Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Time flies . . .

Hello All. Don't know who is even still reading this blog.

The past year has been a challenge personally and professionally.

Maybe because I'm turning 40 in Feb or maybe I'm just starting to realize that I need to stop sweating the small stuff. . . . life is too short.

For twelve years, my life has been education. Teaching. My students. I never put my needs before my students or even colleagues. As I approach the big 40 and being alone, I realized that as much as I love my job and love my students, I need to put myself first. I just don't know how to be the educator and personal human being that I need to be in my life.

My primary goal for 2011 is to start putting myself first and work on ME as a human. To be happy. Sounds so simple. But it's not simple. At least for me.

Stay tuned . . . . . . .

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Goodness . . . is everyone else busy too???

It's been forever since I've blogged on here. Sorry. School has been VERY busy this year. Between volleyball, NEASC, Harvard Model Congress, and teaching the new AP course, I've been running around my building all day (and sometimes night) long. :-(

* AP Euro is going well. A lot more work than what I thought but it's been good. I've been told that the first year is always tough to teach. Sources on the Internet have been a god-send. It's been nice to teach the upper-level student as well.
*Finished up my JV volleyball season 9-11. Last season we only had two wins so to go from 2 wins to 9 wins is a HUGE improvement! I'm so proud of my girls! :=) It probably helped that I coached Junior Olympic volleyball last winter (I will be doing it again starting on Dec 5th - every Sunday between now and the beginning of May).
*NEASC (accreditation for my school) has been very dramatic and A LOT of work! I am a co-chair of the curriculum strand. The visitation committee arrives in April so I will be happy when this process is over.
*Harvard Model Congress has been keeping me busy too. Added a few more fundraisers and a lot of the kids are not using the fundraising to their advantage. It sucks but I don't want to hear it when their parents have to pay the full $450 for the conference when I've offered numerous opportunities for their kids to fund raise to bring that cost down. The students that have taken advantage of the fundraising have made out like bandits. A few of them will only have to pay $100 for a $450 trip (which is a huge savings!).
*I'm also a mentor to a new teacher in our dept. It's been interesting to say the least. :=)

Good news:
*I will going to Poland over April break. The local university and Holocaust Center are doing a trip to Poland for teachers with the focus to be on the Holocaust. I am so excited about this opportunity! I also convinced three of my colleagues at my school to go on the trip. There will be three Saturday classes prior to the trip to learn about the history of what we will be seeing when we are over there. We will be going to Warsaw, Kielce, Aushcwitz, and Krakow (the heart of the Holocaust). In grad school, my research was the Holocaust namely Auschwitz so I'm very excited to be going on this trip. My students are even excited for me and told me to take a million pictures! :=) And, I'm Polish so I get to go visit my homeland! :=)
*I will be getting a student teacher for the spring semester. It's a first so I'm excited about it. It's something that I haven't really felt like I'm ready to do in my career but after 12 years of teaching, maybe it's time? The student teacher did a lot of observation hours with me the past year so he really likes my teaching style and really pushed to do his student teaching with me. Nothing like a little boost to the self-esteem!
*My sister flew out for Thanksgiving this year. Thought we would start a new tradition. We had a lovely visit. Took her to a Bruins game (a first for both of us). Ate lots of yummy seafood.
*Will be going to Phoenix, AZ again for Christmas to be with my family. Hoping it will be warmer than last Christmas.

So, what is new with you? :=)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

1st drama for AP Euro History class . . . don't ya just LOVE drama???

Here's the scoop.

Last April after my new AP Euro History course was FINALLY approved by the school committee, I was asked to submit my request for new AP textbooks and whatever materials I needed to start up the course. So I completed the task by the first week in May. I submitted the paperwork into my head teacher who writes up a PO to the Principal who then submitted the PO to Asst. Super's office. Asst. Super's office signs off on the PO which then gets sent to the Business Office at City Hall. By the end of May, the PO is sent to the Business Office at City Hall. Are you all still with me? Good.

Fast forward to last week. I get a phone call from my head teacher. There has been a problem with the new textbooks. I ask what's the problem. He tells me that the PO for the new textbooks has been SITTING on somebodies desk at City Hall since the end of May so the order was never processed to the Publishing Company!!!!!!!! Lovely. The PO was sitting on a desk since the end of May over at City Hall????? Seriously people. What the $%*&#@?

Last week, my head teacher called the Publishing Company and asked where were the textbooks? Publishing company said they never received the PO. So, my head teacher makes a million phone calls to track down the PO. He discovers the PO is STILL at City Hall. The person at City Hall doesn't even apologize for it. No sorry I messed up. No oops . . . I just caused a major problem for your teachers. He signs off on the PO and faxes the PO to my head teacher and tells my head teacher to put the order into the Publishing Company!!! Like the business dept guy can't fax it himself? The info for the Publishing Company was on the PO so the guy could have faxed it himself.

