Post date: Jun 7, 2018 11:43:32 PM
I wanted to do something fun with my end of the year reflection (Everything starts with a story!) so I present the first annual Kevies! These awards all relate to things that happen in room 110 this year.
This ended up being longer than planned so it will come in two parts. Enjoy part 1!
Best New Thing
New District Tardy Policy - At our first staff meeting this year we were shown a new district-wide tardy policy. It required 2 warnings before you could even report a tardy and 3 before any discipline. By 7 a parent was supposed to walk their student to class. In that meeting I asked who I contact at the district when the policy inevitably fails. I did not get an answer. It failed in about 2 weeks. I had more tardies than ever before and never saw a single parent. I had kids up in the 20s and little was done. I later found out that we were the only school who even used the so-called district policy. It was a constant source of frustration.
Classroom Levels - My favorite thing about honors classes is that the kids are all relatively at the same academic level. I had the same positive experience teaching our former EL1/2 Social Studies. This year I had no such classes. Even my AVID class ranged from kids in reading intervention up to GATE. I had the same splits in my 3 on-level courses with the added layer of multiple special ed kids. It was a nightmare all year long. My high achievers missed out on many of my usual inquiry activities and my lower kids still struggled to keep up. While I learned to work with it there’s no question it led me to my most intense frustrations of the year.
Kaiser Permanente - Not so much related to work but it made work harder. I’ve been dealing with two medical issue over the last 18 months. I’ve got some sort of nerve problem in my left foot that has led to multiple visits and multiple tests. The ultimate answer from Kaiser: “We have no idea.” That led me to favoring my right leg heavily when walking or standing (which teachers tend to do quite a bit.) After a full month of unending knee pain I visited Kaiser again. The doctor, who ordered no tests of any kind, said I was getting old (37!) and suffering from arthritis so there was nothing to be done. Apparently I deal with daily pain for the remainder of my life. Thanks Kaiser for your intense care for my well being.
And the winner is… Classroom Levels. I never lost sleep over the tardy policy so it doesn’t win. The medical issues are just part of life so being constantly frustrated by it seems pointless. Trying to teach kids ranging in ability from 1st grade to 10th grade wins!
Let it Go - Leo (https://youtu.be/so49WpSj9bo?t=25s) - I don’t even remember how I ended up playing this in class. I think someone asked me to play Let it Go and I decided to indulge them with this version. It became our go to song. Fun, silly and familiar it was the tune that everyone kept asking for.
Gundam Build Fighters Opening Theme 1 - (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6Kq1UcFPyc) - Sometimes, you don’t know how much you love something until it is gone. My anime club kids have always liked J-pop though this year was all about K-pop. I generally dislike both. The GBF opening them is J-pop in its purest form and it is catchy as can be. Then, it disappeared! They changed the song halfway through season 1 and the rest of the year was just not the same. We still played the original opening each week for anime club!
Gundam Build Fighters Closing Theme - (https://youtu.be/i4-txHzY4ew?t=22m24s) - Along with the new opener came a new closing song - and it is absolutely awful in the best way possible. The song makes the nominees due to its opening line of “potato chips” and for introducing my class to the idea of having a “short pants spirit!” which became a running joke all year long.
And the winner is… Let it Go - Leo. I love both GBF songs but Leo’s Let it Go has made it into my regular personal playlist and not just for ironic reasons.
RWBY Vol. 5 - The hardest part about sponsoring a middle school anime club is finding shows that are school appropriate. Most anime is either rated Y7 for little kids or 17+ for adults - there’s little in between. RWBY falls in between but isn’t really anime. It’s English and made in America. Still, it is very much anime in style and story. Volume 5 was my least favorite of the show so far and I really didn’t like 4 at all. It just didn’t go anywhere. Still, I’ll watch 6 when it comes out.
Gundam Build Fighters - I found this on Youtube over the Summer and fell in love with it. Iori and Reiji make a great team and Reiji is one of my favorite characters in anime so far. The show is fun and innocent but still has some powerful themes. It is perfect for middle school.
Spirited Away - I’ve wanted to see this movie for years and finally did. The whole time watching it - both times - I had little idea what was going on. Still, it is endlessly compelling. Were I an English teacher I’d use it in any study of poetry or symbolism I could. The voice work, particularly of the main character Sen, is perfect. We cheated and watched it in English but both I and the kids loved it (even if we had no idea why.)
And the winner is… Gundam Build Fighters. Exactly what I’ve been looking for since anime club started. It feels very anime but plays well for a tween audience. Great characters, great music and a fine story that ends with real emotion. I’m very excited to watch the follow up series next year.
Boys - The continuous dropping achievement of boys across the nation has been discussed for years. At JMS this year boys made a big comeback. Our winners for our top students of the year were both boys. We often struggle to find even one. In my own classroom my two most improved students were boys as was my top performer. Of course, then Fortnite happened so...
Multiple Choice - Late in the year we started remaking our assessments to combine inquiry with multiple choice. I’ve been trying to square this circle since we started Common Core with mixed results. I finally feel pretty good about where we landed. The questions are still hard (in fact, possibly too hard) but are less intimidating for our students. Providing them with answer choices helps them to see how a complete analysis of a document should look. Doing this from the get to next year should be a big help.
Jeopardy - I cut way back on classroom review games the last couple years. I just couldn’t justify them in a world that put such little value on facts and trivia. While I still support that outcome giving up the games was a mistake. I played Jeopardy (one of my oldest and least interesting games) late in the year and the kids ate it up. “Can we play this every day?!” Well, no, but I’m glad it is back.
And the winner is… Jeopardy. I’m still not certain multiple choice is here to stay and I think the boys were an anomaly this year (though I’d love to be wrong!). Fun and games though are going to come back to my classroom in a big, big way.
Best New Thing
Final Mission Intro (https://vimeo.com/267343717) - You don’t have to do much to make middle schoolers interested in pirates. That’s why, in some ways, I’m disappointed that my pirate unit has 3 incredible intros to build interest. Some of my units barely have one. Oh well. The latest one is a hi-tech, spy style intro to their final mission. It really helped set the tone for the entire unit and the kids loved it. Supporting actor credit to Fiverr.com for making projects like this possible.
Conversion Factor - One of my very few new activities this year. This one is similar to my other “A Day In…” labs but has a specific learning goal. I wanted to teach students the various ways the Islamic Empire grew and expanded their faith. By taking on the role of a traveler in the empire they were able to logically experience many different methods. It didn’t work exactly as planned. It was originally a lesson to showcase Nearpod but I ran into conflicts with my own artistic visions and Nearpod’s inability to autoplay videos. Someday.
Renaissance Puppet Shows - Another new one but one I was only willing to try with my AVID class. I wrote 4 scripts covering major areas of the Renaissance and assigned them to 4 groups. Those groups created the actors (paper bag puppets) and the props to act out their scene. They kids did an amazing job and performance day was an absolute blast. I still don’t know if I’d trust the activity to an on-level class I only see once a day but I’m certainly tempted to try.
And the winner is… Renaissance Puppet Shows. Most new activities I do require significant rebuilding. Conversion Factor is a perfect example. I was making adjustments immediately to the script and presentation. It worked well enough but still clearly had work to be done. The puppet shows really didn’t. With the right group of kids I would do it again exactly as I did. No changes to scripts, instructions or anything. It just worked and the students did a tremendous job with it.
On to part 2!