it now about an hour later, those suckers were pretty darn good.

Bring on the summer!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ironic


I find it funny that now, during one of the most exhausting and stressful weeks of my life to date, I am reading Walden each night before going to bed.

Why is this funny?

Well, if you're unfamiliar with Walden (which 90% of the phlebomists at the plasma center are), it is the part-philosophical, part-memoir account by Henry David Thoreau of his two-year stint living life as simply as possible: in the woods, in a house built by himself, spending his days mostly in solitude amongst nature and books.

Sounds dreamy, right?

Meanwhile, I spent my day today hosting my social dance group's performance in front of the school (no one fell on their face, thanks for asking), grading stacks of book projects made up of odd containers like ice cream buckets and water bottles, and telling a particularly pessimistic 7th grader to keep his negative opinions to himself.

Yeah, I need this book.

Honestly though, even though it's laughable how different my current life is from Thoreau's, it has helped me to try and squeeze in some sane moments of meditation every day. The book may be pretty dense, but I've found that it's opening my eyes this week to things I'm usually too rushed to pay attention to, like the sound of the insects whirring or the wind rushing through my hair. Yesterday, it had me wandering outside in a sunny field of dandelions by our vegetable garden, relishing the feel of the sunshine against my face.

It may have been only for five minutes, but heaven knows I needed those five minutes.


So many people put off reading the classics because they're "boring" or "too long" or "difficult," but there is a reason why these books have been such a big part of the literature world as we know it for so long.

Thoreau said it much better when he put it this way:

"Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be cheated by trade; but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is reading, in a high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tiptoe to read and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to."

So, in the stressful times like this, I find I need to read MORE, not less.


Have you read any books lately that have made you "stand on tiptoe to read?"

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All


*Warning! Warning! I am one massive, writhing, fatigued stress-case today, and so if the various parts of my post don't add up to make some kind of holistic sense, you can blame the fact that I'm 6.5 school days away from being finished, and I'm out for blood due to some misbehaving students.

*Just thought you should know.

*Seriously though, I've never been so absolutely ready for anything to be over with in my whole life (except for maybe the finals week right before we got married or the last six miles or so of the marathon we ran last year). I feel like if I spend much longer in this constant state of busy-ness, anxiety, and frustration, I will quickly become the craziest, worst version of myself. Can't I just go to bed and have someone wake me up when it's all over?

*Case in point: usually, I'm patient with students to the point of being too kind. Yesterday, I told a student to her face that she needed to cut the crap and stop creating drama (although, in my defense, she's had it coming for weeks). Basically what had happened was that I'd placed her in a group with two of her friends and this one girl who is basically her enemy but also friends with the other two. They've been taking the whole middle-school-girl-drama to the limit, complete with backbiting, gossip, revenge tactics, you name it. I thought I wouldn't have a problem teaching this age group for another year, but now I'm not so sure...

*That might just be the stress talking, though.

*Because I've been so busy, Matt's been really stepping it up and helping out a ton around the house and stuff. Yesterday I actually convinced him to make a full-on slow cooker meal complete with homemade meatballs and made-from-scratch spaghetti sauce. I'm telling ya, my man has got some serious natural talent in the kitchen. Now if he just had the love of cooking that I do and wanted to do more of it all the time...



*Because my grading stack has reached unhealthy, fire-hazard proportions, I stole twelve quarters out of our coin jar at home to get myself through the whole thing with the help of few Diet Dr. Peppers. Matt hated the idea because he's kinda crazy about us not touching the coin jars for any reason, but desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. Do you keep a coin jug in your home? And does your spouse go ballistic if you take a couple coins out like mine does?

*Okay, maybe not BALLISTIC. But still.

*We have our biggest youth activity of the year planned for this Thursday. Seriously? My timing is just impeccable...You know it's bad when your first thought every morning is, "Is this week over yet?"

*Today as I was walking in my classroom for sixth hour to start (I'd just been in the computer lab with my previous class), I opened the door to a Frisbee almost hitting my face. Yeah, it's definitely the end of the school year.

*Of course, after the very first stern talking-to of the whole trimester to that same 6th hour class, they behaved like angelic lambs the rest of the hour. It was my one blissful respite from what has been--pardon the language--a bit of a hellish day.