And, it wasn't just my textbooks. The AP US History teacher isn't getting his new textbooks either. At least he can use his old textbooks. Since my course is brand spanking new, I have no old textbooks to rely on.

Sometimes . . . I hate people. Or should I just say I hate the city that I teach in bureaucracy :-(

So I have some options since I won't get my textbooks on time. Luckily I have one copy of the textbook already so I guess I get to waste tax payer money by photocopying the chapters until the textbooks arrive. I've already planned on giving my students a reading assignment in the textbook the first week of school. Since I'm planned all the way until November, I need to stay on my time schedule. Or I can just not give them any readings. I like my first option better. :=)

If there is an easy way or hard way (usually the least productive as well) to do things in my school system, they choose the hard way. Everything in the system is done this way. I just don't get it. I don't know if it's because it's a City. I don't know if it's because we hire incompetent people. I just don't get it. It's VERY frustrating. I don't want to waste paper and ink by photocopying materials. I'm very big on doing my job productively and efficiently.

On a more positive note: I am enjoying my last long weekend of freedom until school starts up on Tuesday. Teachers have professional days on Tuesday and Wednesday. Students arrive on Thursday.

Stay tuned for more drama . . . .

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Knee deep in the land of planning for AP Euro History . . .

So. The AP Institute training went well. I learned a lot. The instructor hooked us up with a ton of materials for setting up a new AP course such as PowerPoints, activities, DBQ's, etc. This is all good, right?

I've spent the last few days weeding out what I want to use or at least try out with my students. Also spent the past few days planning out the curriculum. I'm all planned up to November. Now, I can see some problems with my planning this far ahead. I'm hoping I'm not setting myself up for failure. I figure the more planning that I have for this new course, the better prepared I will be for my students. Also, since I coach JV volleyball until the beginning of November, I want to make sure I have my ducks in a row for the next few months. Coaching takes up a lot of "free" time. Yes, I get paid a small stipend for coaching but it's still time taken away from planning and working on AP stuff.

I'm glad that I teach History. At least I can plan chronologically. I know where I need to start and end regarding curriculum.

I'm still a little stressed about teaching this new course but I feel that if I at least prepare myself, I will be better off getting everything that needs to be taught. Most of the students will know how to write a DBQ since they've come from AP US History (APUSH). I do have a few students that are making the jump from College Prep to AP (which is sorta scary).

Calculated that I have 72 days to teach all the content for AP Euro History before the exam. I lose 16 hours because of early release days and assemblies (this only includes already PLANNED assemblies).


On a positive note:
There are also some great resources on the Internet for AP Euro History.

Any AP teachers out there that have some words of advice or wisdom for a "newbie"??? :=)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Survived AP boot camp :=)

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the AP Institute training at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont. It was intense! A lot of reading and processing. But, they also kept you busy with fun activities after classes such as hikes in the mountains, kayaking, tours of local wineries, etc. And the food . . . OH MY GOODNESS!!! Insanely good! They had a social hour every day before dinner and served free alcohol throughout the evening (whoever thought of an open bar for teachers was probably not a great idea!). :=)

The instructor rocked! Talk about a colleague that believes in sharing . . . he shared ALL of his Power Points, tests, quizzes, music, video clips, handouts, etc. We were given a 3 inch binder filled with materials plus a flash drive filled with stuff. He also passed out a pacing guide to help with the curriculum.

I also felt a little bit more confident in what I picked for the summer assignments. The reading I picked was a book that a lot of people use for AP Euro History. The instructor uses the same book. He also told me the map activity was good because it will take away from having to use class time to do a geography lesson. It was so difficult to come up with a summer assignment when I've never taught the course before. And, I was also told that the textbook I picked was a great choice as well. Yeah!!! I did something right. :-)

I'm feeling a little less stressed teaching this new course. Teaching AP students will be overwhelming but it will be a positive overwhelming. I'm a little concerned about the content and pacing but I'm sure the first year will be trial and error (at least this is what I'm telling myself). :-)

The fun part begins . . . I've started working on a calendar to work through the curriculum. Since we are on block scheduling (I will see my AP students every other day), I need to work through the pacing. As of the 1st day of school, I will have 72 days (84 minute block) to get the test taught before the AP exam in May.

I'm going to be using a new textbook for the 9th grade World History class. We are also starting a little bit later in the curriculum (we are going to start at the Enlightenment instead of the Middle Ages). The 8th grade teachers will be taking over the World History Part I curriculum this year so I won't have to teach two years of World History in one year anymore. Already started the process of going through the textbook materials and workbooks and figured out what I can use in the class.

