Friday, June 29, 2012


My last post was titled "summer school part one," which denotes that there should have been a "summer school part two" post.  There was not, although I promise that I had excellent intentions of writing part two.  Sometimes intentions just aren't meant to become actions.  I can say that the second half of summer school was just as enjoyable as the first.  Everyone passed on to begin their eighth grade careers and leave the middle school behind.

The week after summer school, I went to an Advanced Placement summer institute for the week.  I went for three reasons. 1) I knocked out five of my seven days of professional development for the summer, which means I don't have to worry about PD until August, 2) it's some of the most useful PD that I think you can attend, and 3) it renews my certification to teach pre-AP courses at the middle school.  I felt like it was a really productive week, and I learned a lot of strategies that I will definitely be using in my classroom next year.  June PD accomplished!  Let the summer fun begin....

Almost. While I was doing all these school things, I also decided that it was an excellent idea to take two online courses.  I'm trying to knock out my masters quickly, for reasons unknown even to me.  The thing is, I'm a big nerd, and I love school.  I'll probably be in college forever.  Anyway, I should have known from the beginning that I was overextending myself for the month of June.  I've written I don't know how many blog posts about the evils of being too busy and how I'm committing myself to a slower pace....yeah right.  I'm a "yes man" to the core, and I LOVE being busy and feeling productive.  I know that I'm like that because I look at my friends and they're like that too, "Sisters, doing it for themselves," to quote one of my favorite songs.

So, while I am beyond excited for the break that I know is coming in the month of July, I just felt the need to say that there is nothing wrong with being busy.  Yes, it will lead to occasional small breakdowns and the need to sometimes have chocolate and frozen yogurt for dinner, but busyness keeps the world running.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Small Successes: summer school part one

Right now, I am blogging because it will give me thirty minutes or so where I will not have to think about the pile of homework I just received from the two classes I started today to work toward my masters. It will give me thirty minutes or so to not think about my own personal frustrations. It will give me thirty minutes or so not to think about the fact that I REALLY need to clean my house.  It will give me thirty minutes to only focus on one aspect of my life in June that I anticipated being as frustrating as the previous statements, but has come to be a really awesome part of my day. Summer School.

I can readily admit that I agreed to teach summer school as soon as my principal asked, but I fully believed that it was going to be terrible.  In my mind, I saw the summer school classes that we all see in the movies.  I saw a bunch of kids who were resentful toward me about having to be there, completely unwilling to learn, and throwing paper wads and spit balls at me and others when my back was turned.  I could not have been more wrong.  I have had the pleasure to teach the first five days of a fifteen-day summer school session to some of the sweetest, most willing kids you could imagine.

Now, I'm not saying school is their favorite place in the whole world.  They're in summer school because they have not succeeded this year.  For some of them, it was because they would rather act up and get sent out of class than make an attempt at school and fail.  For others, there were some major learning gaps that just could not be regained in a class of 28 kids during the regular school year.  Regardless of why they were there, the students in my two summer school classes have thrived with the smaller class size and the individual tutoring time.  It's been thrilling to me to see the "light bulb" affect happen for these kids.

For most of them, the key is validation.  They're so afraid to believe they're right that they second guess themselves.  Building their self confidence in English is what they need more than anything.  I told a kid yesterday, "You can do this. You're so smart." He looked at me like I was a crazy person.  For some, the idea of being "smart" is against the group norms in which they live; it's not "cool" to be smart. For others, who have struggled for years, the concept of being "smart" seems silly and foreign.

The thing is, that everyone is smart.  We're just all different kinds of smart.  Some of those kids can see things and find things in video games that take so much critical thinking it blows my mind. Others are strong athletes, even for their age, and can analyze a basketball court in a split second. Others are amazingly creative and artistic; they can draw so well it makes me jealous.  Regardless of our talents, we all deserve to be praised for our successes, both large and small.  Even if that small praise is just a sparkly smiley face sticker on a worksheet, a little goes a long way.  So this week, I think the lesson I learned is to be a "validator." It's not just the big things that deserve a pat on the back, and that's an easy thing to forget in the busyness of everyday life.  When all we do is rush, the simple successes that others have go unnoticed.  Be a noticer. Be a validator. Celebrate the small successes.