Most Open Windows on Chrome

Without my planner, I would be flat out struggling through my day. Without Google Chrome, I’d be drifting out into the sea of difficulties. Today I’m going to share my three most open windows. This is mostly applicable to teachers — but it’s got a few helpful hints.Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 12.01.15 PM

  1. Teacherease.com — Teacherease.com is the system we use for attendance and enrollment. This is our third year using it and it gets better each year. It’s relatively easy to use and quite necessary for the school day. If your school is looking into another system, check it out. It’s well-organized and probably inexpensive if my school is using it.
  2. Gmail — Gmail, for obvious reasons, is so great. I’ve never been more pleased with an email/online organization system. Its ease of use and accessibility are so helpful. I have an Android, so it’s bit easier (and WAY more fun and creative looking) to use on my phone. It’s easy to switch between mail accounts because my school moved to gmail last year. If your school is not using gmail: I highly recommend it. I love the email and…
  3. Google Drive — It’s like a filing cabinet for the internet. It’s accessible from any computer and it saves Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoints, PDFs, jpgs… you name it. It’s so convenient for my school worksheets because I can create them ONLINE on my laptop and then immediately access them on my desktop to print. I share my Lesson Plans this way, through a shared folder with my Principal. Instead of having faculty meetings as a department, I send shareable documents that we can edit in real time for discussion later. Love, love, love Google drive.

How do you keep your online presence organized?

MM

New Year, New Look.

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*Note: not only is Philippians misspelled, it is also incorrectly cited. The verse comes from 2:3, not 12:16. I got it confused with a different verse I was memorizing. My bad!*

I confess to be NO genius about organization and tidiness and just general together-ness. This last year has been a whirl-wind! So many people and places, so many victories and mistakes, so, so many memories. Life gets better the older you get, but time passes quicker.

As we all head into a new year, it’s a fun time to reflect and assess what worked and what didn’t. I’ve cut out for myself this workspace on the dining room table (because let’s face it, what millennial doesn’t have a super cool dining set that never gets used for dining?!) Today, I’ll be giving a few of my favorite ways to keep up with life, as well as some new year’s revolutions.

This last year I felt fairly productive, and I have an entirely used-up Day Designer to prove it. I love what Whitney English (Oklahoma native, y’all!) is doing to keep us all organized. This year, I purchased a design that came out from Kayce Hughes. Love the floral. This year’s pages are a bit more card-stockier, which is great! They’ve also redesigned the weekend pages AND the full-month pages. Love it! My biggest issue with planners is the to-do lists. My day is already scheduled according to time (thanks, school!), but I do need a bit more help keeping track of my lengthy to-do lists. The Day Designer is perfectly designed for that. I’ll be revealing how I used each section of the pages some time soon!

My planner wouldn’t be complete without color-coding. Everyone knows that I’m a bit OCD when it comes to color coding (see my school scheduling, grading folders, turn-in bins, as well as my entire personal library and my closet as well…). I love my Staedtler pens. I have the set of 10 with some help from a smaller set that gave me purple and gray. Each color means something different. Blue is for school activities and pink is for church/Bible activities. It looks like a gender reveal party on each monthly page.

In the big blue box are the true essentials to a peaceful, organized life: my Bible study materials. I’ll be talking about them more in the months to come, but for now my journaling Bible and my fox journal as well as this 2 Year Bible Reading plan have kept this ship from sinking. Without that, the designed daily life would be absolutely incomplete. (The Philippians reference, which is misspelled, is part of an ongoing memorization project I’ve been doing the last six months, again, more on that later!).

I have some surprises from the classroom and from my little workspace that I hope to be revealing on the blog. I don’t usually get gushy about New Years (it’s another day!), but I am choosing to take this fresh start in ALL areas of my life.

What fresh starts are you venturing into this year?

MM

They’re just little kids.

This semester has been a tough one for me. I’ve never been at the same job (except lifeguarding, but does that really count?) for more than three years. So when I started this year, among many other struggles, I knew that the sheer amount of time I’d spent doing this job would take a toll on me.

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I hate rows. But I love a quiet classroom.

Veteran teachers are probably laughing at me right now. My own mother is probably shaking her head saying, “Try 25 years with YOU and then tell me what struggles you have!” I know: 4 years is not that long. It’s a blink. It’s a gust of wind. It’s nothing. But, to a blossoming new teacher, it’s quite a bit of time.

Perhaps I’m a self-fulfilling prophecy, but since day one I’ve been tired. I’m tired of these kids’ attitudes. I’m tired of the bull-crap I have to swim to, just to take a teensy tiny breath of fresh learning for one single second. I’m tired of having to keep these kids’ attention for 1 minute at a time. I’m tired of them not listening. I’m tired. Not the best attitude, I know. But in a field where people is the game, it can be draining!

