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Organizing Important Student Info

This post is probably more for teachers than parents, but it might give parents some insight into what we teachers do besides plan lessons, grade essays,, and teach their kiddos. :)
Every year I am inundated with emails containing very important information about my students.  Some of the emails contain Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), 504 plans, and important medical information. In addition, I have parents fill out a digital form (I love Google), and one of my questions is whether or not they have anything important they'd like to share with me regarding their child. Many parents tell me things like: my child wears glasses, my child has ADHD, my child has been homeschooled since kindergarten, etc.  With 150ish students, the amount of information I receive can be overwhelming. In the past, I created folders in Google for IEPs and 504s, but they are easy to access. The information was not organized by the period in which I had the student either. The emails I received we…
Recent posts

Winning Over the Challenging Chihuahuas

Ten days ago (it feels like ten years ago), my sister arrived at my door to drop off her beloved Gidget. She and her family were going on vacation to Hawaii. I love dog sitting and have dog sat Mastiffs, Golden Retrievers, and Boxers.  I love dogs so much that I do it for free!  I figured Gidget would be no different, but boy was I wrong.

All was well until my sister left.  As soon as she pulled out of the drive away, Gidget glued herself to the front door and began to whimper.   I forget to mention that Gidget is a three-pound chihuahua with eyes that bug out like two huge marbles. She is not attractive (Dawn, if you're reading this, I'm sorry).  I figured she'd mellow out eventually but at 3AM her whimpers became howls peppered by high-pitched barks.  I closed my bedroom door and turned on the fan to drown out the sound. No dice. By 5AM, I was desperate and went downstairs to see what I could do. Suddenly,I was her worst enemy. She began to growl and show her small, razo…

Planning Ahead

It's summer, and I am enjoying my freedom. However, I have devoted quite a bit of time to planning for next year. I've been creating a brand new website, collaborating with other teachers, helping to develop a new writing prompt for all seventh-grade students,  and contemplating ways to capture the hearts and minds of my students in the upcoming year.

 Of course, I have had time to relax. During the school year I don't have much time to read books of my choosing. I've read several this summer:  Fates and Furies, The Promise,The Wife Between Us, Everybody Always, and even a trashy true crime book!  I also purchased Great Alone by Kristen Hannah, as well as Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.  I  visited my dad in Joliet, Montana!  What a culture shock!  Population of 497! SO beautiful but overjoyed to step back on to San Diego soil.  

Back to teacher talk!  One of my challenges in the upcoming year will be differentiating instruction for both my honors and college prep…

Fishbowls and Pokerchips

Everyone English teacher knows about Fishbowl Discussions and Socratic Seminars.  If they go well, you may feel like you are Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society (yes, I am dating myself).  If they go badly (and believe me, they can), you may feel like you chose the wrong career.  In a fishbowl discussion, I noticed that many students get nervous when they are on the inside having the discussion and half of the class is staring at them.  I also noticed how much some of them struggle to find something meaningful to say.  When put on the spot, they sometimes struggle to come up with a good question to ask.  Sometimes it seems so serious and awkward. I mean, isn't being in middle school awkward enough? We've all been there!

So, while driving home from school  one day, I got an idea. We are reading The Giver, and we're five chapters in. It was the perfect time for a juicy discussion. That week I made one of my stations, a question station.  Students were given a handout with fi…

Reflecting on a Tragedy in my City

Last Saturday morning,  two sets of parents said goodbye to their beloved children.  One of them headed off to dance practice at Mission Hills High School. The other, was likely attending baseball practice at that same school.    At approximately 11:00 a.m. these same two sets of parents received the worst news they will ever receive.  For one parent, it was the news that their beautiful daughter, Lauren, had been struck by a car while walking on the sidewalk. She died on the scene. She had been walking back to the school after heading to 7-11 for a quick snack during a break in dance practice.  For the other parent, it was the news that their son had been involved in a car accident--an accident resulting in a fatality.   Lauren was a senior, just weeks away from graduation. She has a twin sister.   The driver,  a sixteen-year-old and baseball player  at that same school.  Since hearing this news, I have been experienced such an overwhelming sense of sadness and fear.  I imagine these…

Time to Reflect

This is the time of year when I am already planning for next year.  What went well?  What didn't?  How can I make next year even better than this year?  I find myself being pretty critical of myself.  My goals this year were to give no homework and provide more feedback to students AS they worked, rather than waiting until they turned in an assignment for a grade.  I wanted to make more connections my students, create a student-friendly environment, and make every student feel love and respected.  Finally, I changed my policies and accepted all late work with no penalty and allowed students to redo/retake any assignment or quiz for a higher grade.  Here is what I learned:

1) No Homework-My students loved this (94.5% according to my survey).  I found that I had to rethink everything I did in class to make this work.  I incorporated stations, which helped tremendously.  The most challenging aspect was trying to get all of the reading of novels completed in class, but we did it!  Acco…

Walking Dead Words, Stupid Simile Shuffle, and Stellar Simile Smack Down

I have been having a blast with my creative writing students. This semester I am trying some activities I did not do with my last semester kiddos.  First, we had a Stupid Simile Shuffle. We discussed cliches, connotation of words, and what makes a good simile.  For example, I asked, "Why does it work to say that her teeth were as yellow as corn but not that her lovely dress was as yellow as corn?" Then,  I found a list of horrible similes taken from student writing and cut them into small strips.   There were definitely some doozies. Students had to mill about the room reading their stupid simile to a partner and each partner and to explain why the simile was stupid and didn't work!  Here is a link to the ones I used.  Seldom do I use examples of bad writing to share with my students when teaching them how to write, but I couldn't resist sharing these, and it was evident by their laughter that they enjoyed hearing them. 

Afterwards, students returned to their seats t…