Thursday, May 24, 2012

Planning for the end of the school year

T-minus 9.5 days with students and counting.  I really have no idea where the school year went.  It's been crazy, it's been busy, and it's been so much fun!  Who knew I would be so sad to say good-bye to my awesome 7th graders?!  I'll admit they have grown on me, sort of like a fungus.  :)

Every year without fail my bff Linda and I are the last two teachers leaving on the last day.  We get 1.5 days to close out our classrooms, which is great for us.  Of course those days, there is no child labor option for wonderful helpful students to help us pack away our goods.  We are both bound and determined to leave on time for once, this year.  I have been working diligently over the past few weeks decluttering 20+ years of resources.  I am getting rid of anything that is not math related.

There is so much involved with packing up a classroom (as you all know).  We are lucky at my school that unless you are moving classrooms, you don't have to take every single thing off your wall and have everything packed away in boxes.  Still, when you think about everything you have out in your classroom throughout the year, there is quite a bit to pack away.

One of the best things I did a few years ago, was clear out a cabinet at the end of the year.  I then packed away all of my desk items in that cabinet.  When I come back in August to set up my room I go right to that cabinet and everything I need to start the school year is right there.  No hunting around for something you need and have no idea which box it got stuffed into at the last minute (I have been doing a massive decluttering of boxes this year and it's always easy to tell which box was the last one packed, when I was so DONE with packing that everything left just got shoved into a box so I could get the heck out of there).

I always try and make my back to school and first day copies at the end of the year so I know they are done for next year.  Usually I would make all the copies for the first two weeks of school.  This saves you from standing in line waiting at the copy machine with everyone else needing to make copies those first days back.  Next school year we are starting a brand new curriculum so I do not have any idea what copies I will need.  I am still copying my usual back to school items (ex, welcome locker signs, Core Plus intro activities, any back to school night handouts).

The most valuable thing you can do to stay organized at the end of the year and not drive yourself crazy is to make a to do list and stick to it.  Don't leave everything for the last days of school.  Start dividing up your list of what you want to accomplish every week or even every day.  I make a separate packing list because I believe that's such a huge task it needs its own list.

When making up my master packing list I start at one point in my classroom and then work around the room in order of every piece of furniture or shelf that needs to be packed away.  That way I don't forget anything that needs to be done, I can start prioritizing what I can start packing away, because it is not needed for the last coupe weeks of school.

To Do List:
*Make a list of copies you need for the first week or two of school
*Make copies
*Keep track of where you are packing away important everyday items and start packing what you can now
*Start working on checking off items from your master list NOW, you will be glad you did when the last week of school arrives and you are not overwhelmed
*Declutter anything you are able to before you pack up your room
*Students are awesome organizers!  Let them organize any cabinets that have gotten cluttered throughout the year
*Start taking down some of your extra classroom decor now (I teach middle school, I know some of you elementary teachers might prefer to not do this too early)
*Start making lists of any tasks that students can help you with and let them help.  They love it!
*Spend time organizing your digital files/email and deleting unnecessary items (I am always scrambling to do this at the very last minute)
*Keep a master to do list of what needs to be done and keep adding to it and crossing things off as they are done
*Set a basket aside with anything you need to turn in on checkout day.  That way you won't be searching high and low for a form that needs to be turned in, but has gone missing.

I can't believe that two weeks from today will be my last half day with students and two weeks from tomorrow I will be done for the year!  I know many of you are already done for the year.  Lucky you!  I also know that many of you go a few weeks longer than I do.  Unlucky you!  I will be doing a full week of training on Carnegie and Personalized Learning the week after school is out, so technically my first free day will not be until June 18th.I hope you are all enjoying your last days with your students and if you are already on summer break, I hope your first few days have been wonderful and relaxing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ed Camp Milwaukee, the Unconference

I had the pleasure of attending an "unconference" this past Saturday.  I really did not know what to expect, but I must say that the reality far exceeded what I expected the event would be.  An unconference is where everyone meets at the beginning of the day and throws out session ideas.  The way it was done at my Ed Camp was people would come to the front of the auditorium and grab a post-it and then speak into a mic and say what sort of session they would like to see or what sort of session they would be willing to lead.

The day began with a catered breakfast from Panera.  We met and got the lowdown on how the day would work.  We ended up moving into the auditorium for 45 minutes of Intro to Ed Camp and session planning and posting.  We had a google+ hangout where we were able to have a presentation with the founders of Ed Camp of how it came to be.  So very interesting!

After the intro to Ed Camp people starting sharing session ideas.  Once everyone was finished offering session ideas a schedule was created on a google doc with all the sessions titles and time slots.  We had four different time slots with multiple sessions running during each time slot.

