coding & history

I have not posted about school in a long time. This isn’t because there hasn’t been stuff to say but rather I thought about separating out my professional life from the blog. Then I did this project with my students and knew that I had to share!

My school has been coding throughout the building in various classrooms since last Fall.  It was a major initiative. Last December, we even synchronized the work throughout the building with a “Hour of Code” project.  It has been both inspiring and challenging tackling this push to code. A history classroom may not seem like the most authentic place to insert coding but interestingly it might just be.  You see in class we are constantly looking at maps to reflect population growth, the spread of epidemics, the movement of troops, and so on and so on. Oftentimes, I find myself projecting a map onto my white board and then drawing over it with the symbols that I need in order to convey some aspect of time to the students. While this works fine, coding has actually allowed us to make our own maps.  Students then are not only learning how to code the program but also learning how best to visualize the data and plot their points for the events we are studying.

At first, the students seemed a bit reluctant but the beauty of coding is that it is instantly gratifying. As students type the code they can immediately see the progress of their work and when they overcome an obstacle in the code they literally cheer.  The energy in the classroom was contagious as students worked in pairs to figure out how to do this or that in the coding language we were using. By the end of our two hour period, each group had a map that they were excited to show their peers. We even brainstormed what kinds of functionality we would like to include in our next mapping project to continue to push the depth and complexity of our coding skills. I am hoping that as the year goes on I can update you with how this is all going. But, I was really really proud of how they all accepted the challenge and demonstrated strong collaboration throughout the mini-project.

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ménage à trois: me, caffiene, & sleep deprivation

Monday night I felt very prepared for school. Henry had been sleeping for 4-5 hour stretches, I had packed up my bags to make the morning departure go smoothly, and David and I even spent a few minutes just the two of us to connect and reflect before the hustle and bustle of the school year commenced. Then the week went like this:

Tuesday 1AM, 2AM, 3AM, 4AM, 5AM: Henry decides to boycott sleep and/or he was worried I would not wake up for my alarm and wanted to make sure I was up and ready to go.  Nothing says, “Let’s get this party started” like of sleepless night, right?

Tuesday 6:30AM-7:40AM: The usual 25 minute commute is endless as everyone in the 20 mile stretch to school decides to hit the road early for the first day of school.

Tuesday 8AM-12PM: A blur of classes, students, faculty, lessons, meetings, emails, and trying to speak coherently after spending the summer mostly in the company of 4 people or less. Oh, yea….and I have to pump for baby Henry A LOT.  So also I spent time running in and out of the Nurse’s Office and then trying to relax enough when in there in order to accomplish this task. And, of course I wore a dress on the first day in order to look “fabulous” which meant pumping was an interesting procedure. Note to self: No more dresses.

Tuesday 12-2PM: Try to call my mother for an update, as this is the first day I am totally away from home, but her phone keeps going to voice mail. Usher in PANIC, SWEAT, and  calling her number over and over again. Is everyone alive?

Tuesday 3PM: See that our friend and neighbor has been able to knock on the door and confirm that everyone is indeed alive and fine and my mom plugs her phone in. Whew!

Tuesday 3:30PM-4:30PM: slow go through traffic all the way home.

Tuesday 4:30-9:00PM: Soak up as much of my family time as possible. Seeing Henry at the end of the day is the BEST! I cannot get enough of that little man’s smell, smile, cuddles. Also, I shed a few tears because I am so happy to see him and so happy the day went so well at home for him. And really I am just an emotional person these days anyway.

Wednesday 12AM, 2AM, 4AM: Henry is no longer worried about me missing my alarm and extends his sleep from every hour to every two hours. It is amazing how “highly functioning” one can be with so few hours of sleep. I guess it is all about lowering one’s standards for “functioning.”

Wednesday 6:30AM-7:20AM: Tons of traffic yet again. I am looking forward to when everyone collectively starts to sleep in or snoozes their alarms and I can perhaps squeak by ahead of the traffic cluster.

Wednesday 8AM-2:15PM: Another whirlwind of classes, students, emails, pumping, and trying to do all of this without breaking a sweat in the crushing heat that has enveloped Boston. Somehow all of this is done today with less of the “teacher crust” of yesterday. While I am definitely not in my groove, teaching is starting to feel comfortable again. It is like breaking in a pair of jeans after they have stiffened up from the dryer.

Wednesday 2:30PM-3:30PM: Take a walk down memory lane with the senior class.  As they prepare to apply for college, we teachers share stories from our college years. It was pretty great hearing my co-workers’ stories and having the opportunity to share my own. Go BC!

Wednesday 3:30PM-3:50PM: Drive fairly smoothly to Natick and decide to pull into the Starbucks drive-thru for a treat. This was my guiltiest cup of coffee ever! I wanted to head home to Henry but I also wanted an afternoon pick me up so I could feel alive and present during my time with Henry. I justified the pit stop by noting this Starbucks was a drive thru.

Wednesday 4:10PM: Arrive home and snuggle Henry.  Immediately realize I left all of my pumping gear and all of Henry’s milk back at school! Panic sets in and I realize that despite my cool exterior, my mind is complete mush. And the consequence is: Henry will starve tomorrow.

Wednesday 5:00PM-7:30PM: Pack everyone up in the car and drive all the way back to school to retrieve the much needed items. As an “I am so sorry for ruining everyone’s night,” I treat David and my mom to dinner in the area to break up the long commute in the car. Finally arrive back home and feel like crashing but it is time to get in that quality time with Henry so I postpone fatigue until later.

Thursday 1AM, 4AM: Ah Henry is heading back towards his more reasonable sleep schedule just in time for the end of the school week. Fingers crossed

Thursday 6:30AM-7:10AM: Even the commute this morning is being more cooperative!

