#SOL19 Day 28 – Helicopter Teacher?

I hear the term “helicopter parent” all the time these days, but is there such a thing as a “helicopter teacher”? You know what I mean. Those teachers that some say do too much for their students.

In my opinion, no.

Reason #1: Time – Most parents live with their children. I see my students about one hour for a class that meets four times in a six-day cycle. That’s, at the most, four hours per week! Quite a difference! I find myself scrambling for any time I can get with them, and often that’s before school, after school, or during study halls. There’s just never enough.

Reason #2: Amount of Kids – I teach six classes, which is a total of 93 students. I have yet to meet a parent with ten kids, let alone 93! Even elementary teachers have around 20. That means I have 93 different learners. I often cannot get to every kid in class, even though I try my best. So, I often send out Reminds about upcoming deadlines. I seek them out in their study halls to catch up with them. I ask them to see me in Homeroom.

Reason #3: School Years End – Parents are (should) be parents for life. In June, I have to say goodbye to my kiddos that I’ve only known since September. That’s 10 measly months! I can only hope that I’ll see them again in the halls, or they’ll stop in to check out a book. Then they move on to the next grade, and the bonding starts again.

So, if a child, who rarely sees me feels comfortable enough to ask me for help, I’m going to help them! Yes I know that kids need to learn responsibility, and yes I know that they should have been doing their work all along, but they are seeking out help. So, I’m going to help! I’m not going to do the work for the child, but I may need to reteach a skill.

Take my conversation with Connor* today. He was a student of mine as a freshman and is now a senior in danger of not graduating. He comes late to school almost every day, and he often appears tired and dejected. Today, he sent me this Remind message: “Ms. K, I need your help. I only have a few months left and it’s not good. Can you talk to my teachers like you said?” (I had mentioned earlier in the week that I’d speak to his teachers and get missing work if he promised to come to school on time, and come to my Homeroom to work on the assignments.) He knows he needs help, so he asked me. So, I am helping. No questions asked. That’s what teachers do, and that’s who I am.

*Student’s name was changed to protect his privacy.

#SOL19 Day 27 – Amidst the Chaos

Anyone who has ever used the workshop model will tell you this: it’s often organized chaos. If someone walks into my classroom, it might look like all hell is breaking loose. But, it’s not. Most kids are working. Take today for example. This is what it looked like today during our writing time:

I’m sitting with Camren, showing him how to organize the highlighted information in his articles.

Jacob is talking to Isabella next to him, explaining what my mini-lesson about organization was just about.

Devon is helping Amanda do a search on a database using Boolean operators.

Sonny is writing in his notebook. (Upon further inspection, I realized this was to organize his source information.)

Alana is shouting to me for help, but then asked Damone, who was seated next to her, instead.

Chase is still looking for his second source, and eventually finds it.

Antonio is bugging his table-mate Josh to look over his intro.

Now, in a class of 26, I know that some of my students are not on task all the time. However, that number is small. I speak to those that are off-task privately.

My students have learned that, though I try, I cannot get around to every single child every day. So, they ask one another questions. They share tips and tricks. They review mini-lessons with one another. They are working, learning, and writing with one another.

#SOL19 Day 26 – You Never Know When They Will Return

As my 4th period class walked in, so did Jay.* Jay looked around, smiled, and stood there as 9th graders walked in and around him. Jay wasn’t a freshman though; he was a senior.

“Hey, Jay! Long time no see!” I said as I walked over. Jay didn’t say anything. He just looked around and continued to smile as he took in his surroundings. “So, read anything good lately?” He shook his head no, so I tried again. “Would you like to take a look around?” He nodded. “Well, what class do you have right now?”

“A study hall,” he said.

“Well, go check in with your teacher, and then come on back,” I replied, secretly hoping that he would.

Screenshot 2019-03-26 at 6.51.07 PM.pngWhen he returned a few minutes later, my 9th graders were reading. “Jay,” I whispered. “Feel free to look around,” and he did. As Jay roamed, I could see a few 9th graders peaking at him out of the corner of their eyes. Jay didn’t even try to speak to them. When he found a title that caught his eye–Superman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Peña–he grabbed it, ventured toward the book nook, took a seat, and dove in.

For the rest of the period, Jay read. Sure, he looked up from time to time, for his curiosity got the best of him, but most of the time he read.

When the bell rang, I walked over. “So, do you want to take it with you, Jay?” I got an immediate nod and smile. “Do you remember how to check it out?” As I finished asking, his hand was already going to the back of the book to grab the sign-out card.

“It was so great seeing you Jay, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of it! The book just came out a few weeks ago, so you will be the first to read it.”

“I will Ms. K. Thanks for letting me stay here.” And out he went with a book in his hand.

*Student’s name was changed to protect his privacy.

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 9.30.58 PM

#SOL19 Day 25 – That Standout Moment

Today was a tough one. I could mention that one student who just stared at the same page, or I could share my frustrations about that class that just couldn’t seem to get started on their research. But I’m not. Today I walked out of the building and though about my interaction with Carter*.

I walked into the main office this morning, and saw him sitting outside the door, waiting to be summoned in. His head was down, and he was rubbing his hands.

“Hey, Carter,” I whispered. “What’s going on?”

