How to learn 23 new *things* in 2 days

For my grade 12’s French oral exam I only put two parameters on the assignment : they had to speak for 5 minutes (in French of course) and they had to teach the class, and myself, something new. I enjoy teaching the grade 12 class for the simple reason that I can trust them to be independent and they appreciate the freedom of choice.

Here is what we learned about in the past couple of days :

do aliens exist? (with photo and video proof – eek!), how to make a WonderWoman costume with things you have at home (with a demo), everything you need to know about volleyball (including the equipment and uniform), DIY lip balm (and then we got to eat try it), all about muay thaï (+demos), how to play guitar (see video below), cupcake decorating 101 (and lots of sampling (the students, not me)), why the cadets are cool (and important), how to maintain healthy hair (the 3 guys in the class LOVED this one!), how to make samosas (after all of those steps we were convinced it’s easier to buy them!), recovery from exercise including proper stretching and massage with a rolling-pin (photos below), DIY skin care (and jars of some nasty looking homemade concoctions that work wonders) and reincarnation.

Variety is the spice of life, non?

Proper stretching technique by TM

Proper stretching technique by TM

Massage à la rolling pin

Massage à la rolling-pin

 

 

Looking on the bright side

It’s all too easy to focus on the negative. People – family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, even perfect strangers – complain, share horrible stories about themselves or the people they know, make judgements or tell you that you can’t do something or that you shouldn’t even try. What is worse than the “You think that’s bad? Wait until you hear this!” line? But the more I look into business and the idea of owning a business (think Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg or Today Matters by John Maxwell), the more I read about the power of what you allow to enter your mind and the thoughts that you allow to stay there and even those that you allow yourself to entertain over and over again. I was recently listening to a Learn & Burn where someone said that the single greatest element that changed their business was that they stopped engaging with negative people. This doesn’t mean that you are overly optimistic or ignorant or that you have your head in the clouds, but that you make a conscious effort to seek and share positivity throughout your day.  As Camilla Eves once said, “there will always be turds!” Yes, there will always be shit to deal with.  But it is so important where we choose to focus our precious time and energy! I did a little experiment the other day where I spent 24 hours purposefully disengaging from negativity and not allowing my self-talk to be negative. It took a great deal of mindfulness and it wasn’t easy but it was worth it! And so now on to making this a habit. It only takes 21 days to form a new habit, right?

I’d like to share a clip of Camilla Eves sharing a funny little story that highlights my point exactly and that inspired this post tonight. Avoid people with straws staring at turds in a beautiful park setting. You’ll see what I mean…

When the teacher is not a good student

em·pa·thy

 [em-puh-thee] 

noun

1.  the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

 

In preparation for my upcoming nuptials I have hired a personal trainer. I have created countless training programs for runners for races from 5k to the marathon and I’ve successfully followed many of my own over the past few years.  For some reason though, when it comes to weight lifting or strength training, I am neither motivated nor savvy.  So, for me, working with a personal trainer has provided me with the motivation (I don’t really have a choice and the money I am paying is motivation enough!) and she is a gifted instructor.  

All of the motivation, money and talented instructors do not necessarily make for a good student though.  Part of my *problem* is that I am a visual learner. When someone talks to me for more than a minute I can’t remember most of the conversation. I take notes all the time. I even take notes when I read for pleasure. If I don’t, I won’t remember what I’ve read!  But even then, my trainer demonstrates an exercise to me at least twice before I do it and still I do not remember what to do (seconds later!).  Add to that that I can usually only manage to do one movement well at a time (ex. run forward) and I am a disaster at this whole training thing.  I have done a few aerobics classes and I am fine until I have to combine the arm movements with the legs! Not. Going. To. Happen. 

So if you can picture the following: My trainer demonstrates the technique for deadlifts 2-3 times. I am expected to do 3 sets of 10 reps each. And then she has to tell me what to do for every rep. She basically talks me through the movement 30 times over! And to my surprise, she doesn’t get angry or frustrated. (Or at least she doesn’t show it on her face.) I on the other hand am so frustrated by this that it probably makes it even harder for me to concentrate on what I am doing (good form and straight back and knees out and tight grip and glutes and and and…)

Which brings me to my classroom! I have always been a good student and, with the exception of math, I excelled in school. But what about those students who just don’t/can’t/won’t *get it*? Aha moment : the way I feel (learn) in the gym is the way they feel (learn) sitting in my classroom. For the expert, whether it be the trainer in the gym or the teacher in the classroom, it is painfully obvious and despite trying to explain the exercise/topic/grammar rule what seems like a million times, it is frustrating when the student can’t then show that they have understood.  Enter negative self-talk. I get frustrated with myself and begin to shut down inside. They do the same.  

Fortunately in my life as a *student* now, I am able to laugh it off (a bit) and I can acknowledge that this is not my forté, be OK with that and do the best that I can (always under close trainer observation). I am (almost) satisfied knowing that I am trying the best I can.  So this is going to translate into my classroom and I’m excited. I will better relate to how my students are feeling when they just can’t *get* something on their own and when I have to hold their hand and walk them through it for their 3 sets of 10 reps of whatever they are doing.