I’ve gotten so mad at my kids, all in the name of desiring them to grow up and pay attention. I’ve made little impact on my students, relationally. I forgot why I started. Yep, I said it. And during this final, it’s all boiling down to the end results… and I see all of my mistakes. The kid I don’t know. The time we wasted. The work we didn’t get done. The frustration of them STILL NOT KNOWING WHAT EXCEL MEANS EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE USED IT FOR THE LAST 15 WEEKS.

But they’re quiet right now, taking their finals. Thankfully, I haven’t heard any whining, they’re all just working pretty hard. I see their faces, their looks of concentration, their quick glances up at me, their puffy, sleepy faces. They’re just kids. Just little, sleepy, hopefully, hormonal, confused, happy, mad, bullied, bully, hurt, tired kids. Aren’t we all? We have no idea what we’re doing here, no idea what our next step is, no idea who we are sometimes… We’re just kids, in some ways. We’re all just kids in search of someone who understands us, who loves us, who nurtures us, who pushes us to do our best — even when we fight it.

They say that you don’t understand Christmas until you watch your own child experience it all anew. Same with teaching: you don’t understand it unless you see them as kids. Kids who need a hug, kids who need Jesus just as much as I do.

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ZipGrade for Android is so easy! Just create a quiz key, print off the pdf, and voila! The initial download includes 100 free scans! You can pay for one year of unlimited scans for $7. Well worth it!

In brighter news, I used ZipGrade this morning to grade my finals. My principal introduced us to it a few weeks ago. Usually I try to do a more in-depth final that isn’t all multiple choice, but since he was pushing ZipGrade so much, I figured I would do it. I included a paragraph portion, because hey it’s English… Y’all, I finished grading 30 finals in 15 minutes. Not even lying. It’s available for Apple and Android and even has a Cloud you can register for so that you can edit things online. I give it 5 out of 5 pencils.

Merry Christmas, Teachers and Parents and Students and Kids.

MM

 

 

How to Survive the Paragraph AND the Essay (aka the two for one special)

First off, wow… Week 5. I’m still on week 4, lesson plan-wise. But wow. Week 5. Almost over, too! In my block classes, we are beginning our first essay. This will be year four of teaching a character analysis, and I would like to think that I have SOME of it right this time. Some of it.

We begin the entire first semester by learning the PEELS acronym for paragraph structure. I drill that in to their brains for two weeks as we analyze, cite, and summarize other texts and then write about them. For anyone who doesn’t do PEELS: I AM A SUCCESS STORY. I feel as though this explanation, along with an explanation about sufficient evidence, is absolutely brilliant. You can find more on PEELS here.

After studying Plot, Character, and Conflict (Thanks, Houghton McDougal and Pixar!), we begin reading Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use.” I love this short story. In the vein of a true short story, there is intensity of climax, character, and symbolism that is hard to not be impressed with. Even the kids seethe with loathing when we talk about how nasty Dee is. We get to have important conversations about heritage, responsibility, and character that I love to have (as you all know, I strive to foster ethical and moral human beings so…). And when we’re done, we make a plot diagram and come up with a statement of motivation for our main character (Dee or Mama). I made a super cool worksheet that can absolutely be used for a different story. And for your teaching pleasure: Character Traits EU. They do that in pairs and afterwards, we analyze the rubric (Again, thanks Houghton McDougal!) and prompt.

The only thing I left out when we reviewed the prompt was what TYPE of essay it was (one of those five pesky ones that even I can’t always remember…). We analyze the prompt and figured out that it would be easier to write 4 paragraphs instead of 5 and that one of the paragraphs wouldn’t even need the “standard” 8 sentences but one of them would need 10-12… Minds. Blown. I’m not saying they enjoyed it, but they got it. We wrote the intro together and then I helped them start their first paragraph on the character’s motivation. They discovered that they’d need to mention the specific actions a character made to explain the motivation so that’s how they organized that paragraph.

I am not pumped about grading 60 individual introduction paragraphs and another 60 motivation paragraphs followed by another 60 change-in-character paragraphs… but I am so proud of my kids, and I can’t wait to see them be truly successful after an edit of each paragraph and then a big, beautiful essay.

In summation (gosh, I hate that…), the way to survive the paragraph and the essay: chunks, chunks, chunks! The kids will be less overwhelmed and they’ll truly be more successful. There’s nothing wrong with writing in chunks. It teaches them order and pattern in writing, and that’s just a-okay with me!

How do you teach writing in your classroom?