He looked up at me, and I saw his face lighten up a bit. “Hey, Ms. K. How are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks. What’s going on?” I asked again, as I eyed the door next to him.

“Well…you see…” he started, but I could see his fear heightening. I knew a lot was going on at home, and he was struggling to keep up with his school work for multiple classes. He’s a senior, and currently in danger of not graduating.

“Oh, never mind that. You know what? I don’t see you enough anymore. How about you stop by during Homeroom tomorrow?”

“Well,” he laughs, sounding a bit embarrassed. “I’m not exactly here much for Homeroom.”

“That’s okay,” I reply. “I’m sure you make it sometimes. I see you! Check in to Homeroom tomorrow, and then come down to my room. We can talk about school, or whatever.”

“Really? Well, I guess I could. Yeah,” he says, shaking his head. “I could,” he answered.

“Wonderful! I look forward to seeing you tomorrow,” I whisper as I head out.

No matter what happens tomorrow morning, I will see him soon.

*Student’s name was changed to protect his privacy.

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 9.30.58 PM

#SOL19 Day 24 – Reminiscing

Sometimes we need to get away. You know what I mean. A little bit of time with those we don’t see very often. That time for reminiscing about “the good ol’ days,” before we became adults, professionals, and parents.

That time for me was this weekend. One of my best friends from college was the first of our group of four to turn 40. She didn’t know we’d be there, and it had been almost four years since we’d all been together.

It was wonderfully memorable and epically amazing. We’ll need to do it again soon.

#SOL19 Day 23 – More About Mentor Texts

I read a lot. I often read to be entertained, but I also read to learn and discover.

I am always on the look out for the next great mentor text to share with my students. It could be a picture book, middle grade novel, article, infographic, YA novel, or even an adult novel. Great writing is everywhere.

Lately, I have been looking for mentor texts that I want to use with my seniors next year. I haven’t taught seniors before, but I had the majority of these students as freshmen. I don’t want to reuse any mentor texts from that year, so right now I am just looking to collect new titles.

Screenshot 2019-03-16 at 1.16.23 PMMy latest find is American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures, edited by America Ferrera, which my cousin shared with me. Ferrera, the television star best known for her role in Ugly Betty, asked other celebrities to write about their stories about life between cultures.

One particular piece that I connected with was by Padma Lakshmi, who is a best-selling author and executive producer of Bravo’s Top Chef. Lakshmi shares her curiosity about Catholicism, which was the religion most of her American classmates practiced. Lakshmi’s frustration with her own Hindu religion reminded me of my frustrations with being Jewish.

IMG_2710.JPGSo, I decided to write my own piece. I did a quickwrite to get my thoughts down (see below), sharing my anger and concerns I had as a young Jewish girl who just wanted to be like her Catholic peers. I didn’t want to go to Temple on every Friday night while the rest of my friends went roller skating. They were fascinated by my religion, and I just wanted to get away from it.

After my quickwrite, I realized my students could do the same in September. These pieces could introduce themselves to me and one another.

I began rereading Lakshmi’s story, noting all the different writing techniques I could share and model once my students begin revising. I made notes about writing challenges I could have students work on to prepare, challenging them to find writing moves themselves.IMG_2711

All of these teaching ideas came from reading. Sure I read for entertainment, but I have also created the habit of reading like a writer. I hope, with this activity, my future seniors will begin to create this habit too.

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 9.30.58 PM

#SOL19 Day 22 – The Power of the Book Talk

Screenshot 2019-03-21 at 6.27.37 PM.png

As my 9th graders walk in today, I greet them with a smile and friendly hello. A few students peak at what’s in my hands: Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. It’s my book-talk title for the day, and they know it. When the bell rings, I begin.

“How many of you remember who Emmett Till is?” A bunch of hands go up and a few Ooh! Ooh! Oohs! are shared before I call on Kevin*.

“He’s that boy who was murdered by three men for whistling at a white woman,” Kevin replied.

“Yes. Thank you Kevin. Well, the 12-year-old main character in Ghost Boys, Jerome, meets the ghost of Emmett Till.” A few confused looks appear as I continue. “You see, Jerome was shot and killed by a police officer who believed that he was carrying a gun. Jerome was carrying a gun, but it was a toy gun. He was playing in an abandoned lot with it when the police showed up. After Jerome dies, he meets Emmett Till, who helps Jerome try to process what happened. Jerome also meets the police officer’s daughter, who is also trying to process what her father did.”

I open up the book and read the first three pages. The students are hooked. A few pens enter hands as they add the title to their to-read list.

“I like how this sounds a little like All American Boys, but also different,” says Kevin.

“You’re right, Kevin. There are some similarities, but Ghost Boys is it’s own story. Author Jewell Parker Rhodes was alive when Emmett Till was killed, so that event, and the much more recent death of Tamir Rice, were two events that inspired this book.”

A few more questions are asked, and then students begin picking up their own books to begin reading. Kevin, who doesn’t have his book today, asks, “Mrs. K, can I read Ghost Boys for today? It sounds amazing!”

I hand him the book and he quickly gets started. Another reader sucked in to reading by the power of a book talk.

*Student’s name was changed to protect his privacy.

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 9.30.58 PM