Friday, February 5, 2016

Unshakeable: Chapters 13, 14, 15

Chapter 13: Build in periods of rest throughout your day

Before the start of the school year, I got a wicked case of plantar fasciitis, also known as something NO teacher should have.  It feels like you have rusty stakes in your heels as you walk.  I was not sitting down at all. I was working out and getting my room ready, averaging about 14K steps a day according to my Fit Bit.  That sounds reasonable to some, but not after a 5K/day summer.  Teaching with plantar fasciitis was almost unbearable.  I had to wrap my feet to do my job.  I'll repeat that one: I had to wrap my feet to do my job.  I don't know that others outside teaching understand its physical toll.  They'll say to me, "I work 12 hour days, too."  Oh, did you?  On your feet all day?  Because it is HELLA different at a desk.  When I say all day, I am including my lunch, which I was using as an additional prep.  I don't want sympathy, just acknowledgement that this is a job unlike others.  I believe a nurse might completely understand.

This chapter needed to be written, and I am glad Watson included it.  Every teacher knows that feeling when the admin pops in and you are sitting down or not enveloped in a fascinating lesson.  I had a parent walk in this week when I was sitting, and thought immediately of this chapter! I agree that permission is granted to sit.  Trust me, I have seen plenty of admins do it, too.

I liked the idea on p. 161 that, if you must sit, bring some of your "lovies" to a table with you.  In the rare cases when I must write an office discipline referral, it takes a while. There are also times when I must speak with colleagues, like the principal and the nurse.  I could be more mindful of sitting at these occasions, too.

Great ideas abound on p. 162.  I can't stress enough her "comfortable shoes" suggestion.  After having surgery to fix my foot after 10 years of teaching, I had to give up the heels and trendy shoes.  I also miss having a mic.  When I had a hearing impaired student, I had a mic, and it was a huge bonus.  Reading this made me think of researching for a cheap mic.  The culture of the students I teach can sometimes be loud, and a mic would help a great deal.  This one looks like an option.  I just ordered it, so I'll let you know!

Chapter 14: Construct a self-running classroom that frees you to teach

This chapter reminded me of this article I read about a decade ago during math training entitled, Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say.  I was also reminded of my NGSS training this summer in which we we were shown and reinforced the importance of using Talk Moves. I am constantly being reminded that the less talk I present to the students, the more thinking they do.  It comes down to what Watson says on p. 179, "Don't steal the struggle."

I am a huge fan of routines.  This is fortunate since I am the mom of two boys with ASD.  Routines keep us sane at home.  It is the same in the classroom. At the start of the chapter, I kept thinking how good these suggestions were universally, but how imperative they are for students with special needs.  Routines help students with special needs merge into a general education setting so much better than chaos.

The Ask 3 Before Me reminded me of my student teaching, where I had my very first complaint to the principal from a parent (yessssss, those who know me are laughing aloud).  Yup.  Student teaching.  A kiddo went home and told his mom I would not answer his questions.  Basically, he did not want to ask his peers, and the little sucker went home and asked Mom who asked, Why do you not ask your teacher?  See where that went?  I thought I was being empowering!  I thought I was making him think!  Oh yeah, I was making him think all right.  I was making him decide how to manipulate adults to get what he wanted.  Go me!  It is imperative that we explain to students (and parents?  and administration? and co-teachers/aides?) why we are doing these classroom management techniques so that there isn't intentional and unintentional undermining of our fantastic strategies.

The last thing I was made conscious of in this chapter was the ever-present teacher question, Does that make sense? Do we ever really give students time to think when we ask that? Sometimes we ask while they are processing, so they have no idea what to answer.  Other times, they ask us just to get us to stop talking.  I think that question might be recycled by Plato.

Chapter 15: Motivate students to take charge of their learning

If there's anything that I would say is close to my "vision" for teaching, it is placing learning in the hands of (sometimes resistant) students.  I have been having a hard time with the idea of student-led conferences, which I once loved, for the sheer time involved.  I wish that the system would acknowledge that, to do conferences well, using the word they love, "integrity," we need more than one day.  I do not shy from putting in extra time.  Far from it!  I just get agitated when the time something should take is underestimated by those who control scheduling.  I just wasted a week on conferences that I did not need.  I needed more time in October, but there is an insistence on having a day in February as well.

So, I shall focus on what is in my circle of control now that I got that out of my system.  I can say that I try in my everyday to hand things over to the kiddos whenever I can.  This chapter was a good reminder to persevere.

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