Saturday, December 22, 2012

Twas the Week Before Christmas

'Twas the week before Christmas,
and all through the school, 
children were acting quite like a fool,
The teachers were dreaming of the holidays with flair,
in hopes that sweet sleep soon would be there.

I expected this past week at school to be completely chaotic.  I was pleasantly surprised.  My kiddos have, yes, been excited (though arguably not as excited as us teachers), but have mostly behaved and only been a little wired.  

I woke up Wednesday with absolutely no voice.  As in, couldn't get the dog to come from across the yard because I couldn't make any sounds.  I just knew the kids were going to absolutely run over me because they knew I couldn't say anything to stop them.  Luckily, I texted a sweet college friend before I left for work, and she suggested making typing/ writing everything to my kiddos as a game instead of just typing/ writing.  I did, and it worked splendidly! Nevermind that she's an early childhood teacher and I teach upper middle school.... it worked! All but one of my classes were excellent.  I didn't have to remind kids to stay in their seats, to lower their volume, nothing.  As a plus, many of my kiddos were genuinely concerned about me, which may have motivated their behavior.  

It's been a busy week at the "Skreet," as our students call our rusty old building.  Monday (and the following days) were filled with hugs from my babies, who hadn't learned anything from us about Connecticut on Friday, reminders about security protocols, and some really good, thought provoking discussions with two of my classes about school security and safety.  Actually, we missed the National moment of silence yesterday (Friday) because we were in an assembly.  I'd already told my class that we'd be observing it, and that I'd chosen to spend one second in silence/thought/ prayer for each victim.  When we got back from the assembly, several of the kids raised their hands and informed me that we'd missed the moment of silence.  I told them that I knew but that we'd been in the assembly.  As a class, they chose to observe the moment of silence late and, even after it was over, remained thoughtful and quiet for a little while.  Pretty impressive for the last day of school before a holiday break, eh?

We've been working on all sorts of projects as we finish up our long unit on the human body systems.  Half of my kids have been writing their own versions of The Night Before Christmas in their writing class, so I addressed that in my room as well.  I found a great cell style version of the story and posted it on my door.  It was a good review for the kiddos.  We also made a classroom quote/ doodle page.

Nutrition extra Credit- analayze your favorite foods' nutritional values.  As a plus, I had a couple of kids who actually brought in some foods that I'd eat. :)  It made me think of my 30 days on the plate friends.

 Santa let us know how our progress was coming behavior-wise...

We took off on the "Organ Trail" to search for naughty organs.... some of the kids got really into it, creating rewards, etc.  A lot of what I noticed is based on their levels of experiential knowledge, which will be another post in not-too-distant future.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

On the 12th day of Christmas....

I literally got 12 drummers drumming.  I help out with the band during my planning as often as I can, and our Christmas show is coming up, so I got to hear all the drummers practicing.

In other news, this slightly OCD teacher loves things like 12/12/12.  It's had me smiling all day.  Last year, for 11/11/11 at 11:11.11, my class and I celebrated.  (Of course, 11:11 is my favorite minute of the day and I'd told them more than once to make a wish at 11:11.)  They set their own alarm and helped me enjoy it...such sweet kids!

Today, we were taking a benchmark test in Social Studies.  One of my kiddos looked up at the clock and exclaimed, "Oh, Man!!!"  I forgave the disturbance because she seemed so distressed.  Turns out it was 12:20 and we'd totally missed the magic number. :(

In other news, there are other sorts of fun celebrations in my life these days.  Yesterday, I submitted my last final exam for my masters and I am FINALLY done with coursework.  Here's what I've been working on:

holiday baking. :D

I made an ironing board cover!

Maybe ironing will be less painful now?


Sorry, nothing too Earth-shattering here. Just living the dream.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

College Experience

We've been chugging right along at school this month.  We're in session through the 21st this year, which is pretty late for us here in SC.

Yesterday, we got to go to a college basketball game at my alma mater.  Before the game, there was a very brief assembly in the college's auditorium where the kids got to meet admissions counselors, be introduced to the Athletic Director, and speak with the Dean of Admissions.  It wasn't so much a "come to our school" spiel as a "stay in school, and consider college" spiel, which is probably much more appropriate for a group of 5-8th graders from a rural school district.

The kids had a blast, though I don't believe there was too much watching of the basketball game after the first 5 minutes of playing time.  As a friend who works for the college said, "I'm not sure whether I was at a basketball game or a teeny bopper night club."  The kids had a blast, though, and we've had the blessing of being able to use basketball as a real life connection to the respiratory and circulatory systems (as well as the muscular/skeletal systems).  :)

I don't think this can hold a candle to the four years I spent as a student here, but it was a blast for the kids (and the teachers).

Some of my gospel choir girls singing the National Anthem.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's Only Middle School...

This is one of those phrases where I could say, "If I had a nickel for every time I heard.... I'd be rich!"  I hear about it only being middle school in so many different contexts.  Recently, some of my friends and I have been talking about this generation- where we lost them, what happened, what we can do about it, etc.

I can't tell you how often I hear the complaint that middle schoolers think that they're adults from people all over this nation.

Well, no, they're not adults.  They're children, or adolescents, or youth, or whatever other term you find applicable.  Do they sometimes think they're 'grown'? Absolutely. Are many of them forced to grow up before their time? Yes...too many.  This, my friends, is the crux of my post.