MM

How to Survive the School Newspaper

It was the spring of 2013. I was completing my first year of teaching when the counselor came barging into one of my classes to ask if I wanted to teach Newspaper. Sure, I said. It’ll be fun, I said.

I had no computers, three or four “published” newspaper/newsletters/crossword puzzles that were handed out that year, a meager amount of college journalism from community college, a few free-lance articles in university, a mom who studied journalism in HS and Mizzou for a few years, and absolutely no idea how to proceed. But that’s education, I guess…

Needless to say, I’ve muddled my way through the last three years; I’ve made many mistakes both
grammatical and ethically. I’ve had many kiddos run through my room with eagerness to put out good news and eagerness to be insanely annoying. I’ve taken the newspaper from being a rag-tag bunch of pointless articles and a lunch menu to actual news and good sports coverage. We are still printing on 11x17in ledger paper, but we have three columns and a mast-head so… that’s something. Two years ago I bought a book called The News0819151450paper Adviser’s Survival Guide off of Amazon (way before my student Prime account expired). I looked at it a bit. Copied a few lessons for when I was absent. But let’s be honest: I never really cracked into it… As a new teacher, I didn’t really have a lot of time to dive into creating a new curriculum for an elective — because as we all know, electives have as much enthusiasm and support as a marching band with no instruments.

But let me tell you… it’s a great book. If you are an advisor, read it. And then read it again. It’s more geared toward big newspapers that are actually published on news-paper, but it gives a lot of good tips on how to organize your staff and the articles you produce. It’s brilliant. I myself have learned a lot as I’m going back and teaching good news writing practices. I think this will be our best year yet, simply because we are all on the same page. Get it, same page?! Ha!

If you’re thinking of starting a school newspaper, do it. It’s a fun elective when you have kids who care! I do it with two school computers and my laptop and 16 of the coolest kids I know.

What helps you with your school newspaper?

MM

School Starts in Less than a Month?!

[Author’s Note: When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was be a writer. I still do. But every time before I begin writing, I let out this big sigh. I see the blank paper/Word Doc/blog page and sigh. Oh, how am I going to mess up this blank page today? What do my words even matter, anyway? Who even cares? These are words I’m sure you all have fought with as some point, whether with writing or speaking to children or students. You’ve heard them, they’ve been planted by the Evil One. I say all of this for a few reasons, 1. I am NEVER writing about school or life to say that I’ve figured it out. Instead, I’m writing because I struggle so much with my classroom and life that I’m sure someone else does, too. You ain’t alone, homie. And 2. I’m writing because I see Christ in my classroom on the daily (yes, even in summer… Teachers’ brains do not turn off for a second). We should all strive to be like David, the man after God’s own heart, who saw God working and knew of how He worked in the past and he NEVER ceased to tell of God’s works, of who God was/is/and will always be. Just like the secular anti-terrorist saying, “See something, say something,” we, too, as Christians are continually faced with God’s goodness and His workings: we should see Him everywhere! Yet how often do we speak out and tell of His mighty works? I am as much to blame as the rest, but today is a good day to start, no?]

[Don’t worry, the sermon isn’t over yet.]

Dear teachers and parents and students, school starts soon! It’s so close I can taste it. Walmart has the school supplies out. I already have a list. I’m drooling over planners and pencils and the old bookshelves I have revamped in my classroom. I love school, I really do, but I dread its coming.

I dread the whining and the trouble we will soon face as another semester begins. I dread the ugly. I dread the trials. I dread it. I know it’s coming, and that’s probably why it’s so difficult for me. Anticipation gets me. Every. Single. Time. Anxiety creeps in and before I know it, I’m having nightmares about classroom management and skipping class on accident. But, once I’m in it and I’ve prayed my little heart to peace, I am fine. God is good and He takes care of me and my class, but I’m so anxious to begin this year! There are many trials ahead for my school, my kids, and my department. There is going to be a whole lot of ugly.

Ugly looks like many things. It is attitude, lack of support, frustration, stress, overwhelming priorities… the list goes on. However, for me, ugly most commonly looks like a 15 year old. (Any parent and teacher who has one knows what I’m talking about.) I see 120 uglies a day. I see attitude, rolling eyes, promiscuity and lack of self-respect, lack of discipline, disrespect of authority, apathy… I SEE MYSELF, YOU GUYS. I SEE MYSELF. And it’s ugly.

Phew. Now, I see myself and that’s what drags me down. How can I help them, how can I live the Word, when I myself know that I’m just as ugly? Again, words from the Evil One. But today, with the help of the Spirit, Paul, and Ann Voskamp, I see something else.