*My social dance group is doing a final performance in front of the whole grade tomorrow. I somehow made the epic mistake of showing them a cool lift just to give them a break from rehearsal, and now they all want to try and incorporate it into the routine tomorrow. I did finally relent and give my permission for two couples to try it, but their success rate in landing it has been about an 8% so far, so tomorrow's performance should be interesting, to say the least.

*In other news, I have been nominated as one of the teachers to go up against the students in a hula hooping competition tomorrow. Little do they know that I used to be a hula hooping CHAMP back in the day. Hope that my mad skills are still there after lying dormant for about 10 years. Wish me luck, folks.

*I decided that my favorite sin is speeding. I know I shouldn't do it and that it's dishonest, but there's just something about the open stretch of highway between my work and apartment that just screams, "STEP ON IT, ALREADY!!" I usually limit myself to just 5-10 over (which is probably why I've never gotten a speeding ticket), but it seriously is a problem. You know your moral compass is off on something when the only reason you avoid doing it is to escape punishment (aka, when you spy a cop car). So there you go. My little confession for the day. Are you a speeder?

*P.S. I issue a public apology to anyone that has to drive near me while I'm on my commute to or from work. I swear, that commute brings out the worst in me. After this job's over with, I think I'll try much harder in the future to look for a job that's much closer to home.

*Okay, school's out. Time to go get me a DDP and start attacking some of those papers. Boo.

Monday, May 20, 2013

In Which I Dance Alone and Not Alone


So some journalism students at my school put out a newspaper each month to the whole student body, and somehow or other, I seem to end up in every issue. Maybe it's because the social dance class I teach twice a week is a hot debate (is it awesome? is it lame? is it mortifying?), or maybe it's because my "new teacher" status still hasn't worn off yet and so the kids still find me semi-interesting.

Whatever it is, I've recently stumbled across a bunch of pictures on the school's student drive (most of which were never published, thankfully) of me doing some pretty odd things.

Like in that picture above, where I am CLEARLY dancing with myself in my effort to show the students the dance moves in my country swing class.

Another notorious act that has landed me in the school's end-of-year slide show is the fact that I brought my husband to school back in December to teach all the kids how to dance before they all had their first "real" dance together.


I'm thinking all the girls must have thought Matt was pretty cute because we sure ended up in a LOT of pictures that day...

Oh, and we met Santa.


Now, just to make it perfectly clear--all this reminiscing through all these photos on the hard drive and on various memories that have happened throughout the school year has absolutely NOTHING to do with the fact that I'm procrastinating a stack of grading that's about waist-high.

That's not what I'm doing at all...

It's still pretty crazy to think that I'm less than two weeks away from the end of my first year of teaching. I'm trying to brainstorm ideas for a post that will wrap everything I've learned into a neat little package that I can share with you all, but we'll see if that happens.

Right now I'm just eyeing stacks and stacks of assignments and praying that the end will come quickly...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Day I (Almost) Cried at School

Cartoon via
 
Here we are, almost into the single digits of how many days of school are left, and the kids are driving me bat-crap crazy. Yeah, you heard me.
 
Then WHY on earth would I start tearing up today when I thought about how much I would miss some of them?
 
AGGGGHHH---teacher hormones!!
 
So this is what happened:
 
Last week, each teacher was asked to write letters to certain students who had qualified for our end-of-year Breakfast of Champions because of perfect life skills scores or high academics. Apparently all the students who were going to receive our letters received them yesterday because this morning, one of my students (a boy who stands at about 6'2" as a 7th grader) comes into my class before school starts and says, "Mrs. Meidell--thank you SO much for that awesome letter you sent me yesterday. It made both me AND my parents cry. It was so sweet."
 
I tried to say something appropriate back, but I'm sure it was one of the most awkward conversations he'd ever had with me because I was trying SO hard not to tear up. I tried to escape down to the office to collect myself before school started, but when another girl said pretty much the same thing as I made my way through the halls...
 
Well, let's just say that the last day of school isn't probably going to be as jubilantly joyous as I am often making it out to be in my head (and not just because of all the grading I'll be doing that day).
 
Gosh darn it!
 
I really will miss these kids.
 
The stinkers.
 