Far too many of the kids I work with (when I'm paid and when I'm volunteering) are old before their time.  Generally, it's not their fault.  It's the cancer that has affected them or their siblings.  It's the gang violence, murders committed by family members, family members that are murdered, parents leaving, parents generally being crummy parents (a lot of my kids live in children's or boys' homes), family members in jail, living in childrens' homes, true poverty, immigration issues, illness of guardians, and so forth.

We hold them to such a double standard.  We expect them to act rationally as adults, when in reality, their hormones are raging and it is literally impossible for them to be level-headed.  We expect them to make mature decisions, to do their schoolwork and make school high on their priority list.  We expect them to act politely as (most) adults do in public, to use their manners,  and to be well-spoken.  We expect them not to cave to negative peer pressure.  We expect them to ask when they need help or someone to talk to.  We expect them to deal with their issues in healthy ways rather than adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms.  In short, we expect them to be the model of a well-adjusted adult.

On the flip side, we think they're too young to wear make-up.  We think many of them are too young to be dating, too young to be exploring their sexuality, too young to be parents, too young to be experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and other social temptations.  We think they're too young to get away with speaking frankly to an adult as if they are adults.

We think they're too young to have such heavy burdens on their shoulders.

We think about them often.  Yet what do we do? What should we do? More importantly, what can we do?

I'm speaking for myself here, but these are some of the things I'd like to do:

~to give them a chance to be young in my classroom
~to post more inspirational quotes
~to teach that beauty is much more than skin-deep, and that make-up sometimes makes you less beautiful
~to connect as much of our curriculum to their lives and their background knowledge as humanly possible
~to teach that your words can be much more impressionable than anything you wear or do
~to teach and demonstrate manners, respect for others, and how to deal with conflicts
~to open up with my students and let them know that school really can be a safe haven- explain what it's done for me
~remind them that at least for 8 hours a day, they are safe.  It is seasonally appropriate inside, they are given breakfast and lunch and food for the weekends, those that need it are given school supplies, toiletries, and clothes.  We have adults whose job is to protect our students.
~to make them laugh
~to show that learning is fun, and that it never ends
~I pledge to better show my students that I don't know everything, to let them see me research, and to more often think aloud for them.
~ to love them with a Mama's love, all of them -- For me, this is the biggest task.  Love a child that seems unloveable, provide for them even when they make you want to scream and pull all of your hair out, and teach them academically and socially regardless of what happens.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Youth Development Leadership

Exactly 3 weeks from today is Christmas Day.... that is, if the world doesn't end first. :)

The good news is that even if the world does end, I'll have successfully earned my diploma for my masters in youth development leadership. Talk about a great gift!  I graduate the day before the incorrectly prophesied end of the world.  Plus, I'm gonna look super tacky cute in my orange shoes for graduation!

Tonight is the last night of class I will spend getting my first masters.  I've been in school for the past 19 years, with the exception of the semester I took off my first year of teaching.  It's ending, and it's a little bittersweet.  I love learning.  I really do.  I think it's fun to look up new things, especially with the onset of the verb "googling."  I research all kinds of things.  I study my curriculum regularly to make sure that I can challenge my students and adequately answer their questions.  I'm constantly looking into new ways to try things, ways to be more efficient, new strategies, etc.  I love learning.  I mean, I could arguably do without the stress of finals and tests and major deadlines, but the process is almost addicting.  No worries, I still have two graduate level classes to finish my gifted and talented (aka how to teach brainiacs) add-on that I'll be taking in the spring/ summer.

When I was in college, people talked about how much better college was than high school because you really got to choose your area of study and study your passions.  Since I attended a liberal arts school, there was a very similar vein of conversation about finishing your general education requirements and getting into your major classes.  

Grad school is even better!  I got to take an area that I am passionate about, that really gets me going and motivated and excited, and spend 2 years studying it.  I got to work with (and study under) well-known researchers, leaders in the field, and just overall inspirational people.  And that's just the faculty!

My cohort is phenomenal.  We live and practice youth development and youth development leadership not just in all regions of South Carolina or the US, but in different countries.  We work (sort of) in different disciplines.  We have similar, but diverse, passions.  Some of us work in faith-based organizations, some of us work for the federal and state governments, some of us work for non-profits, and some of us work for private organizations.  

I have learned as much from my peers as I have my professors, and I think that is a truly phenomenal aspect of our program.  I've applied much of what I've learned already in daily life, but I'm looking forward to being able to do so even more and maybe find a way to further channel that passion in the future.

Most of us. :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

'Tis the Season

It's finally December 1st! I can get all ready for Christmas, watch the 25 days of Christmas, and enjoy the Advent season. We're leading up to my favorite day of the year- Christmas Eve.

Here are some highlights from Thanksgiving and this season:

~paper sent to committee in preparation of my comprehensive review...eek!
UPDATE: I PASSED! Unanimous vote of 3/3 professors on my committee.. Now to suck it up and dig through the last two weeks of the semester, and then I will officially have my masters in Youth Development Leadership. :)

~Finishing up the Christmas shopping...I love giving gifts, so most of my shopping was already finished, but now I'm officially done with Christmas.  Minus decorating my house, wrapping presents, and finishing touches on a few crafty gifts.

~My mixer has naturally, I need to make a cover for it.  I picked a red corduroy fabric to match my kitchen.

 ~My little brother's last Thanksgiving stateside for at least a few years.

 ~Gobbling till I wobbled.

~Spending time with the family

 ~Crafting and decorating for Christmas.

~Rivalry football games. (And introducing a Yankee to the Clemson-Carolina game).

~Parades, Christmas music, the Holiday Festival of Lights on James Island, SC, and lights here in my little town. :)

~Family Christmas card pictures...