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Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 year in review!

Happy New Year! I'm writing from Colorado, where there are about eight inches of snow on the ground. None in Boston yet, but it's coming soon . . . Last year we lost nine days to snow! Never again!

It's been a long time since my last blog post, so I have a lot to write about. The fall totally got away from me, as you can imagine. I can't believe it's the end of 2015!

This year I'm co-teaching three classes with a new partner (an experienced ELA special education teacher), and it's amazing. I know the curriculum well, and he comes to the table with great knowledge of the school and how to best modify for our students. We've tried all sorts of new ideas, including using Google Classroom and other technology tools. I've learned so much!

The course is 10 CP, and each class is 1/3 to 1/2 students with IEPs. My goal was to make this year's co-teaching a 50/50 split, and I truly think we're doing it. We meet for prep every day, and that makes all the difference. We grade, plan, and talk about behavior and strategies. It's awesome! I really had to dial back my controlling tendencies--I try not to make any decisions without my co-teacher. I'm thrilled with the way this aspect of this year is going. The arrangement has truly made my life easier, not harder!

I also have a GIANT AP Lang class this year--31 kids. They are great, but the grading is killing me. I've tried some strategies to make it more manageable, and some of them are working. I started the year by having a ten minute meeting with every AP student after school, and that plan was a good idea because I learned names and personalities faster; plus, the kids feel more comfortable coming for extra help. I've also slowed the pace this year--starting with two months of rhetorical analysis, a month of argument, and a month of synthesis before our mock exam in January. Hopefully this limited focus will pay off. The kids seem happy and healthy.

EdCamp Malden was awesome! About 35 learners came to discuss ELL Success! We're getting a new principal next year, so I hope he/she supports this effort. It would be awesome to have a 3rd annual event.

I began co-advising a class this past spring, but this month I decided to step down and let the other adviser take over. Advising was a huge commitment that took away too much time for my teaching. It was a hard decision, but I know it was the best one for me. Sometimes knowing what's NOT best for you is an important step in growing!

One of my smartgoals for this year is to improve my co-teaching, and for me, that means improving my work with students with special needs. I'm taking a DESE-sponsored online class on co-teaching. While the content hasn't been too new to me, it's awesome because I'm taking the course with four colleagues from my school. The final product is a unit on research, so I'm glad I can work on that project because it will help us in the spring. I also signed up for fifteen hours of lectures on special education topics--mental health, behavior, autism, and other topics. I'm an auditory learner, so sitting and listening and taking notes is great for me. Both of these classes have helped me a lot! Up this spring is a UDL class on engagement and motivation.

I also started a book club with some new friends. We're reading Eric Jensen's new book Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind. I loved his other book Teaching with Poverty in Mind, so I'm excited to read this one. So many of my students are brilliant people, but I need to do a better job of engaging them and keeping them motivated.

I just signed up to read sixty books in 2016! Follow #sixtybooks for more info. I don't know if I can make it, but I want to try!

Enjoy the rest of break, everyone! I'm so blessed to have a great PLN that helps me reflect and share challenges!