7:40 am - arrive at school, eat breakfast, set up the day's slide show, and arrange a few things
8:10 am - first period starts. In class, we started by doing a little bit of mindfulness practice, inspired by Roni Habib's Fall CUE session on positive psychology. I had them close their eyes and visualise the thoughts dropping into a little jar. The goal was to help them process thoughts and feelings they had as they rushed to get to school and help them settle in. There were a few students who tried to make it a joke, but I didn't acknowledge it. I know they are uncomfortable and making jokes helps them feel more in control. Tomorrow I'll mention that people often make a joke when they don't feel comfortable, and our goal is to help them feel comfortable in their own skin.
8:20 am - here is where things went a little bit awry. I had planned for the 14 students who turned in a video on Friday for the vocabulary test to hear the comments I left them in Kaizena, while everyone else sent me the video and then moved on to Language Mastery #16. However, Google Drive kept giving us error messages and most students couldn't get their document open to hear the comments. So finally, after almost 20 wasted minutes, I just had them start on Language Mastery. After 5 more minutes, I realised we were almost to the end of the period, so I told them we would continue tomorrow. That was really failure #1 of the day.
9:00 am - I have students for two periods, so there is a three minute passing period in the middle of our two classes that students can use to run to their locker or use the restroom. During that time, I checked the Google form and saw the merge wasn't happening, and I couldn't make run, even by triggering it manually. So I decided we would just move on to Minecraft.
9:05 am - Students got settled and I gave them the task, which was the same as the one they had last time. Because I'm fairly new at Minecraft, I often don't know how to fix problems as they arise. So when students were suddenly unable to build (despite having build mode engaged), I didn't know how to fix it. Later, we discovered that our practice of having students frozen upon entry to the simulation was making them unable to build later. This time, I also reiterated the rules (because 6th period found a way to break them all in that simulation) that they could only build a shelter out of sandstone, and they had to collect 30 bundles of wheat and bury them underneath their shelter. The point of the simulation was to have them learn to deal with having VERY limited resources in a more historically-accurate way.
9:25 am - I was pretty pleased with the majority of the shelters they built. So we took a few minutes and I gave them a quick tour so each group could talk about the shelter they built. Something I saw quickly was that so many students have Minecraft skills far in advance of what I expected. I also got to have students teach me how to navigate using Night Vision and other controls I hadn't used before. I think it actually was good for them to see me struggle but keep going. My inability to navigate well in Minecraft could be counted as failure #3.
9:40 am - We moved on to the final task - in their groups, students are taking the places of neolithic settlers in various regions around the world and deciding how to build a society. They have to start from nothing, and find out about their region - what the geography is like, what crops grow, what animals are indigenous, etc. - so they can set up the best possible society. The purpose is that they should come up with some of the basic structures of civilisations on their own through inquiry and research.
9:50 am - Class ended with me going around to each group to check in and see what they had discussed. I noticed a ton of groups just sort of yell-talked at each other and then each wrote down their own ideas. We're going to have to work on that one.
3rd period is my prep, and I spent that hour helping Andrew plan his afternoon classes and figuring out the new AutoCrat Add-On, as it recently had the ability to trigger on form submit re-integrated. I also ran to the restroom before my next class started and cleaned up a little after my morning class.
4th period is my Strategies class. These are students who, for whatever reason, need more structured time with an adult to help them succeed academically. I have a mix of 14 7th and 8th grades, most of whom are really sweet and hard-working. However, about half of them (the vast majority of the 7th graders, really) need an adult constantly monitoring their work to keep them on task. To help me with that, we have a push-in support worker (and the mother of one of my very sweet 1st period students!) who is helping me out starting today. She was able to sit with a few of the 7th graders while checked in with the rest of them. The period goes by quickly when I'm walking around keeping 14 students on track.
11:45 am - lunch starts with a student walking in asking to make up a test. I went next door (being next to the staff room has its advantages) to heat up my lunch after getting him started. Then I talked to Andrew about my afternoon classes in between eating and helping the student get his test done.
12:30 pm - lunch ends and the student makes arrangements with me to come in tomorrow to continue the test. Andrew and I continue to get work set up for the afternoon and discuss the morning classes, and I responded to a parent email, until I finally had to run to the restroom again at 1:08, with only a few minutes left before 6th period.
1:13 pm - 6th period starts. This class has 19 boys and 5 girls. At the end of the day. Yes. So I am trying the mindfulness practice with them as well. More students made a joke of it this time, so I actually addressed it by talking about how people joke to avoid being uncomfortable. That settled all but one student. After that, I had made the decision just to have them do Language Mastery #16 instead of trying to have half do one thing and half do another. That was far more successful.
1:40 pm - students finish up with Language Mastery and we move on to the writing assignment. I listened as they discussed with their groups which words were verbs - it's fascinating to me that they actually know a lot more about language conventions than you'd ever guess from their writing.
2:00 pm - we have a 15 minute break between 6th and 7th periods (both of which periods my students spend with me), and I frantically entered grades for the last month of reading logs they had submitted (they do a google form each night to log their district-mandated thirty minutes of reading) while they played games, ate a snack and hung out.
2:12 pm - class started, and we did our Minecraft simulation. This class was ahead, so we went on to the farming simulation where they settle along either the Tigris or Euphrates River and plant crops, build irrigation, construct a mud hut, and make an animal enclosure. This one was pure enjoyment to watch. Seeing them struggle to figure out how to use the geographical conditions to their advantage was amazing; they would never get that experience from a textbook or a video. They actually got to live it.
2:40 pm - I warned them that night was coming, and they best be finishing their shelters.
2:50 pm - I finally froze them and they had a quick discussion about what challenges farmers faced in this kind of environment. Their "discussion" was more shouting answers at each other than talking, but time was running out, so afterwards, I asked them to clean up and class ended.
3:00 pm - I entered grades, answered emails, and had a snack for about 40 minutes, and then went home.
6:00 pm - 10:00 pm - Andrew and I planned our classes and I gave Kaizena feedback to the rest of my 1st period class on their vocabulary videos. Then I went to sleep. Thus ends the first day.
This kind of day is pretty typical, really. Lots of failures, lots of moments of joy, and some tedious points, but overall, I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. I wish all days left me feeling as positive as today did.