(For the day that I REALLY cried at school, check out this post)


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Just Call Him the Baby Whisperer


Last weekend, we ended up going home as a semi-last-minute surprise for Mom's Day. While home, we finally got to meet my darling nephew Evan for the first time, and I've gotta say: that hubby of mine sure is handsome with a wee babe in his arms. (But don't get any ideas, folks---we're not planning on having our own anytime soon!)

Seriously, though--Matt's a natural. I'm all sorts of legs and nerves whenever someone tries to hand off an infant to me, and it's all second nature for that husband of mine. Makes me hopeful that our future kids will turn out semi-okay (mostly thanks to him!).


In other weekend news, we thoroughly enjoyed not just one, but TWO barbecues (one with friends, the other with my family), and I actually remembered to take pictures.

Well, of the second one anyway.



It was such fun to come home Saturday night and surprise my mom, who thought we weren't going to be able to make it to the barbecue she was throwing on Mother's Day.

I'm SO glad we decided to be spontaneous and just go for it, even if it wasn't for a full weekend (and even though it meant getting substitutes for our church jobs).



 
Last but not least, I even remembered to get a picture of my lovely mama with all her grandkids.
 
Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day, Mom!
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All



*When your mom's got four girls and two of those four girls have recently had babies who do funky toe tricks, of COURSE the only logical thing to do when you all get together is to start spreading out your toes in front of each other to see if the weird baby foot tricks are genetic.

*And now we all know that we Fedor girls have alien feet.

*What weird things have you done with your family to compare genetic traits? (I know we surely can't be the only ones...)

*So last Saturday, Matt and I finally got most of our vegetable garden all planted. Aside from almost getting heat stroke and Matt maybe kind of freaking out just a little bit over a spider, we felt pretty proud of ourselves. But then yesterday, we got some bad news---we thought the automated watering system on the garden had already started, so we hadn't watered our plants all weekend (or at all since putting them in). So, in horror, we ran over to the garden only to find that about half of our plants were in critical condition with a poor prognosis for a future. We tried our best to revive them with a good, solid watering last night, but y'all should send a little prayer out for our plants, k?

*(because we really don't want to have to buy new ones and plant again)

*Last night, Matt and I stole away to this local Mexican restaurant (El Sol) because I was definitely not in the mood for cooking. It kind of felt a little indulgent to go out to eat on a weeknight---I kinda liked it!

*(Can you tell we don't get out much?)

*Honestly, I'm not sure if I'll be cooking much for the rest of this month, period. Not only is our swamp cooler not working (even though it's due to be set up sometime within the next couple weeks--hallelujah!), but my classroom has gotten overly stuffy and warm the past week or so. Therefore, the last thing I want to do is come home and use an oven or stove, which brings me to this pressing question: what can I make for dinner that doesn't require cooking besides cereal?

*The heat in the classroom was so bad today that I ended up leaving almost an hour earlier than I'd intended to. I'd wanted to stay until four to really start attacking all these items on my grading to-do list, but I just couldn't handle it---3:20, and I was outta there like an overdue baby.

*On Saturday we ended up taking a semi-surprise trip home to make a friend's BBQ (and to surprise our moms for Mother's Day). At said BBQ, we played croquet, at which time I made an important discovery: after about six years of not playing croquet (which used to be a regular staple in my summers as a teenager), I royally stinketh at the sport. I wish I could blame most of that on the cheap croquet mallets, but alas...

*(I also wanted to blame it on the weird house rules---who plays where you get two extra hits for tapping another player's ball with your own? Weird.)

*We finally got a new landlord at our place, and we couldn't be more pleased. You KNOW he's got to be worlds better than the last ones when you don't even mind that your wall sounds like it's going to come crashing down on you from all the drilling and construction going on.

*Last night, Matt and I finally sat down and started mapping our summer. It turns out we're going to be gone on vacation or on campouts almost as many weeks as we'll be home. I don't know how I feel about that. Do you prefer your summer to be jam-packed with trips and fun outings or more laidback and unplanned?

Monday, May 13, 2013

This Kind of Feels Like Defeat, But Not


Okay, let's get real, folks: the last month of your first year of teaching is really, REALLY busy/stressful/emotional/tiring/draining/sleep-deprived/crazy. You know it's bad when one of your favorite hobbies (blogging) is starting to feel like just one more thing on that monstrous to-do list. You know it's REALLY bad when you're stressing yourself sick over the fact that you kind of have to admit that this lofty goal of doing an organizational project each week that you've set for yourself needs (NEEDS!) to be tweaked so that you keep your sanity.