This has been my excitement the past few weeks. I'm currently in Illinois visiting family and friends until the 13th of August. Once I get back to New England, I will have a week of "down time" but then volleyball starts up and the craziness of life begins again.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Some of my blog teacher friends that teach in other parts of the United States are already back in school. I'm thinking of ya's! :-)

Here is to an educational, fun, and exciting school year!!! :-)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

AP Institute Training in Vermont

Starting on Sunday, I will be attending a five day AP Institute Training at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont for my AP Euro History class. I have heard positive feedback from other teachers that have done the AP training in Vermont so I'm looking forward to a great experience.

I'm very excited about the training but also a little nervous too. As a student in high school, I never took an AP course. I wasn't even in Honors classes. I was that student that probably should've been in higher level courses but I never took high school serious enough to excel in my classes. Yes, I was a educators nightmare! :-)

Based on the intro letter that was sent by the instructor, it looks like there will be 16 teachers taking the training with me. We were even given a homework assignment: bring 16 copies of a teaching unit or teaching activity that we think would be useful with AP students. If we don't teach AP yet, we could bring an activity from our World History class. I photocopied an activity that I do with my freshman to introduce to them to Primary documents. It's a document based question (DBQ) about the causes of the French Revolution. Basically, I break the class into five groups and give each group a primary document to analyze. I give them a worksheet that helps them to analyze the document. I teach them APPARTS (The acronym APPARTS (Author, Place and Time, Prior Knowledge, Audience, Reason, The Main Idea, and Significance) provides prompts that assists students in gaining a fuller understanding of primary sources.). Each group then shares their document with the class. After Q & A, students individually will then respond to the DBQ using the documents and prior knowledge as support for their thesis.

We are also being asked to bring an extra flash drive with a lot of memory. The instructor will be sharing a lot of PowerPoints and helping us to start building our own AP program. Yeah! PowerPoints!!! :=) And, the instructor will be giving us free AP textbooks!!!

When I started this process a year ago of getting the AP course approved, I knew it would be a lot of reading, research, and work. Once the class goes "live" on September 9th (this is our 1st day of school), there is no turning back. I've never taught the "higher level" student before so professionally this is going to be a challenge. The students are excited - they've been emailing me over the summer with tons of questions about the summer assignments - so I hope that I make the class challenging, fun, yet an enriching experience for them.

I will try and post during the week (we will have access to WiFi) but I don't know how much downtime will be given to us. I've been told that the training is a lot of work and they keep you pretty busy with work and assignments.

I come home Friday evening, have the weekend to wash clothes and somewhat relax, and then I have to pack for IL (I leave on that Monday @ 6:00 am for Chicago). Visiting family and friends until August 13th.

So . . . let's go AP Euro History training!!!!!! :=)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spring cleaning in July????

Source of clip art:

Over the weekend I decided to do a little cleaning of my curriculum binders. It amazed me of how much material I have accumulated over 11 years of teaching! You are constantly either "stealing" material from colleagues or sharing with colleagues so you tend to gain A LOT of worksheets, activities, or reading material on various topics of interest that MAY pertain to your unit on the Industrial Revolution or Imperialism. But, it gets to the point when a decision has to be made: to keep it or recycle it.

I have to admit that I am a pack rat by nature. I never throw anything away. Never. But, as I went through each binder, I realized that some of the material I've NEVER used nor will I EVER use it. So, out to the recycle bin!

I was also on the hunt for some material for my new AP European History class as well. Since I'm starting this program from the ground up, I figured that I could possibly use some stuff from my World History binders. I was able to find a few things that might work for AP level students.

Another thought: as I was looking through all the binders, I began to reflect and remember some of the activities I did with my students (I usually keep student samples with most activities I do in class so I have a lot of great student work) over the years. I remembered the positive lessons but also the negative lessons and questioned why the negative lessons didn't work. I have some wonderful memories of students having a lot of fun working on the Sistine Chapel activity or creating a modern day manor or going to war in the trenches (my stuffed animals represented the "dead" in No Man's Land).

I feel as educators we should have the time to reflect on what we did great and what we did not so great in the classroom. Unfortunately, we are not given that time during the school year. This school year was insanely busy with the transition program, freshman house dramas, NEASC accreditation, getting the new AP class approved, and just everyday craziness. How can we improve our teaching if we are not given that reflection time?

I still have more cleaning to do (I have A LOT of binders). :-) Plus, I need to go through my electronic stuff on my flash drive to see what is there that could be used.

But, I have to say that I feel cleaner and more organized to start out this new school year.

Happy late spring cleaning. :=)