Crowd Sourcing?

Today many of my kids discovered the wonders of a shared document with editing rights. Many of them have never used that feature in Google Docs before, and it seemed to be especially fun when it’s projected for the whole class to see.  My biology class is in the midst of writing a lab report for the first time.  When I took an informal poll, only a hand full of students in my honors sections knew what a lab report was.  So I created a template for each section and shared it with all of them.  As I was showing each period how they needed to create a copy of the template, the edits started rolling in.  Without fail, it happened every single period.  What else could I expect?

Someone replaced the heading of “introduction” with “hola my hombre”

Someone else typed in the name of his friend sitting in front of him and tried blaming it on the friend.

Some one else added in rows and rows of random letters.

Then some one threw in the word “bitches”.  I felt my eyes grow big and my blood pressure rise.  That kid promptly got a stern talking to with time to reflect on her behavior.

I pointed out that we could all see a cursor with their NAME as they type, and the edits still kept coming.  I showed them how I can see who wrote what, and revert back to a previous version, and the edits still rolled in paired with hysterical laughing.  Teenagers.

madewell boy shirt 3 This is a new shirt from Madewell.  It was on super sale in the store, and the only size they had was XS. So fingers crossed it doesn’t shrink in the wash!  It’s double layered, warm, and with interesting details.  I feel a little bit like a cowgirl farmer in it because of the buffalo checks.  madewell boy shirt 5

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glasses: warby parker -cardigan: uniqlo – shirt: madewell – belt: gap – jeans: f21 – boots: steve madden

Mucking Around

The other day, a kid in my first period asked me what crawled up my ass and died.  Yup.  I had gotten tired of his and his friends mucking around (Aussie speak, thanks to B) during class and employed multiple non-verbal “100% engagement strategies” on them all at once.  I stood right next their chairs.  I tapped on the worksheets they were supposed to be paying attention to.  I mimed putting a cell phone away and taking head phones out (teenagers are a cleaver bunch when it comes to illicit technology use in the classroom).  I made eye contact and scanned their work area.  Then finally, I crouched down to their level and asked if they needed help getting started.  “Miss, what crawled up you ass and died today?”  LOLZ.  I chuckled and said something along the lines of “your lack of work”.  Was that appropriate?  Who cares?  The kid who said it got started and got his work done eventually.

Today I wore a new linen button down from Madewell (super sale!).  White shirts are basic, classic and creates an instant “professional” look.  This one in particular is awesome because it’s long enough to cover my entire torso.  Also, I can wear this shirt till I’m old and fabulous as it’s not too teenager-y like other things I have.  Linen is pretty much permanently wrinkled, so it fits my non-ironing life style.  When B’s mum was in town, she actually helped me iron a couple shirts (#winning).  I’m saving those shirts for a special occasion now.

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madewell white linen

glasses: warby parker – shirt: madewell – belt: urban outfitters – jeans: j.brand via nordstrom rack – boots: steve madden

Fallin for a Safety Net

There is something to be said about high quality professional development. When you participate in a good one, you can walk away with immediate ideas and an implementation strategy to try out the very next day. You know the PD was worth your time when you learn something new that blows your mind a bit and makes you excited to try it out. This was how I felt after a PD led by one of my colleagues recently on “close reading”. I had been struggling with teaching my students how to read independently AND gain useful information from their reading. None of my students in Brooklyn were reading at grade level and I never really knew how to teach them reading comprehension strategies. Of course I took a literacy class in my credential program, but that was more theory and not at all practical applications of teaching literacy.  At most, I annotated for/with them and hoped that things stuck after some questioning and discussion. Here in Denver, some of my honors kids are reading at or above grade level, but I still have a majority who will read fluently, but without full understanding. It’s refreshing to have a short PD that teaches you something concrete, useful and simple to implement the very next lesson. In addition, it’s super helpful to have somewhat of a safety net in the form of a fellow teacher right at your school to help clarify routines, and give you tips.  If you want more information on close reading, check this out (though it’s much more useful to see it in action).

