It’s Limbo time!


We’ve entered that magical last two weeks, one day, and four hours of school. That time when kids and teachers and parents can see the end, and they’re happy/sad/wound up/depressed/excited. A time when we should be coasting, enjoying each other’s company and knowing exactly what each day will bring. A time to reflect on the year and everything we’ve learned together.

Instead, I feel conflicted. My battery is simultaneously being drained by what’s happening in the time we have left and recharged as I look toward next year. Figuring out how to fit in the last 4.3 science objectives I have to teach, finish up book clubs, make math worthwhile, grade final writing pieces, and power through the last spelling unit, all while making time for the talent show, a fun run, a field trip, and Innovation Week has me stressed. When I get to my room, though, I’ll start thinking of all the possibilities next year holds. How can I rearrange things to make it more comfortable? What if I got a futon? How can I run 20% Time better? How can I make every subject more project based? What new challenges will I have to overcome?

In the midst of all of this, I want to keep my kids engaged. Trying to innovate in this limbo time is tough. Most of the innovation comes in the form of scheduling. What can I move where to maximize my time, keep kids focused and learning, but not overwhelm all of us? The part of my brain looking ahead makes it difficult to do this at times. I still want to try new things, and my class knows me now. What better time to push them ahead?

So I’ll try a few things in the coming weeks. Have them turn in a video instead of a worksheet. Try to have student-run book clubs. Move some furniture around. But in the 15 years I’ve (almost) got under my belt, I’ve also learned not to change things up too much this time of year. Kids need structure, need to know that when they come in the morning the routine will be about the same as it was the day before. This keeps us all sane and happy, and I don’t want to mess with that.

Okay. Maybe just a little. You can’t stay in limbo forever.

And next year’s kids? I can’t wait to get my ideas on them.

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Y-presses, Jeff Goldblum, and innovation in classrooms

Jeff Goldblum

As I was moving from one station to another at my kickboxing gym this morning, I noticed that the next station called for Y-presses. Imagine you, with hand weights, extending your arms diagonally out from your shoulders. Like a Y. Y-presses are my new nemesis, and I have vowed not to do them again. My left rotator cuff (and doctor) agree with this decision.   As my husband says, “That’s not a natural position for anyone!” I asked the trainer on duty to please come up with something else I could do.

Once he formulated a satisfactory substitute, I started thinking of Jeff Goldblum and “Jurassic Park”. You know the line: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” I feel that way about Y-presses. SHOULD you actually do them, or is it just something a sadistic trainer came up with?

“Hey! I’ve got a great idea!”

Many innovations begin that way, but as an educator, I feel I need the healthy skepticism of Dr. Ian Malcolm. Just because we CAN doesn’t mean we SHOULD. One-to-one technology K-5? Terrific. Kids on their iPads or Chromebooks all day long? Not so much. Technology is seen as innovation so often in the elementary school setting, when it truly is a means to an end. If a student is working on a writing piece, Google Docs isn’t innovation; it’s just another way to publish what we used to do on Word or (gasp!) paper. A reading program on the computer isn’t a substitute for me sitting and reading with one of my students. The computer helps identify those skills kids need, but it will not take my place. We run the risk of changing our factory method of schooling to the screen method of schooling. Same content, different delivery.

That said, I don’t want the skepticism to hold me back. I started flexible seating in my room this year, much to the dismay of my long-time teammate. She was thinking logistically (which I tend to overlook at times), and I value her opinion. She made me think of things I hadn’t before (where WILL I put all of their stuff?), but I also realized we are very different educators. I can handle a bit more chaos than she can. I’m willing to try more things that just might fail, just to see if they won’t. I love Project Lead the Way, and project based learning, and 20% Time, and our DIY Lab (until it’s time to clean up, that is). I love kids thinking to solve problems, to design better ways of doing things, to prepare for the real world. That’s what I believe innovation should be – making this thing that we’ve done for so long fresher. Better. More interesting and applicable to the world our kids will live in. And I also believe that the learning standards can follow us there.

I am, however, willing to leave the Y-presses behind.

What’s so hard about starting a blog?

That was my thought 9 days ago when I first started designing this blog. Then I got busy. And worried. What would I write about? Who would want to read what I’d have to say? Would I be able to figure out a way to write more than just two posts? Could I start this during state testing and not just write about how much I dislike state testing?

So. Here’s what I’ve learned is hard about starting a blog.

  1. Getting over yourself. I’ve decided that this will be about my journey toward more innovation in my classroom and school. If you like it, great. If you don’t, you don’t have to read it. I’ll just keep plugging away, trying to improve my small corner of the world.
  2. Finding the time. I know I need to set aside time each week (more than one day a week?) to write. As a part of the Innovative Teaching Academy, I know I’ll have support and people who will be more than happy to help me along. I’ve always been a procrastinator, though, and I’ll have to get around that. See number 1.
  3. Deciding what to write about. As this is my first post, I’m just getting by on how to begin. A decent topic, but now what? I am really starting to feel strongly about what people think innovation is (apps and technology), and what I think innovation is (making strides toward improving and changing things for the better). I think that’s where the title of the blog came from. At times I feel like I’m moving against the stream of what I’ve always done, hoping that I’ll get far enough for the new ideas to become as comfortable as the old.

Now that I’ve begun, let’s see if I can keep it going. Thanks for reading.