There is an epidemic that sweeps through every hall of every school ever year. It’s really bad. It causes students frustration and it causes some teachers to cry due to the number of extra copies they need to make. If I could write a script to cure the problem I would send it to the local Walgreens, fast! It’s called… disorganization. Literally papers can be exploding out of all available crevasses, in binders, lockers, and cubbies all over the US. This is not some new epidemic. It has been plaguing schools for centuries. Teachers will go to great lengths to ensure the success of their students with this problem. Sometimes that may even mean having team time on the floor and sitting crisscross applesauce in order to organize a student. Today I walked into team time and a teacher was elbows deep in a disorganized mountain of papyrus. She patiently started making piles, carefully uncrumpeling the documents, (totally just made uncrumple a word) and discarding any assignment that she found not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 copies of the same thing. You know you have been there… Within minutes, the whole team found themselves on the floor with her, helping, laughing, and praying that this binder band-aid would last for more than a day. This is proof that teachers will do everything they possibly can to help students out. And that, my friends, is AWESOME.
Writing is really fun for me. Knowing that even 2 people find my writing fun to read is almost just as AWESOME. Today I prepared a box of my books to send off to Ohio to the main office of the Association of Middle Level Education, better known as AMLE. They are hosting the national conference in Philadelphia this November and I’m so stinkin pumped to not just be speaking there, but also to be featured in the bookstore. Selling a couple books each day is so humbling. Each order from a teacher, parent, or educational leader is proof that people want to find ways to improve, while they laugh along the way. But when orders of 60+ books come in, boom! That is a celebration of education. I’m so looking forward to sharing some insights as a science teacher at this totally incredible conference. People who lead professional development, go to professional development to become better and I’m eager to soak up information from the best of the best. You know, people like Kim Campbell. She’s legit. (The teacher leader Kim Campbell, not the Prime Minister of Canada. She may be legit too, education is just more my thing). Check out the books I’m selling at the AMLE bookstore here.
Have you ever heard seen the Weight Watchers commercial with Oprah? The one where she excitedly proclaims how much she loves bread… If you haven’t seen it, watch this version, it perfectly explains how much she loves bread. I bring this up only to explain how much I love microscopes. I love microscopes like Oprah loves bread. Today I got the opportunity to share my love of microscopic analysis with my students. What a cool opportunity for a middle school kid to truly examine cells from mystery specimens. I got total warm heart as I watched the room fill with excitement as they got something focused on low power for the first time in their life. But, in all honesty, my favorite part of Day 1 of a microscope lab is when a student has a FULL AWESOME freak-out because they are convinced I gave them a living microscope slide. They jump back, nearly punching themselves in the face with the microscope eye-piece. They are 100% sure that I gave them a slide of ants. They even explain how they are literally moving across the stage. And then I got to explain the harsh reality that nothing is alive under the microscope, it is simply their eyelashes fluttering in and out of the eyepiece. I allow myself to have 5 seconds of hard laugh each hour. Their innocence makes me smile.
I’ve been told I’m quirky. I think that is a compliment… most of the time. In all fairness, I get what they are saying. In the words of my grandma, “I’m different.” I think good teachers are different. They find different ways to reach students, communicate with them, and build relationships in unique ways. Just past the midterm of the 1st quarter, students start to realize, “maybe I should actually get my academic ducks in a row.” We of course all wish this is simply because they realize knowledge is power. It’s of course more likely that they realize they are going to be ineligible to attend the school bonfire or their parents aren’t going to take them to Wal-Mart for a special toy for getting Honor Roll. Today I filled out 24 passes for lunch n’ learn or my own personal “lunch attention.” You see, at my school, we have something AWESOME called lunch n’ learn. This separates the 40 minute lunch hour into two parts, first they “learn” something rather than heading to recess. This is intended to be a non-punitive approach to getting kids caught up on work. It is run by a classroom teacher and is a sure fire way to fill in all the holes in your gradebook due to absences. It’s a genius thing! My “lunch attention” is a slightly different story. This is a remix of the ever common “lunch detention.” But to me, that sounds harsh and like a prison. I never want my classroom to feel like that, even when a student has consequences. It is more of an opportunity for me and the student to draw “attention” to a situation that is just not going well. They spend their lunch hour with me getting the junk in their life figured out. I use these custom made passes as reminders. I intentionally include smiley faces, text jargon like ily (I love you), and the word yo, to soften the blow, but also to just be… you know quirky… and different.
Our school district has been in need of some extra joy these past few weeks. It can be hard to bounce back from unexpected events and sometimes a little encouragement can truly go a long way. My advisory family wanted to spread joy like the High Five New York Guy. We had done a lesson on spreading positivity in small ways and felt inspired! So with a package of notecards and a box of markers the kids made inspiring 4×6 rectangles of AWESOME to put on the dashboards of every car in the entire parking lot. Within 33 minutes they had made 66 notecards and were stinkin pumped to spread the love. We took a field trip outside to the lot and they strategically placed white cards with smiley faces, rainbows, stars, peace signs, and words like smile, laugh, be you, and thanks for being amazing. For them, the best part was knowing what each of their teachers’ drives to school. Such a big deal! Teachers drive vehicles. OMG! For me, the best part was watching them just be kids and throwing tiny stones of joy that I was confident would make a huge impact when 4:00 hit. And the impact was huge. Text messages and social media posts started flooding in. “Where did these cards come from? Totally made my day.” “I don’t know who was responsible for this, but THANK YOU. I needed it. We needed it.” That is how you end a week, folks!