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glasses: warby parker – cardigan: madewell – tank: banana republic – pants: urban outfitters – boots: steve madden

This outfit is from the day I incorporated close reading into my lesson on Potential and Kinetic Energy.  I know these pants aren’t the most flattering for my body type with it’s slouchy look.  But hot damn, they’re comfortable.  They were also just $15 from the sale section at Urban Outfitters.  They’re still on the website (but for $30 – I got them at an extra 50% off), the Silence and Noise Winston Trousers.  They’re thick and warm for this freezing weather in Denver, and have I mentioned how comfy they are yet??

Made By Mommy

My mom grew up in a time and a place where there weren’t a lot of fast-fashion type stores to shop at.  She was born and raised in Vietnam, though my family is ethnically Chinese.  Back then, their version of shopping was shopping for fabric, and they all learned how to sew for themselves.  Even now I think my mom gets a thrill out of finding great fabrics for a good price.  So when my sister and my mom travelled to Myanmar this past fall, she brought home a stack of really cool embroidered fabrics.  She let me pick out the ones I liked the most, and sewed me a couple of skirts.  My mom has always been resourceful and ingenious — I think in her past life she must have been an engineer.  She took my favorite J.Crew #2 Pencil skirt, turned it inside out to show the seams, and used it to trace out a pattern.  After a number to try ons, lots of taking in and letting out seams, I left Washington DC with 2 perfectly fitting skirts in gorgeous fabrics.  I wore one of them yesterday to school and it is now my most conformable skirt, ever.  My mom is amazing.

By the way, my Honors Bio kids have been killing it lately learning about cellular transport.  I’ve never had such an easy time teaching this subject.  They’re making connections left and right, applying osmosis to their own lives and asking fantastic questions.  Lessons that took 3 days to get through in the past took me ONE day with this bunch.  Amazeballs.  Revamped curriculum and honors level kids FTW!

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necklaces: etsy (gift from b) similar and f21 – tank: alternative apparel – cardigan: j.crew – skirt: sewed by my mom – boots: steve madden – fitness tracker: fitbit

Q1 in the bag

Today is the last day of the first grading quarter at school.  One in the bag, three more to go.  The end of the quarter also means it’s “final product” time for the kids – the one major “assessment for learning” project to demonstrate their “mastery” of the unit’s “learning targets”.  A bit of teacher speak for big assignments in every class.  For me, final product time means I’m spend a lot of time “scaffolding” the project I’ve assigned and giving lunchtime and after school help with writing lab reports, graphing, and making sense of experimental data.  This year, I’ve decided to get two birds with one stone and assigned the kids a state mandated lab report as their final product.  It’s been a 2 week process so far, with a lot of hand holding along the way.  It’s looking good though and I’m optimistic about the quality of work I’ll be getting come Monday.  I can’t even count how many brain cells I’ve devoted to making this learning process as painless and accessible as possible.  I’m feeling a lot of coulda-shoulda-wouldas for last year’s curriculum.

In the meantime, if you come here to check out outfits, you’ve probably been disappointed this past month.  I’ve been MIA, mainly because I’ve been sticking to this teacher uniform, and I’ve been on a shopping ban.  Also, it’s been pretty crisply cold here in Brooklyn – winter is here.  This morning, I figured I’d splash out some bit of color and warmth with an old summer skirt.  I swear it looked better in my head this morning while I spent 5 precious minutes staring blankly into my closet.  In real life, I’m actually not a big fan – an experiment gone bad.  You win some, you lose some, right?

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glasses: warby parker – scarf: topman – t-shirt: everlane – belt: gap – skirt: anthropologie – tights & cardigan: uniqlo – boots: steve madden

put a bird on it

I’ve been away for these past couple weeks.  There was camping, a college tour trip with my crew to upstate NY, and just plain ole’ lack of motivation.  It’s the end of a trying week, so this morning i figured I’d just put a bird on it and be done with it.