SO, this is what's going to be happening:

*I am NOT quitting the 50 Weeks to Organized project.

*I am, however, revising it majorly---originally I'd planned to do one organizational project per week and post about it, but that's proven to be out of my league (at least for now, anyway). I also realized that I actually didn't even HAVE 50 weeks' worth of projects to actually DO.

*Therefore, I will be periodically posting on my progress every time I start and finish a project, but it won't be weekly.

*I DO, however, plan to be completely clutter-free and organized in 50 weeks still (but I'll just be doing it in 30 or so projects rather than 50).

Usually doing this kind of thing makes me feel super guilty (which is ridiculous, I know). But this time? Pretty much all I feel is relief.

I REALLY must be stressed out or something... :)

Only 12 more school days left after today . . . but who's counting?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Success According to Standardized Tests


Pretty much everybody agrees that standardized testing is an ineffective measure of what a student has really learned at best and a manipulative, soul-crushing tool at worst, but just in case anyone was wondering, I got my students' preliminary end-of-level test scores back today.

A little background info:

*most schools consider you a good teacher if your proficiency rate is 80% or higher
*my school was pushing for all Language Arts teachers to get 90% proficiency (a lofty goal--only one LA teacher out of the entire school got that high last year, and she got a straight 90%)
*the scores on the test range from 1-4, with a three being proficient (in other words, on grade level standard), and a four being advanced

With that in mind, I'm feeling a bit proud of myself today (even though you can hardly put much stock in test scores):

*Overall, 91% of my students received proficient scores (woo hoo!)
*I had 27 students who improved their score a whole point from last year (so a 3 to a 4 or a 2 to a 3)
*I had one girl jump from a one to a three, which is almost unheard of (I've been working pretty hard with her all year)
*I had one girl get a 75% last year (a 3), and then get a 98% (4) this year
*I had eight students who dropped down their score (sad day), mostly from 4's to 3's
*I had ten students out of 109 who didn't meet proficiency (aka, they got a 2 or lower)
*Nine of those students got 2's, only one got a one

This is where I stop and put some perspective into those numbers. Like the quote above says, numbers can't measure everything (or you can't tell everything from the numbers alone). For instance, my one student who got a 1 on the test recently moved here last year from El Salvador. Last year when he took the test (mere months after arriving in the contry), he scored a 0% (earning him a 1). This year he also got a one--but got 42%. Do either of those numbers adequately reflect his progress this year?

Of course not.

Nor do those scores show AT ALL the amazing progress my students have made in their writing over the course of this year (because these standardized tests don't measure writing in the slightest).

But even though these scores can hardly reflect my (real) success as a teacher, is it bad that I'm still pretty darn proud of myself (and my students)?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All, A Day Late



*On Monday, I told my sixth hour class that the next day was my anniversary AND Teacher Appreciation Day, so I was expecting them to bring in Diet Dr. Pepper and chocolate and shower me with love and appreciation. I also may or may not have told them that if they did, I would let them play Capture the Flag outside the whole hour (right after saying that I was incapable of being bribed). Saddest part? No one brought me any.

*(I made up for it though by buying myself an eight-pack of DP at Walmart on the way home (if no one else will appreciate me, I guess I will!!)

*We currently only have one working vehicle, as Frogger (my '96 green Ford Escort) has decided to retire. Honestly, at this point, I don't even know what to do with it---is it worth it to put yet more money into that death-on-wheels machine? The registration for it is due at the end of this month (so we probably should decide soon), but I honestly think we'll just have to deal with being one-car kind of people for now. It kinda stinks.

*For the first time ever, I have been temporarily deferred from donating plasma. Apparently during my last routine full blood sample, I showed low protein levels. What?! My diet IS protein--I found that out when I started keeping a food diary a couple summers ago (and I found out that protein usually makes up over 50% of my calories). Well, whatever the reason for it, I have to wait until the latest blood test results come in until I can donate again, which could take up to two more weeks. Boo.

*I never realized how much I depend on that extra $65 a week until I'm now no longer able to do it. Oh well. I'll make it work.

