It’s Official

My room is packed up.  Lights are off and door is locked.  Keys are turned in to the office.  Today, I officially checked out of the school that I called my home for the last 16 years.  It was strange leaving, knowing that I would not be returning there to start the 2014-2015 school year.  I am going to be a Math TOSA (teacher on special assignment) for my district which means I will be going to a new school next year.  Packing up was difficult.  I got rid of a lot of things.  I needed to downsize tremendously because my new room is more like an office and not a classroom.  Files were sifted through.  Duplicates were tossed.  It was hard trying to figure out what to save and what to get rid of.  Teachers are notorious for hanging on to stuff.  I finally had to tell myself that if I hadn’t touched the item in the last 3 years or more, then I should get rid of it.  My dilemma is that I don’t know where I am going to go after my year as a TOSA is up.  So, I wanted to hang on to certain books and resources in case I am back in the classroom in two years.  I had a lot of boxes and thought I would need to rent a storage unit for a year.  For a small, closet-sized space it was going to cost me over $1,000 to store.  Fortunately, my friend, Nicole, came with me when I was ready to move out of my classroom.  She talked me out of bringing my shelves and my plastic bins/crates.  We combined boxes and downsized even further.  I am happy to say that I didn’t need to rent a storage unit after all.  Everything I packed is now at my new school.  🙂

I am reflecting on my 16 years at Shoal Creek Elementary-home of the Otters!  I was one of the original staff members who opened the school so many years ago.  I am going to miss the people I worked with.  Everyone there is an amazing teacher.  I have learned from each of them and have improved my teaching practices as a result of my interactions with them.  I have so many happy memories that I am taking with me.  It will be strange not seeing my friends (who I think of as family) next year.  I am also going to miss the students.  They are the main reason why I love going to work each day.  I am going to miss the smiles, hugs, and love notes that I often received from them.  I managed to save a few in my file box.  I know when I am feeling low, I can read those notes to remind me of why I am doing what I do.  I am truly going to miss the connections with teachers and students at Shoal Creek.

Although driving out of the parking lot and away from the school was bittersweet, I know this new adventure is going to be a great experience for me.  I am excited by the possibilities of being a math coach for teachers.  I am still not sure what my new job entails.  It’s a work in progress.  There will be lots of opportunities for messing up.  But, I am learning that mistakes are necessary in order for growth to happen.  So, next year, I am going to embrace all my mistakes.  I am going to remember to persevere.  I am going to make the most of my opportunity.  All I can think is that my new job is going to be AWESOME! 🙂

A New Adventure

I am on my way down a new path in my teaching career.  Three weeks ago I made a last minute decision to apply for a Math TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) position.  I had heard about the position last month, but thought against applying.  I have so many things going on in my life, and I felt going for the TOSA job would be too much.  However, the day before the application was due, I decided to at least apply for it.  The process would be a good learning experience for me.  After reading the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck.  I am trying very hard to embrace the growth mindset.  The problem was that I made the decision to go forward with applying the night before I was to turn in all the paper work.  Fortunately, I was able to gather all the necessary papers and recommendations and turn my application in to the District Office by 4:00.  A few days later I received a phone call for an interview.

The interview went well, I felt.  I had prepared by thinking of possible questions I thought the interviewers would ask me the night before the interview.  I got to my interview a few minutes early so I could go over my notes and meditate before-hand.  I was calm, and I was ready when I was called into the little room.  There were four people on the interview panel.  It helped that I knew two of them.  It’s always nice to see a friendly, familiar face when you are in these stressful situations.  I was able to answer the questions thrown at me.  Then, I was asked to watch a short video clip and provide feedback.  I thought that was interesting.  I liked that there was a task involved instead of just answering questions.  The interview ended, and I was told that we would hear who was selected the next week.  I forgot to ask how many people had applied, but I knew they were going to select five to serve as math coaches for the district.

The waiting game is difficult. It was Tuesday afternoon when I decided to just go home early from work.  I was exhausted, and I wanted to spend some time with my three kids.  I am normally at work until about 4:30, but on this day I left work around 3:15.  I think I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t heard anything yet.  I arrived home, talked to my daughters and helped with homework.  The house phone rang at around 4:00 and my youngest daughter, Allison, picked it up.  I was thinking to myself, “Who is calling me at 4:00 on the house phone?”  Most friends and people I know call me on my cell phone.  My daughter handed me the phone and it was one of the interviewers calling to tell me I got the job.  🙂  However, I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about making it just yet.  Things had to be completed on their end and a formal announcement would be made.  When?  I did not know.  So, I went to work the next day unable to tell my friends.  That was the most difficult thing to do.  I was so happy and wanted to share my news.  When they would ask me if I heard anything, I had to say no.  My friends were starting to get a little angry about them not letting me know anything.  Finally, an email was sent to the whole district announcing who the math coaches would be, and I could share my story.

