Making It Count

Today I entered the classroom with a huge case of the Mondays.  School seemed overwhelming,  meetings cluttered my schedule, my email inbox was well into the double digits.

When I left school, however, I realized I felt energized and fulfilled.  I was happy in a way I wasn’t earlier that morning.  What was the difference?  Somehow, I did a good job today of putting aside the endless to-do list and focusing on my interactions with students.  Today was a reminder of why I love my job, and my energy levels were a good check-in for how I want to approach my days from now until the end of the year.

To help me stay focused in the craziness of fourth quarter, here are my end-of-year resolutions:

  • Focus on the kids.  They are what are most important and most energizing about my job.  No matter how many papers I have to grade, the parent phone calls I may need to make, the classroom library books that need to be resolved, they are always what matter most.  I can’t get back the face-to-face time I have with them during class.  The moments for laughter, conferencing, and exploring of ideas only happen during class time.  We have six weeks left.  I need to take advantage of every moment.
  • Get down to providing feedback, right away.  This year, I started scheduling my prep.  I’ve worked hard to prioritize and make time during prep for tasks that are meaningful, but that I don’t like to take home with me.  The number one qualifier?  Grading.  (As a side note, I am trying to mentally shift “grading” to an opportunity to provide feedback.  Goal for the future?  Cut out grading entirely, and focus solely on feedback.)
  • Reuse the good.  At this point in the year, I have plenty of curriculum materials to draw from.  I don’t have to create a new lesson idea for every day.  There are many skills we worked on earlier in the year that can be reviewed meaningfully and applied in new and unique ways to their current reading book.  Today’s example?  A throwback to a lesson on uncovering layers of conflict in a novel.  The discussion my students produced around this was nuanced, mind-blowing, and a great reminder that review doesn’t have to be boring.
  • Tolerate discomfort.  I have to remember that everything can’t get done.  My classroom will be messy.  The books won’t get put away.  The lesson slides won’t all have the perfect graphic. And I will probably forget my keys.  I have to remind myself, it’s okay.  What matters is the kids.

I half a month and a half left with these kids.  I want to make it count.

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Reflections on the National Day of Silence

 

The Breaking the Silence party was over.  Art supplies, half-finished drawings, and dirty paper plates littered the tables.  It was Friday evening, and the students were gone.

In the quiet of classroom, I reflected on the day.  By all measures, The National Day of Silence at our middle school was a success.  Students who took the Vow of Silence wore a black ribbon and remained silent the entire day.  Students, staff, and the administration wore rainbow ribbons in abundance, showing their support.

In my English Language Arts class, students read about the Day of Silence, explored statistics for LGBTQ+ youth in Wisconsin, and connected the day to the essential and guiding questions of our current reading unit, the Justice Unit.

Leaving this day, one student’s thoughts have stayed with me.  This student did not wear a rainbow ribbon.  He did not take the vow of silence.  He sat in the back of the room and chose not to participate in our class discussion. But he was deeply engaged.

Reflecting on the Day of Silence, he writes, “The way society…looks down and belittles LGBT people affects their mental state, brining them into depression or trying to conform to society’s expectations.  This is bad because they lose creativity and self interest.  This means that we lose potential scientists, engineers, and political activists.”

In the muted tones of the day today, that loss of potential was felt and mourned.  My student’s acknowledgment of this moved me and gives me hope.

To read more about the National Day of Silence, check out the GLSEN “Day of Silence” page.