*So even though Matt's technically on his summer vacation already, it hasn't been too difficult for me yet because he's still working at his job, which means that he wakes up at the same time that I do every morning still. Even though it stinks for him to have to spend his summer mornings waking up at a quarter to six every morning, I'm sure darn grateful that it's not just me having to do it every day :)

*So today I had this student come up to me right before lunch (when I really, REALLY had to use the bathroom---I'd already been holding it over two hours), and he proceeds to launch into this sob story about how his mom is almost crying over his grades and about how it would be such a nice Mother's Day present to her if I could raise his grades up so she wouldn't be so worried and sad. I proceeded to tell him that in order for me to raise his grades, he would have to re-do all the work that he'd already done this tri (or not done) and see if he can do them better the second time. I had to explain it to him about 5 times before he realized that I wasn't just going to boost up his grade or offer him some miracle exit.

*At least he asked now though, instead of two days before the end of the school year, right?

*There are 35 items left on the master to-do list I created of everything I have to do and grade before the end of the school year. Yuck.

*Yesterday (as I was working on one of my to-do items), I had to write these personal letters to these students who have made it to the celebratory meal at the end of the year called Breakfast of Champions. (Backstory: each student who has earned a spot either by perfect citizenship scores or very high academic grades gets to go to this breakfast, gets their picture on a Wheaties box, and gets a personal letter of congratulations written by one of their teachers). I was assigned to write six of those letters. Confession: I totally almost started tearing up when I was writing them. This is bad news, people--it's WAY too early to start the end-of-year waterworks. This could get ugly.

*Last night (we celebrated our anniversary low-key style at home), Matt and I watched Drive Me Crazy, the Melissa Joan Hart high school movie I checked out from the library. I remembered watching it with a bunch of my friends back in like junior high and rewinding and rewatching the last ten minutes about 15 times in a row because we loved it so much. Honestly, I'm impressed we even made it through the whole movie last night--that's got to be one of the WORST movies of that decade. WORST. Go on, I dare you to go check it out and refute that fact.

*Any movies you loved when you were younger but can't stand now?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Two-Year Anniversary


(our wedding day, 1st year anniversary, and 2nd anniversary (this year!))

Sometimes it's hard to believe that we've already been married two years, but I can still remember it all as if it were yesterday: the giddy excitement as we met at the temple, the overwhelming peace as I said that I would take Matt to be mine forever, and the celebratory air that permeated every second of the day.

Many people say that the first couple years are the hardest, but if that's true, then we've got one glorious road ahead of us because these first two years have been a long string of blissful memories with my best friend by my side.


As today is also Teacher Appreciation Day, it looks like we'll be getting lots of free dinners (thanks to places like Papa John's and McDonald's who give free meals to teachers) and giving a toast to celebrating the rest of eternity together.

I love you forever, Matt--thanks for these first two years!


 
 
Check out:
*my favorite (and least favorite) part of our wedding day here
*an overload of bridal pics here
*our first anniversary here

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Time I Discovered that I'm Still Bad at Bowling


Sometimes in my secret life (the one that goes on in my head when I need an escape from reality), I pretend that I'm really good at bowling. Usually this fantasy only crops up when I actually AM bowling, and if I was to use all of my psychology knowledge on myself, I would say that I do it to cope with the awfulness of what really is = aka that I am a truly heinous bowler.

See our friends Jon and Emily below?

I'm honestly kind of surprised that they keep inviting us to do stuff with them because I'm horridly competitive (not in a cute, fun way), and apparently that trash talking extends to bowling...even though I've got no game.


Long story short, I lost all four games, and I didn't even break 90 (although I've done much worse---I remember one game when I was in my teens when I actually bowled a 21). I decided that there are very few things I'm consistent at as a bowler: 1) my bowling speed is usually in the 5-7 mph range, 2) I use the lightest ball out of anyone else there (including kids sometimes!), and 3) I tend to do a dainty little knee-crunch thing when I'm about to let go of the ball. Oh, and 4) I usually lose.

Someday I should get a video of it. I'm sure it would be viewing entertainment for all.

How do you stack up at bowling?


That was Saturday.

Then on Sunday afternoon, Matt got all spontaneous on me and said that we should make an unexpected trip down to Bountiful to make his mom's birthday dinner (which we did).

And I've gotta say, watching Matt with the kidlets and infants is just so darn cute I could die.


How was your weekend?
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