I am going on a PD hunt, I am not scared. I can't avoid it, I am going to go through it. #Observeme.

I read Jennifer Gonzalez' 2013 article, " A Mild Case of Fisheye," over on her blog, The Cult of Pedagogy. It rang true for me so I shot a letter out to my assistant principal, told her I just read this article and that I was ready for some help with my College Readiness Class. I told her I was going to have a chat with a particular group of tuned out students, that were having an impact on the classroom culture and would she please come by and observe.

My AP stayed for about one hour (we have 95 minute blocks). We set up an appointment, and she came to my room during lunch two days later. I was agitated that I was doing something wrong, that surely in my 30th year I should be the beloved teacher and provide students with the best education has to offer and what if I was losing my effectiveness? Well, I do mentor beginning teachers, I am still here, I love education, students, teachers, curriculum, professional development, learning, and teaching, so I must do somethings wells. And I do have both passion and compassion. So what is up?

I learned that I had a group that was feeding each other in the worst way. Three of the four were saying things to each other like, "I am so dumb," " I need help," and "I am so lost." The fourth was the only one who had her binder, had her homework,  and was actually getting frustrate with the others at her table. My AP wrote her saying in exasperation, "You ALREADY have your slope!" In a group of seniors, I don't make seating charts. I thought this group were working together, but really they were sitting next to a person who was confident and were feigning ignorance to get someone else to do the brunt of their work. I learned something I need to pay attention to more carefully. Gasp, I may even need to make a purposeful, "random" seating chart to spread out the "lost" students among their more capable (organized? dedicated? invested?) peers.

The other nugget that was most enlightening, was how I give feedback. At a much more productive table group,  one girl was recorded as saying, "She said you were fine." Although my affect is positive and encouraging, it requires "interpreting." I need to be more direct and ask what it is the student is needing feedback on. I don't like just saying, "yes you are right." I prefer to ask a question that leads the student to his or her own conclusion,  but maybe if I am judicious, a "you are on the right track," would make the students feel less anxious and continue independently.

I got to the #ObserveMe part backwards on this occasion and actually looked at the folder last. I was so pleased to know that my questions for observers DID reflect my concerns and even though the AP used her own response form (purpose: email invitation). I got the feedback I was seeking:

Welcome! Please come inside and observe me for 5 minutes or 90. I would love feedback on:

      Students are talking about math.
     Teacher gives useful feedback.
     Teacher fairly calls on all students.

I am going on a PD hunt, I am not scared. I can't avoid it, I am going to go through it. #Observeme.

It takes a village to raise a teacher.

Oh My! Happy holidays folks.

I do go to an improv class, it is the scariest thing I do. I do it to be reminded of what it is like to be a student. I do it to be as far away from my comfort zone as possible. I do it to remember to be playful.

What I have learned, is that there are a lot of profound life lessons in the simple lessons of improv"

🔼Commit to "yes, and." This is the mantra. Go with what you are given and expand that.

🔼Give your partner a gift. Listen.

🔼Acknowlege that everyone brings something to the table.

🔼Take risks.

🔼Learn from failure.

One game I risked doing in class involves many Nerf balls. All at once. With teenage boys. Whoo.
I am convinced this is a brain activating game. I am convinced it helps with listening and paying attention. It is also silly fun.

Start with 10-12 students in a circle. You need 3 different colored Nerf balls.
The non-participants give a category. We started
with dogs.

Round 1) Toss the ball to a person, and say your dog breed: Beagle, go all around tossing the ball to each person once. The catcher says a different dog breed: German Shepard (you can stop and have everyone who has gone put their hand on their head so everyone goes through once and knows who hasn't spoken yet).

Round 2) In the exact same order, the first person calls and throws to the person they threw to first, German Shepard. The ball gets tossed around with only the tosser saying the name of the next receiver.

Round 3, 4, 5 same as round 2. The pattern should be strongly known now.

Yup, now put ball one away. Ask for another category, in our case it was ice cream flavors.

Go through round 1 and 2 again. You can NOT throw to the person you threw to before. It has to be someone new!

Play round 3, 4, 5 with ball 2.

The rest of the rounds: Re-introduce ball 1 and at the next moment, toss ball 2! Keep going! Zing, Bozang! Fun! Think Fast!

If you dare, stop and try starting with rounds 1-5 with a ball three. Get all three balls going eventually. I have done it! It is crazy good and what a sense of accomplishment!

I see it useful in ESL classes. I will play with types of angles pairs, with new Geometry vocab, types of functions, whatev we can all think of.

I challenged the baseball coach next door to try it with his kids this spring.

I can't wait to do it as a "My Favorite" in Atlanta, if the stars are aligned for me in 2017.

If you play, or think of twist, comment below?