Monday, March 31, 2008

Knock on Wood...

But Shawn gave me some great insight into something that he is doing to help work on procrastination. It has helped give me some peace and get a few things done (but today is only day two).
Shawn had heard the story about Ivy Lee.
Ivy Lee went into the Charles Schwab corporation and told them,
"If I can make your employees more productive in three months, pay me what you think it's worth."
He introduced every employee to the 6-thing list...
Three months later he came back and they paid him $35,000 for the improvement. What? $35,000 doesn't seem like much for one day of talking with the employees?
They paid him $35,000 almost 100 years ago when the average worker was earning $2 PER DAY.
Wow. Even with my poor math skills knowing that people today earn a minimum of $5.85 per hour... so for an 8 hour day that's around $45 per day... over 22 times what the average worker earned back then... so $35,000 would be $770,000. Wow.

So here's how it goes:
The following day, Ivy Lee met with Charles Schwab's management executives, spending only ten minutes with each in order to tell them:
Ivy Lee: "I want you to promise me that for the next ninety days, before leaving your office at the end of the day, you will make a list of the six most important things you have to do the next day and number them in their order of importance."
Astonished Executives: "That it?"
Ivy Lee: "That's it. Scratch off each item after finishing it, and go on to the next one on your list. If something doesn't get done, put it on the following day's list."

And that...

Is the rest of the story.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Variances in Perception

Today is the end of the quarter and I had the students fill out a "Grade you, Grade me" sort of end-of-term survey in my 3/4/5 class. This class I chose specifically because I have been using a number of different things in class for learning (authentic texts, news, writing, etc.).
I am finding the results of this survey very interesting.

Questions 2 and 3:
2- Grade the Deutschklasse (not fellow classmates). What activities have you liked that we have done in class? What things have you not liked? What things would you like to see more of? What things could you do without for the rest of the year?
3- Grade Frau Tol as a teacher. What things do you like about Frau Tol? What things do you dislike? How can Frau be a better teacher (no homework is not an option)? Add any other appropriate comments you wish.

If I were filling out the survey, my answers would include some of the following things:
2- Good: Children's book, news, often answering and speaking in German, dialogue journals, specific grammar work and time to improve it, a general theme of stronger focus on the authentic use of the language instead of just memorizing vocabulary
"Bad": I would like more vocabulary interspersed throughout and perhaps more "flow" to the class... a better flowing plan
3- Nice job increasing authentic materials and use. Improve on the flow of the curriculum and more things to get done. Still have fun and keep it (mostly) relaxed... in fact, go back a bit to what it used to be. Perhaps reintegrate more community building things.

In general, these kids have been working harder than any kids in these levels have before. There has been more work and more higher-level thinking and more authentic use than I think I've ever done in the past.

So it was surprising for me to see some kids saying we need to work harder and do more. (And it even came from surprising sources sometimes) "...we could maybe do a little more learning..." (nestled in between two cheesy compliments).

A couple students couldn't have stated my opinion better:
"Frau, your teaching is more hard core this year. Maybe that's why its harder for me to learn...""
"I personally like the way the class is run right now. It's not all busy work, like German 1 and 2."
"I can confidently say though that I have learned a lot, and it has been challenging."
"I like how it is structured to actually learn how to speak in sentences and interpret real German instead of just memorizing vocab out of a book."

So when I am reading comments like the one previously stated about learning or some of the following, I think it's interesting to see the different perceptions... and I'm enjoying considering where some of these perceptions stem from:
"I was disappointed we didn't get to do, or use more German."
"We need more things to keep us busy."

Okay, so maybe it was just three that mentioned that they didn't think we were learning much (my skew of their answer)... but I find it interesting that the perceptions can be so vastly different.

Just a few other things:
  • A number of kids said they missed the games.
  • A few said that although they liked and appreciated the story, it took too long (great feedback!). So that needs to happen in a shorter amount of time instead of a little every day.
  • Many others agreed with my perception that we should not forget to learn vocabulary (I have a plan for that).
  • Some others commented on the general attitude of the class (some saying I should be more mean to get things done, others saying that they are frustrated with their classmates not being industrious or not participating enough, one other saying that he doesn't like his classmates at all.) I think that this is going to be easily changed with two things: a purposefully happy attitude from me (with fidelity) and more community building... once kids get along with each other, I feel like they are able to enjoy some of the antics that happen in the classroom... and that is often what makes the class. Also, next semester we are going to spend more time in purposeful partnerships/seats. I let that slide this entire term (in many of my classes) and I definitely see the downfall in all of my classes.

I look forward to having a fantastic plan for the entirety of next quarter. I would really like to get it all planned out so that it's finished and I can finetune from there instead of planning unit by unit. That's what UbD would tell me to do (plan with the end in mind) and I might as well do it grand scale!!

So definitely some rest over spring break, but some fantastic work as well!

Monday, March 17, 2008


Funny how things can sometimes just come together.
I was worried that today wouldn't go well because I would be predisposed with other worries... and although I almost broke down three times this morning in tears, I didn't. I did end up crying at the end of 3rd hour... but thankfully it was at least some of my super caring students there and not the entire class.