Empathy at work.

 

 

Homework

Ahhh the dreaded homework. And all of the questions that go along with it: when do you assign homework? what kind? how often? how much? to homework check or not to homework check? ETC!

Teaching a second language, I have never been one to assign too much homework. I acknowledge that there usually isn’t a French speaking parent or person at home who can help out and, to be honest, it can be a turn off to the subject as a whole and my goal, at least in my Core classes, is to make language learning fun and something that students want to continue to study (definitely through grade 12 and hopefully beyond!). One of my colleagues assigns homework every night. This philosophy just doesn’t sit well with me but I can see how they justify it to themselves and that it works for them. (Or does it?) In my experience, I can also use the “I don’t assign homework often so when I do, you know it’s important!” line and for the most part, it works!

This year, courtesy of Pinterest, I thought I would try something new! I was excited at this new *idea* and the students reacted quite passionately to it in September. I have these bright orange pieces of paper that students fill out when they do not complete homework or hand in an assignment.  I like this idea for several reasons:

1. I don’t have to worry that I have misplaced an assignment while marking it. Simple and true.

2. Students fill out the date, the assignment and their reason, read excuse, for not finishing it. This is good for two reasons : a) accountability AND

b) the fact that I can show these to parents when the fingers/questions are pointed my way…”why is X not getting Y%”…”well, you see, they have Z number of incomplete homework/assignments.”

3. There is (or was) a slight embarrassment factor. I don’t believe in singling out students in front the of the class but with the older grades the students tend to make *ouh* and *ahhh* sounds at their peers when they have to fill out the bright orange sheet.

So, what is going wrong?

The IB students are assigned homework on an almost nightly basis. It’s not always a lot because I am aware of the demands that are being placed on them in all four subjects, not just mine. However, truth be told, there is not enough time to cover all of the material or to complete all of the work during class time and it has to be done at home and on their own time. The evaluations are also very independent and they leave very little room for differentiation. It’s the nature of the beast. They have to learn to understand the material without me holding their hand (and I would also say that I am a hand-holder and cheerleader more than not!) and they also have to take responsibility and ownership of their learning and their IB journey.

So today, after a four day weekend, more than half of the class did not complete the thematic reading and opinion questions I assigned over the weekend. Out of 22 students, 11 filled out the bright orange sheet and 3, for whatever reason, handed in their incomplete work for me to check (and later realize that they did not do it?!?). Fine. What was perhaps most troubling however were the *excuses*.

“I am lazy.”

“I watched too many hours of TV.”

“I spent 14 hours on the Internet.”

“I was busy.”

Pardon me? I am curious as to what parents will say when they see the reasons their children are providing for not doing their homework. I guess the numbers left me a little surprised and the reasons left me perplexed.

So, I turn to you, good people. How do you deal with homework? Incomplete homework? Fortunately, I did communicate this home in the early assessment letters but it is still troubling me. Do I call home too? Part of me is saying to myself “let it go; you’ve done your part” but the type-A in me wonders how anyone can NOT do their homework and then be SO honest as to why!

Don’t let the blogging end

I’ve come to the end of my first week of blogging. 

A recap :

I learned that : teaching in a portable isn’t so bad after all (at least not for one day!), we cannot choose what stays and what fades from our mind, far too many soups I used to eat have milk or cream in them 😦 , D2L = desire2learn, we can always learn new things about our friends no matter how well we think we know them, a sequined top and a projector do not mix, being mindful is powerful and beneficial to every day life and making a prezi is a new, fun and easy way to change up an ordinary lesson.

Image

A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. In this case, the author is me and the sentence is my blog. 

To be continued…

 

Making friends with a portable

Today I tried something new. My colleague was sick and asked me if I could set up a movie for her classes. The problem : she teaches all three periods in a portable. I wouldn’t expect a supply teacher to set up a projector to show a movie and getting a TV *cart* across the parking lot and up the portable stairs was not something I wanted to attempt. (Can you imagine that post?!) So, I decided to swap classes with her for the day. I set up the TV/movie in my classroom and I met my students in her portable.

I have never taught a class in a portable before. It is like a little community out there in the parking lot! It was better than I expected. I think that sometimes we get the idea that the portables are these horrible places to be – admittedly it wasn’t too hot or cold outside today which I think added to the comfort level – but it was kind of fun! For one day anyways. I think it makes a huge difference when you have your *own* portable, i.e. you teach all of your classes in that one room and share it with only one other teacher and for only one other period.

There is no wi-fi and the overheard projector screen hung on the blackboard from two holes that were put (ripped?) in it. There is very little blackboard space – and I am a writer! – but for one day all of these *challenges* were easily overcome. The students worked well in the space despite the smaller desks (grade 12s look pretty big in a smaller room with smaller desks than I am used to). I missed some of my easily accessible resources. But, overall, I had a trial run at what it is like to teach in a portable (for a day) & I am grateful for my lovely classroom IN the school.