Back to School Night – Menlo-Atherton HS, 2017

image of back to school night home pageOK, maybe I’m in the minority, but I really like Back to School Nights. I appreciate the parents taking time out of their busy lives to come in and get a sense of who is teaching their students.

Tonight was no different. Great parents, lots of appreciation expressed, and a few good questions thrown in (not much time in ten minutes to ask questions).

Unfortunately, as usual, the higher academic classes have higher turnout of parents. Why? I can speculate about amount of free time, ability to get off work early, etc. But in the end, I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault (I suspect that all parents want their kids to be successful in school), it’s just a reality.

Thanks to all the parents who did make it out (and thanks to all those who didn’t for trusting your students in my care).

Here are handouts of the slides I used:

 

Extra time on quizzes: Why you need individual work

photo of students being loud

Today was a great day.

My students had a short quiz, and I wanted to make sure they all had plenty of time to complete it. I thought it would take them about 20 minutes to finish it (most finished in 15-20 minutes), but wanted to allow plenty of time for students who require ‘extra time’ (whether LD diagnosed and on an IEP or not diagnosed). I set the timer for 30 minutes, and, since my school is a BYOD school (every student has a computer of some kind), I created an assignment on our learning management system (Schoology, see screenshot below).

Before the quiz, I spoke with my students about what I was doing, sharing my concern with being able to provide in-class time for students who need extra time, but not having those who finish quickly sit around waiting for others to finish. Most of them understood and thought this was a good idea.

And, when the moment of truth arrived, when most were done with the quiz, the class was still pretty quiet. No students whispering to each other (well, only occasionally), and most working on their chemistry.

Of course, I should do this all the time, but sometimes I forget. Today was an example of the importance of a complete lesson plan.

Screenshot  of my Schoology assignment

Image of Schoology page with assignment

Classroom photo image source.

How do you avoid spending too much time with Twitter?

Twitter bird inside someone's head

OK, I admit it: I can get sucked into the vacuum of social media and find myself having spent more time on it than I desire. Last December, with grades coming due, I decided to take a ‘vacation’ from Facebook. I’ve largely been off it for about seven weeks (I did jump on a few times to arrange my annual birthday dinner), and while there are things I miss (mostly family updates), I’m thinking of continuing my vacation, or maybe just checking in with some of my groups once a week.

Twitter bird inside someone's headBut then there’s Twitter. I largely use Twitter for my professional development. I’m a teacher, and I follow many people/organizations  that provide me with great tools to use in my classroom; and likewise I share many resources with those who follow me. But, how do I avoid getting sucked into this vacuum of learning–I can justify the time spent because the links I follow are mostly valuable.

Some tools I have used:

  • Set myself a time limit (and try to stick to it).
  • Ask myself “Do I really need to follow this link?”
  • Don’t feel bad if I decide to “Unfollow” someone.

What tools/tips do you use/have? Please share yours in the comments below.

180: Day 24: Fundraising for the whole school

SHCP 2015 Walkathon image

Most schools these days need to do fundraising, whether they be public or private. The last two weeks at Sacred Heart Cathedral has been “Walkathon weeks.” Students collect donations from relatives, neighbors, and friends. It’s our one big student fundraiser of the year. The final day is the Walkathon itself. Students meet at the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park. After taking roll and some spirit-building games, we’re off on the walk. Four miles later, we’re back in the bleachers for a bit more spirit, then everyone walks to the nearby meadow for lunch. After lunch, students and teachers are free to go.

I enjoyed the walkathon, and think it’s a great opportunity for community building (as well as to make some money). Having a full day (well, half-day in reality) where our community gets together without academics or athletics gives us a chance to chat and just enjoy life together. The parent volunteers are wonderful, and lunch is a great finisher for the day (they even had plenty of vegi-burgers!). Since they have the afternoon off, I heard about some of the students were heading down to the beach (September in San Francisco tend to have the most sun, and we lucked out this weekend).

This might be harder for a public school to pull 0ff (in California, there is a minimum number of hours required to make a day count as a “full day” for finances), but I think it could be done. SHC has worked out many details in 26 years; if you’re interested in more details, here’s the Walkathon home page, or leave a question in the comments section below.

It will be a great day when we don’t have to have fundraisers in schools, but in the mean time, this model is a great one.

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