Things in each of the classes went well, and I seem to have a game plan for the next couple weeks. I don't feel like I'm just shooting in the dark at any rate. That's good. I did the lunch tray thing with my German 2's again... it is such a great activity... a great way to get some meaningful preliminary vocabulary and I'm always glad when I do it.

Another "upper": last Friday I met RJ's "foreign exchange student". Today she told me that he said that I had really good pronunciation and that I had really good German. He feared that I would have some terrible American accent, but was impressed. This was a definite high for me because the last I've dealt with a German speaking about me was someone who I never even spoke with but (since he's from the Ruhrgebiet) said he couldn't understand me. Ah well. It's good to be reminded of the good things.

Decisions Made

Well, I think my decision is final.
I will not be going to the new school.

I have been vacillating about this for quite a while now... and I've been pulled both ways by many people (which, it does feel good to be "wanted")... but the premature politicking that has been happening bis jetzt doesn't bode well in my opinion. Not necessarily in reference to myself... but instead within the process as a whole, and I think it is something that I would be healthier to just stay out of. It's weird as I have been part of many committees as they planned the building in the beginning and met with the contractors and engineers and architechts and was, at first, very excited.

It's funny how people can change that.

Ah well, people will be people and life is life and I'm happy where I am... and they're talking about adding a debate team! Wow. It's earlier than I had hoped in my life, but it's definitely exciting!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The sun'll come out tomorrow!

The weather is getting nicer and nicer and I can tell. I took a VERY quick stroll around the neighborhood tonight and it was just nice to be outside again. I need that...

So let's do some positive sandwiches:

Positive: I am the "German Goddess" according to one of our assistant principals (since my numbers have grown enough to have another partial position at Park... how's that for alliteration!)

Negative: I am overwhelmed. I wanted to get a bunch of the tournament stuff done today during my prep, but I was surprised by a student (who failed to show up to my class today just the hour prior) who was obviously just over a crying spell... came in with Kleenex... and we had about an hour discussion about her broken relationship. I reminded myself right away that she is the reason I am at school and in my profession... and that was a great reminder... but it just delayed (and increased) the stress for the tournament.

Positive: Our principal stopped me the other day and said that she had spoken with my cousin about me... saying that I was "top notch" and that my "umbilical cord was planted at Park High School", then she tapped my arm and said, "right?". I said, "Yes." and smiled. She asked if I knew what she was asking. Again, I said, "Yes," and smiled.

Positive: I told my department chair about the conversation with the principal and she said that she had also had a conversation with the principal about me and the principal had said that if my numbers were growing like that and things were so wonderful that perhaps they should train me for IB! My department chair said, "I was like, yeah, that's what I've been saying the whole time!"

Negative: I'm the only one stressing about the number of entries for our tournament... it seems so small. I'm worried. (But to what end? I don't know.) So I entered everything into the computer today and I had like 8-10 judges that were standby for the whole day! I don't know what is going on. I e-mailed "the guru" so that I can have that conversation tomorrow.

Positive: I'm blogging (off and on) again. It's nice to start to get into the swing of things.

(This one might end up a bit more speech focused and... dare I say... cynical?)
Positive: After our tournament, we will have almost two weeks before the next tournament. Breathing room.

Negative: I'm in the doldrums of the season (both meteorologically and speech-wise), and it's affecting everything.

Positive: The coaches we have are amazing. Everyone has really pulled together and is doing such amazing things in getting ready for this. I know that they are probably feeling overworked... I wish that weren't how it was... but I definitely appreciate it. They all rock... especially my rockstar, Liesl!! Thank you so much for everything you do!

So there it is. Me in a nutshell (or in sandwich form... I guess...)

Planning for the multi-level class has been nice enough. I could do better... and i would like to implement another larger project (like the soccer project we did a couple years ago). It's beneficial when it's planned and scheduled... I would like to do and see more.

Formative assessment is going okay. When I do it, it gives me an amazing quick look at who is and isn't getting things and the notes are super beneficial for planning. I find myself thinking about it in all of my classes. It's kind of exciting!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Stress... Time to vent...

Like a pendulum swing, but without the timely notice, stressful days seem to swing in and out of my life in very grand fashion.

This afternoon became one of those grand stressful ones.

I was keeping things under control, had a few pots simmering in my mind, but my mental stovetop wasn't boiling over with too many pots. I had figured out the checks, I had written notes about tomorrow morning, I sat with Steve and took fastidious notes about the computer program, and I had set up (what I could of) my classes.
Then I began to help clean/sort out a bit of the speech closet... and Laura reminded me of so many things that I am now totally stressed. They were all important things and good things to collaborate about this weekend. However... now I'm stressed.
So now I'm thinking about those things and then I fear that I've forgotten about the things I had simmering prior. And all of that is stressing me out. Even (perhaps especially) the little things stress me out right now as I feel that my mind has surpassed that critical mass.

I'm going crazy.

Shawn is stressing out about his job, his resume, his income, and everything that follows along. So that's stressful, too. Ah well.

I've lost my train of thought... I need to go get supper made. And the house cleaned. And the guest bedroom prepared. Family is coming.