The first session I attended was about math instruction and it was such a great experience to network with other math teacher and share great teaching ideas.  The topics ranged from grading homework to ideas for teaching specific concepts more creatively.

My second session was on flipped teaching.  So much information was shared by teachers and tech coaches from various districts.  There is an 8th grade math teacher at my school that has been flipping her algebra class this semester with great results.  I really need to find a time to observe her in action.  She is an awesome teacher and she was able to share lots of info in our session.

We broke for a pizza lunch sponsored by Topper's.  There were so many sponsors that made this a FREE event for all attendees and also contributed some awesome door prizes.  I won a t-shirt and subscription to Evernote, as well as, several free app codes.

After lunch I went to a session on workshop model in middle school math.  I was hoping some awesome elementary teachers who use this type of model would attend and share some ideas.  Another teacher wanted info on using learning stations at the middle school level and another wanted some expertise on managing group work.  We ended up combining these three topics into one session.  I did not really get any ideas for the workshop model in the middle school classroom, but I did get contact info for two people should be a fabulous resource for me.  That is another amazing thing about Ed Camp, the contacts you make and the sharing freely of resources and information.

One thing I loved about this conference was that it was all about getting what you need/want out of it.  They gave us permission to enter and leave sessions at any time.  If you found yourself in a session that was not what you thought it would be or not beneficial to you, then you could leave and find something that worked better for you.  I just LOVE this idea, that it's all about what YOU want to get out of it.  People freely came and went during sessions and no one had hurt feeling about it.

Another thing I did not realize was that this unconference was not just about technology.  Of course there were many sessions dealing with technology, but people were free to request whatever they needed whether or not it was related to technology.

I cannot speak highly enough of what a great experience Ed Camp MKE was.  I WOULD STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO REGISTER FOR ANY ED CAMP YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ATTEND. <------ Yes I am shouting to emphasize how passionate I feel about this amazing experience.

Have any of you attended Ed Camp?  I would love to hear about your experience.  Please feel free to ask any questions about the experience.  I am no expert, just a super enthusiastic supporter of this unconference model for professional development.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week

This week was teacher appreciation week and I am linking up with Jena over at Caught in the Middle.   Be sure to head over to Jena's blog and see the fun things other teachers have posted about.  I don't know about you, but I love the hear about ANY teacher being appreciated for ANYTHING they do!

My teacher appreciation week actually started before Monday when I received a very thoughtful email from a parent of a student I teach math this year.  Parents should never underestimate the power of a written thank you!  It really made my day.  I print out any positive emails I get and then on a day I need a little positive pick-up I reread the email or thank you note.

Monday our PTO put on a lovely breakfast for us.  There was lots of fruit and a variety of muffins, as well as, the most delicious mini quiches and beverages.  Tuesday our Principal and VP had a catered lunch from a fabulous local italian restaurant.  The meal was meatballs or sausage with penne pasta, bread, and an awesome salad, with cookies for dessert and beverages of course.  The food was beyond delish!  

Wednesday I was at an all day training for Carnegie Math, but a local church always brings in homemade goodies for our afternoon inservice days.  Everything is always yummy and there is always so many baked goods and fruit.  Thursday our PTO provided us with a homemade mexican fiesta.  There was a taco bar with beef or chicken to made hard or soft shell tacos (I opted to just make a taco salad).  There were chips and salsa with some mexican dips.  There was also a table full of desserts that were fantastic.

Yesterday morning there was an morning announcement by our tech coach that every teacher had a personal thank you video made by a student.  That was such a sweet and fun surprise!  One of our guidance counselors helped the tech coach and digital media students put it all together.  The impressive thing was that students came up with the idea and then got the project done.  We also had cookie trays yesterday from the district as a thank you for our efforts.  I went home early yesterday because my middle son was sick, but I think there was also a drawing where several teachers got gifts bags or gift cards.  Sadly, I was not one of the chosen.  ;)

I also got a very special teacher appreciation gift from Leslie over at Kindergarten Works.  She made my new blog button you see over on the side and I must say that I love it!  Thank you so much Leslie for your kind and generous offer to make me a blog button.  You are the best!

It was a great Teacher Appreciation week and I really felt the love!  Cooper got his teacher and K aide Target gift cards and Drew got his teacher Starbucks.  I find it cute how opinionated they are on what gift card to get their teachers.  I hope you all had a fabulous teacher appreciation week and felt the love!  Today I am off to EdCamp Milwaukee to spend the day with 200+ other educators sharing ideas.  Can't wait to tell you all about it!  Enjoy your Saturday.