Wow!  I still can’t believe it.  This means I will be spending next year out of the classroom.  Instead I will be coaching other teachers and supporting them with their math instruction.  Because our district is focusing on the Math CCSS, they are trying this new model of math coaches.  I don’t think it has ever been done in my district this way.  I explained at my interview that I did not profess to be a math whiz.  In fact, I was a bit of a math phobic as a kid.  I saw math as a set of rules and formulas that I had to memorize and remember.  I could never remember!  It was only as an adult, when I took my math methods courses in college for my teaching credential that I understood how important the conceptual foundation of teaching math was.  It began to make sense to me.  Even though I am not a math guru, I love teaching math.  I know. . . strange.  My husband joked with me when I told him I had applied for this job.  He said, “You do know this is for MATH.”  He knows math is not my strong suit.  However, I am thinking I won’t necessarily be teaching math concepts.  I will be coaching other teachers on best mathematical practices.  I am just guessing, because I don’t really know yet.

Now the hard part really begins.  I have to pack my classroom up.  I have 25 years of stuff to go through.  The good news is a few years ago, I moved from one classroom to another and got rid of a lot of things.  But, now I have to dwindle it down even more.  I have already been told by my husband that I cannot bring my boxes home.  There is just no room at the inn!  🙂  I don’t know what I am going to do.  I may have to think about renting a storage unit.  The other thing I am wondering is how this is going to affect my work with the San Diego Area Writing Project.  Since I am no longer in the classroom, I will not have a chance to practice writing strategies with students.  In my interview, I explained to the panel that writing was another passion of mine.  I am hoping I can incorporate what I have learned about writing instruction and merge it with math instruction.  I am going to work hard to accomplish that.  I think it will be just as beneficial for the teachers as it will be for students.

The position is only for a year.  After that, I will have to return to the classroom.  But, who knows?  I will be done with my administrative credential work (I hope!).  Then, I may be on an altogether different path in my teaching career.  For now, I am just so happy to be on the path I am at the moment.  I can’t wait for all the growth and learning that is waiting for me.  It will be hard work, but I am also hoping it will be fun and fulfilling.  We shall see.  🙂

Game On!

Today was a great day in my classroom.  Today was the day when the 5th graders from my friend’s classroom came over to our classroom to play the government board games my students have been creating.  Christie’s students helped by reading through my students’ papers in which they described the rules and objectives to their games.  On the first draft, my 2nd graders were pretty certain that their directions were clear and easy to understand.  That’s when I told them that I was going to walk their papers over to Christie’s classroom and ask her 5th graders to comment and ask questions about their games.  The 5th graders were awesome.  They made comments on little sticky notes.  They asked questions.  They wanted clarification.  When I got the papers back, I was impressed with how much time and effort they put into reading them.  I showed my students the sticky notes and told them they had some rewriting to do.  I instructed them to read every sticky note and try to address them in their rewrite.  When students were finished with their 2nd draft, I sent them back to the 5th grade for a second read.  In the meantime, my class worked in small groups to create their board games.  We worked for several weeks on them.  It was interesting to see the creative juices flowing.  They all seemed to work well together.  Most groups shared the tasks of planning the game board.  They discussed how their game would be played.  I did have a few groups where some students were not sharing the tasks at all.  One group complained about a member not helping.  However, these complaints were rare.  Everyone worked together.

When we got the 2nd drafts back, my students were disappointed to see all the sticky notes on their papers again.  But, this time, my students were really happy.  I could hear comments like, “Oh this one is a positive comment.”  Or, “This is a good one.”  And, “We just got a compliment.”  This was followed by high-fives and pats on the back.

As our game development continued, I stressed the fact that students should not forget the purpose of the games.  The purpose was that people would learn about the three branches of government through playing their board game. After some thought, students would go back and re-do or re-work what they had already done.  When groups said their games were finished, I had them play someone else’s game.  I would then ask, “What did you learn about the government?”  They would either say some facts they learned or tell the group who created the game that they didn’t learn anything.  That meant some groups had to go back to the drawing board.  The games went through so many different iterations.  In fact, my groups were still trying to make their games better right up to the moment the 5th graders came over.  It was pretty amazing.

When the 5th graders arrived, they found the game where they had provided feedback.  They were able to sit with the 2nd grade developers and play.  All the students were excited and engaged.  They were learning together.  They were also laughing and having fun.  My friend, Christie, and I marveled at how well they were interacting.  Here are a few pictures of the students together.

chutes

race

clue

candyland

 After the 5th graders left, I had my students reflect on their game making experience.  All the feedback was positive.  They all said they loved the process.  They enjoyed working as a team, even though they argued some of the time.  My students all agreed that I should do this again next year.  I was amazed by what I saw in my classroom this morning. That is what I feel learning should be. . . a truly collaborative experience.  Students had ownership in what they were learning.  They worked together toward a common goal.  My students were able to tap into their creative side.  I think they realized that learning is a process.  And, most importantly, they had a whole lot of fun!