Most in the Summertime

This year, a few of my kiddos came to class tired. Heads down, non-participatory. I remember poking them and asking what was wrong. “We went to the gym yesterday and now we’re sore,” they said. It was a strange reminder that newcomer students do (frequently) do the things that mainstream students do. (I still made them do work – ain’t nobody got down for heads-downedness)

I had a chance to empathize with this at the beginning of June. School in our district ends in May. I spent the first week doing tons of exercise. Maybe because it’s something I don’t do enough during the year. Maybe because I had nothing else to do.

At any rate, I was pretty sore for the first week and suddenly understood what the kiddos were going through, post-gym in class (note to self: Don’t accidentally set the “Do 100 PushUps App” to 40 pushups during the first week. 10 is plenty).

Which is a roundabout way of saying that it’s summer and stuff needs to get done.

I tend to tailor how I talk about what I’m doing to my audience. People who assume teaching is all about 3 months off in the summer get a slightly harsher, more defensive, ramped up version. People from school who know what the school year looked like (and how I looked like going through it) get a slightly softer version.

Here’s How It Was:

  • Last day of school: Throw classroom in a box (“cleaning”). Fly to New York state for a friend’s wedding the day after school. Wake up to thunder and lightning which promptly clears and dries out for the ceremony.
  • Week 1: Wander around New York City. Be thankful for rain.
  • Week 1.5: Go to a 2-day district training about Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (how to create a positive school culture and what to do when students fall off that wagon). Super interesting. Wish we’d had more time.
  • Week 2: Help revise district curriculum. Last year, the district tested out a Common Core curriculum in all district schools. There was a lot of feedback and 3 of us spent 5 days making one better (there were lots of other people working on other units). Fascinating to see what things look like at a district level and to really dive into these units, progressions and standards. There’s never really enough time to get things done. Sigh.
  • Week 3: Go back to New York (thanks school, for covering costs) and visit sister schools in our network as they wrap up their portfolio processes. For these schools (which have been around much longer than ours), seniors needs to present and defend a portfolio of their work in order to graduate. This happens in place of standardized testing. So fascinating to see the amount of individual/small group teacher/student time that this takes as well as how their school culture leans towards “Portfolios are important because they are a more authentic assessment of learning”. Still thinking about how that affects our portfolio process at the 9/10 level (which is more reflective and less content-based).
  • Week 4: Um. Sleep? Exercise? Decide that if I spend 2 hours of productivity per day, we’ll call it a win. (Also, help to revise Advisory Scope and Sequence across grades 9-12 at our school. And when unsure, put everything into Google Spreadsheets)
  • Week 5: Go to friend’s wedding overseas. Read on the beach. (Mostly books given to me by a friend last summer. Oops.)
  • Week 6: Travel up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Catch up with friends. Frantically prep for:
  • Week 7: More traveling. And Knowles Summer meeting. Go to fascinating sessions. Talk to math and science teachers about…everything – curriculum, work/life balance, what’s working, what’s hard.
  • Week 8: Unpack 3 weeks of dirty clothing before going to hang out with a friend in Texas who I’ve been meaning to visit forever and haven’t gotten around to visiting until now.
  • Week 9: We’re back! 2 days of District Planning Time. In the past, this has looked like our math and science departments taking 2 days to talk about norms and collaboration. We’ve got quite a few new (amazing) people joining us, so this will be a good time to get us all on the same page. We have the rest of the week off, but then are back in school, planning as a staff for a week before the kiddos arrive the next week.

I’m not here much, but it feels like a busy, thoughtful summer in which I can do some thinking and actually get back to being a Real Adult.

Side note: I spent quite a bit of time on the 2nd New York trip texting back and forth with summer school teachers about how to best support one of our mutual students. Next year might be the year to teach summer school, unless I can think of something more entertaining.

Other side note: Those of you keeping track at home will notice that this teacher summer is only 2 months, not the 3 that many people assume.

Other, other side note: This summer’s mantra is “I think I Love You Most in the Summertime”, from this Rhett Miller song.

Picture: Curriculum Planning

Papers from curriculum planningThis is what it looks like when we unit plan. No judgement, please.

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So…How’s Your Summer Vacation Going?

“So…how’s your summer vacation going?”

This is how most of my conversations start these days. With my Mom. With my housemates. With my friends. With people I’m just meeting.

Sure, I don’t technically have to be “at a job”. But it’s been busy. I just haven’t had to be bright and sunny without coffee in front of my kiddos (who I miss, though I see some of them around town). Oh, and I can go to the bathroom whenever I want.

I get defensive about how the general public perceives teachers’ summers, which is totally unreasonable since no one actually asks this question in a negative way. But I do have to remind people that teachers work a lot during the summer when all I really want to be doing is sleeping and watching reruns of Veronica Mars. Hence this post.

Math Tiles

One of the math manipulatives we used in an Urban School workshop.

So here’s what I’ve done:

  • 2 weeks of curriculum writing. In preparation for next year’s district-wide Common Core roll out. Prepared units on mathematical modeling and orientation units on mathematical norms and culture building. Plus a 2 day conference in the middle.
  • 2 weeks of professional development classes. Learned about Mathematical Modeling and picked up a slew of hands-on, interactive tools and tasks (thanks Urban School and Bay Area Mathematics Project). Took one day to rest and one day to begin planning next year’s classes with curriculum partner.
  • 1 week in Latin America. Visited a friend doing work with food security and another friend managing an orphanage.
  • 1.5 weeks on the East Coast for a conference and travel. Bummed around New York. Talked about math, science, inquiry and education with rookie math and science teachers until my head exploded (and went to Friendly’s). Bummed around DC.

I get back tonight and district planning days start on Monday.

The Dog Days are Over, or however the song goes.

El Scorcho

It’s cooler down in the subways than it is above ground. My housemate says New York has one nice week of spring and one nice week of fall. I’m pretty sure that one nice week has passed since it’s now scorching outside (truth: it’s only 80 degrees, but still). So for the second time, I’m steeling myself for another summer in the city and mentally willing myself not to break down and buy an air conditioner. We’ll see.