This is my 7th year of teaching and my 1st year at Davis Intermediate school in South San Jose, CA. Back to teaching history. After teaching science, after teaching English and history. It's been a while since I've written something, so I'm not sure where to start. Let's start with what has been happening at my new school site (the positive stuff).
Before officially working for the district, I had the opportunity to join some of my soon to be colleagues at a project-based learning training at the Oakgrove district office. There were new teachers and 20+ year veterans, and as we sat and talked about possible projects, an 8th grade science teacher mentioned that he had done a Mars colony project before. And an 8th grade history teacher mentioned that his girlfriend had done a government/country/colony project with her 5th graders. So I suggested the idea of creating a culminating 8th grade project, one where students produced something for each subject, but worked to combine ideas and subjects and did a community presentation. So we created an idea and the 8th grade history teacher created a video. It got peoples interest at the end of the 3 days.
Fast forward to this February (2016). We began the implementation, using our prep times or meeting after school or high-jacking Circle of Inquiry time in the mornings on Wednesdays to plan. The 8th grade science teacher gave us his old packet, we figured out what to keep and update, and I created the new iteration. Before the project began, we probably spent at least 5 hours planning together or in small groups.
Our opening day we took our two sets of 8th graders out of the their regular classes for an "in-school field trip". We started by watching "The Martian" and then proceeded to show them the introductory video to the project. They created teams and began to plan their colonies.
Since that initial launch, we still have not received any additional time, making time on our own. While COI time has been offered, we've also had to take time out to address data tracking requirements. At first we did this whole group, but I eventually took the role as I could enter information quickly and then get a cursory response from the two teams. Outside of work, we've probably spent another 10 hours training ourselves, finding materials or collaborating. It has not been easy finding the time.
However, the project is going well, students are engaged in their work and what they discuss and create has been impressive so far. We've managed to stay about a week ahead of students and so they always have work they can do. And our timeline has been tentatively planned out until the end of the year. We have created our own advisory days with our two sets of 8th graders moving fluidly during their core classes, but still going to their elective and their P.E. classes.
We've had issues bringing P.E. and electives into the mix, as they don't share any prep times with us and are often out at the bell or busy with sports. Very, very busy with sports. The time constraints are difficult and as we go we are learning. But even though we're exhausted, their is an exuberance amongst us that I have not seen for a while in teaching. It is very refreshing.
I wanted to document the above so I have some sort of reference in the future for what we did (besides our copious shared documents on Google drive and hand written pages). I'm not sure what is pushing me to blog today. Probably the fact that I have not done a podcast in a bit. And this week will not work out for one anyway, too much stuff on my plate.
I think I want to just reflect on my teaching and truthfully examine what sort of teacher I am. I think of myself as a good social and emotional teacher, but honestly, merely a sub-par academic teacher. The latter is something that has gone up and down in waves. Science, science I felt like I reached a groove and maintained and it was good. But for history, just getting back into it. I'm not saying my teaching is a crime against humanity, but I do constantly question whether I am making my students dumber through my half-assed efforts. And I wasn't sure how I was doing socially and emotionally. My first two years of teaching were my high. I became a part of a family. A FAMILY. I still see those kids and I'm damn proud of what they have done. And I can check in on them through my teacher Facebook and I'm super proud. My 4 years in Mountain View, they were my down years. Not because the kids were messed up or crazy or that I didn't like them. I think the shock of having a family so violently cut-off... it fucked my head up. A lot. and I was very guarded. There were kids I connected with, but I never built the same family. This year, I started to move back to that old me, but I wasn't sure how I was doing. The last week or two taught me I am making progress. I have had one kid consistently meet me at break to talk. He's had a hard time at home and in his life and he said, "I just trust you." I forgot what that was like for a while. And today as I was leaving school I saw one of my students who had missed class and I asked how she was. She said bad (worked too hard during physical education), and I wished her better, and another group of students, some of who I have, turned to me and said, "You're the best teacher. You actually care about your students." I responded with, "How else would I teach?" And they laughed and smiled.
It's nice that I'm bringing that part of me back, but I still feel bad for my current group of kids. They get me as a half-assed academic teacher and a stumbling blind social emotional teacher. I hope I figure my shit out before next year. I'm still trying to improve for this year so students leave on a high note.
If you read, thanks for reading. This blog is definitely a once in a blue-moon affair, but I hope it helps some of you out there. Please feel free to respond if you want. Love to hear your stories or feelings.