I am ugly. And so are you. I deserve a great deal of punishment, and so do you. We are surrounded by ugly. BUT, God. God provided salvation for us through Christ, a beautiful embodiment of God. “For in [Christ] all fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:19-20 ESV. As His children, once we are saved God does not see us in our ugliness (PTL, literally), but now instead He sees Christ. Christ is beautiful! Christ covers over the sin, takes it away, and shows Himself to God on our behalf. WOW. When I read this, I am amped up. I am ready. I start to get cocky. I am this great thing, now that God sees Christ! I am His beloved, now that God sees Christ! Ephesians 2:8-10 reminds me that I am Christ’s workmanship, not a creation of my own design, not innate beauty. If I boast, I boast in Christ! If I am ugly and now made beautiful, it isn’t me… it’s Christ. Brothers and sisters, we will see ugly today. We may even see it right now while we are trying to read this. As teachers, remember that we are ugly. Remember that we are probably just as bad as the kids we’re tired of, of the ugly we are faced with every day. Remember that, and then remember Christ. Remember the grace, the mercy, the blood, the gift of Christ.

My prayer [thanks to Ann Voskamp today; they’re her words not mine], is to “daily love the unlovely into loveliness.” Just as God looks at me through Christ, may I look at others in the same way. God answers prayer, people. He does. Every time I pray for patience, He gives me six million ways to prove my patience. So I know that I am not praying this prayer for an easy life; I know this year will be hard. I know that God will give me plenty of ugly to love into loveliness. Before we even start this year, I pray that we are encouraged by these words. I pray that we see ourselves for who we really are: Children saved by God’s grace. I pray that we see our children through God’s eyes, as though they are covered by Christ. As though they are just as wretched as we are, but so lovely in God’s eyes.

I am going to mess that up, I’ll tell you right now. But, if you hold me accountable and I hold you accountable and we are praying for one another and God is on our side… anything is possible (even the run-on sentence that I just wrote, yay grammar…).

T-minus 24 days. With Christ, we can do it.

MM

I mean, what even is a curriculum map anyway? Heh heh… But seriously?

Year three is about to be IN DA BOOKS PEOPLE. They told me that my first year of teaching would be the crappiest year of my life. They weren’t wrong. They said that year two would be more about implementing good classroom management skills learned from what went wrong the first year and still tweaking my curriculum. They weren’t wrong. And then year three came. I’ll tell you, I have still been tweaking my lessons (something I hope I never stop doing, there is ALWAYS room for improvement), but I’ve felt so good about this year! I have covered, albeit at a very quick pace, nearly EVERYTHING these kids may need to know before taking their test and going on to English III. Proud teacher fist pump! I’ve got lessons, I’ve got videos, I’ve got interactive and meaningful group projects. I’ve got essays, I’ve got academic vocab. I’ve got bellringers. I’ve got it!

But that uh, that curriculum map… Yeah, I know what that is (I don’t know what that is). I’ve never seen one. My school doesn’t have one. I just know what the words curriculum and map mean. That’s it. So, since I’m about to be the only person in the department with more than one year’s experience in a high school classroom, I thought I’d try my hand on it. From what I think I’m told, curriculum maps are a great way to collaborate with other teachers in your discipline and out. So I made this Curriculum Mapping English II. You tell me, is that a curriculum map or did I just get a little crazy with the colors in Excel? It’s only for my Fall Block classes. I do a modified version for my all year classes because strangely enough we have INFINITELY MORE TIME ON OUR HANDS than block classes do. *coughIhateblockclassescough*

It doesn’t have the standards on it, as you can plainly see. I have a copy of the standards and I have highlighted in different colors the different standard0520151009s that I use in each unit. I just haven’t written them out on the lesson plans. I think I may make a map with the standards on it, just so I know I’m hitting all the bases. I have, however, stolen this great idea from HERE. That on the right is what it looks like in my classroom. I bought mini clothes pins to clip on to the standards we are covering each day. Is it tedious? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. It’s worth it because I need a daily reminder of what exactly our aim is, and if the kids ever wonder how it applies to the test: ta-da! It’s on the back board! Yes, that long list is the WRITING SKILLS I am supposed to COMPLETELY cover in ONE YEAR. Guys. It’s so much.

That board is my pride and joy, or will be when we come back next year. As you can see, I have pinned one of my unit charts to the board, as a reminder of what skills we are focusing on. I also made a list of English I and II academic vocabulary that I hope to implement so much more this next year. I’ll post those buzz words, along with some other key words, for each unit on the board as a clear reminder.

I’m meeting with the English I teacher and the English IV teacher over the summer, and hopefully I will come up with even more to implement this next year. I feel solid for the first time in a long time that I’m on the right track. What new things are you implementing into your classroom?

Happy summer, teachers!

MM