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cardigan and tights: h&m – dress: hi there by karen walker (old, from perth) – boots: steven – bag: freitag – necklace: unicorn crafts

Progress

Today was progress report day.  I gave each and every student a print out showing learning targets and their progress towards meeting them (aka did you do your assignments).  It was a huge hubbub and I’m now officially the most unpopular teacher at school.  The kids were in a tizzy and I even had 2 students storm outside for a break in the hall to collect themselves.  It’s appalling to me how many students come to school every day and still manage to complete absolutely zero assignments – no classwork, no lab, no quizzes, and most definitely no homework.  For some reason or another (I’m still mulling it over), this quarter has been an especially bad one.  In one class out of 30 students, only 7 have a passing grade or higher.  That means even if I “discount” students who never show up, I’m maintaining a 30% passing rate.  I have an abysmal HW return rate – they just don’t do it.  I also expect students to not only do their work, but to do it well and according to the guidelines of the assignment.  I don’t give credit for “effort”, meaning if I ask about osmosis and they scratch something out about Osmosis Jones, I don’t take it.

So this begs to question, “What am I doing wrong!?”  By the end of my third section of Living Environment class, I’d fallen into a pit of self-doubt.  After all, if so many kids are failing, it MUST be me and NOT them.  I’m doing something wrong, I need to change something.  Is that true?  Or have I been brainwashed by all the anti-teacher rhetoric floating around out there?  These grades (or lack of grades, rather) has weighed heavily on me all day, so I went searching for answers.  I gave my classes time to air grievances and make comments, I conferenced with my co-teacher and I even sought advice from my administrator (“let me think about that one…”).  This is what I learned today:

Student #1: “You grade too hard miss!  I struggle in all my classes, but yours way more than others!”

Student #2: “You’re too strict!  I worked so hard on this and you still only gave be a 2.1 (we use standards based grading where 1=not meeting the learning target, 2=approaching the target, 3=meets the target and 4= excels at the learning target)!

Student #3: “You give too much work!”

Student #4: (to another student, right in front of me) “I can’t even listen to her talk right now, I’m too pissed.  Ugh, she needs to just shut up!”

Student #5 “WHAT? This is mad f-ed up!  I do all my work!”

-I should have other teachers grade my lab reports and compare scores.  Maybe I am too strict with grading.  I use a rubric, which the kids have a copy of.  Maybe I need to ease up on sticking to it.

-I need to ease up on assigning homework, and/or I should not count all of them, just some.

-The kids thought I was laughing at them sinisterly when in fact I was trying to force a smile while they were all voicing their discontent.  My uncomfortable smile apparently = evil I’m-out-to-get-you laugh.  Crap.

-I just need to ease up in general.

In my defense, this is how I help support my kids academically with their work:

-I scaffold the shit out of every assignment I give by outlining reports for them, giving them graphic organizers, vocabulary instruction, etc.  I practically hold their hands through every assignment.  My co-teacher even created a “fill in the blank” lab report for my SPED (special-ed) and ELL (English language learners)!

-I give written feedback on every assignment I hand back.

-I’m available at any hour of the day for tutoring or help in person, over email or even by phone.  The kids have all my info, for real.

-I allow practically unlimited time for turning in assignments.  I accept any and all late work up until the day before grades are due.

-I allow for revisions: If a kid is not happy with his/her grade, they can revise their work (based on my feedback) and re-submit it.

-I assign work that is within their reach with realistic timelines (I think), such as “write a paragraph on whether or not the BRCA gene should be patented, using my given topic sentence”.

So, what do you guys think?  What do I need to change?  How can I up my passing rates without compromising my ethics and just pushing kids through?  My grade team had a discussion around broken grading practices and how to fix them last monday.  I need to continue the discussion.  Please help.

In the meantime, here’s what I wore today, pencil in hair, sinister smile and all.

Progress

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shirt: madewell – belt: j.crew – jeans: bdg – socks: juicy couture (gift from my sister years ago) – boots: steve madden – necklace: my popo via mommy