Thursday 8AM-12:30PM: Being in school feels more “normal.”  Starting to feel more confident in the classroom and more capable around pumping. Work-Life balance is coming more into focus…for now, I think.

Thursday 12:30PM: Head over the Keurig machine in the faculty room because yesterday’s drama revealed I need a shot of caffeine before I head home and see that someone has left a “pumpkin spice” capsule in the machine. Deliriously excited, I open the cabinet to retrieve one  of these special k-cups only to see that this flavor is non-existent.  Some sneaky, smarty pants brought it in for themselves and now I am incredibly jealous. Left to drink the usual k-cup, I return to my classroom to await the last class of the day.

Thursday 3:00PM: A moment of peace and calm after checking for the 100th time that I have everything I will need when I leave campus. I do not think my nerves could handle another mishap like yesterday. Finally settle into some lesson planning in an attempt to “get ahead” of the weekend pile up.

Thursday 3:30-4:10PM: An uneventful drive home and the first night where alongside snuggling up with our little man and giving him our undivided attention we are also trying to prep dinner (remarkable that this is the first time this week we have to do that!). Thankfully it is taco night.  Not that this isn’t work, but taco night is usually an easy kitchen night!  Definitely thanking “past Melissa” for her smart meal planning for this first week back to teaching.

Thursday 5PM-9PM: Family time to the max!

Friday 1:30AM: Oh my goodness, the little man sleeps for 5 hours without interruptions and now I am sleep drunk from all the extra Zs.

Friday 5:00AM: My alarm and not the little man wakes me up.  Have we finally fallen into some semblance of “normal”?  I don’t want to jinx us but this would be a very very VERY nice routine.  Let’s replicate this again okay, Henry?

Friday 8:00AM-2:15PM: Despite some scheduling mishaps on my part (Need to remember to double check the uploaded homework assignments) the day goes fairly smoothly. It is topped off by a visit from David and Henry to the ice cream social before Henry’s 2 month check-up.

Friday 4:00PM: Henry had his 2  month check-up and vaccines. We all took guesses for his weight and height but we missed the mark. That’s right we all underestimated our little man’s monthly growth. Henry is not 13.11lbs and 24.75in!  He also did not like his vaccines.  His cries were heart-breaking

Friday 5:00PM: Lots and Lots of snuggles all around.

And so it goes, the successful conclusion of our first week. It is amazing how a 4 day work week could feel like it was actually 8 full days of work and running around. Yet,  we all survived and it can only get better from here, right?

childbirth class

Ten couples sit in a semi-circle in the basement room of the hospital.  We are there to learn about the natural process of childbirth. Sitting there, David and I cannot stop laughing at the humor of this setting. We are all educated adults and yet this natural human act of giving birth to a child is so mystifying that we have all registered for a four week course. The room is quiet when we first arrive as couples check in and get their name tags. I can not help but glance around at all the bumps I am surrounded by.  This was the first time I was in the room with so many fellow pregnant ladies and honestly it felt great. It felt like I was among “my people.” Our instructor is super nice and introduced herself as a mother, nurse, and educator. And with that we began our natural childbirth class.

I am hoping that in the end of these four weeks, I will have a clearer understanding of what “textbook” delivery looks like. When everything goes according to plan: What is happening to one’s body? What is happening to the baby? How can you tell when it is time to go to the hospital? What pain management options are available?  How can you unpack your delivery wishlist? How can I have the delivery I imagine for myself and my baby? It feels like I should somehow know the answers to these questions already. Since I am pregnant shouldn’t my primal pregnant brain take over and just somehow know? Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that and I am hoping that David and I not only answer these questions but actually feel prepared for this journey soon.

Scanning the room it was clear that each one of us was having a very different pregnancy experience. Age is not the only indicator, but as we warm up and start to share stories about our baby bellies, it becomes apparent that our symptoms of pregnancy run the gamut. I will definitely admit that having the latest estimated due date in the group leaves me with a little bump envy. I couldn’t help but ask David if we were in the right place and if we were really pregnant?  He laughed and just said our guy is little but yes you are most definitely pregnant! The first night was all about getting to the basics of human anatomy during childbirth and giving an overview of the courses topics. I am currently a little intimidated by all of the reading we have to do.  The cute purple folders passed out contained dozens and dozens of handouts and recommended reading lists.  And, for someone who is SO type A like myself, these “suggested” materials immediately get put under the “mandatory” category in my eyes. Yes, I know every woman’s experience will be different and that there is not “test” I am studying for, but somehow being as informed as I can be gives me comfort (perhaps that is the historian in me).

The best part of the birth class was the last fifteen minutes. Spread out in our couplings, we laid down on yoga mats with pillows, closed our eyes and were led through a relaxation exercise. AH!  It was divine.  At first, I felt so tense on the mat and my mind kept wandering off to my to-do list, but I gently tugged it back a few times and by the end of the exercise, I truly felt like I relaxed. Even the little guy who was poking my ribs and bobbing around in my tummy when I first laid down went completely still by the end. It was actually quite a cool experience. Our only  real homework from class is to practice these relaxation techniques and David is super cute and excited to help guide me through them.  I think these next four weeks will end up being quite insightful, fun, and will allow us to hopefully make friends with other couples in the area who share our June arrival month.

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school days.

Whoa! It has been almost two months since school started.  Perhaps my silence is a testament to the whirlwind that the start of the academic year presents. From back to school meetings, to setting up the physical space, to welcoming students back, each and every day was full, full, FULL. Of course, this is the good kind of busy.  Ironing out the kinks of classroom presentation, connecting with students, and plowing through lesson plans and grading make the start of the school year a sprint.  Each day while I leave exhausted, I also leave satisfied knowing that I am tapping into the part of myself that is excited to learn again among my students and tapping into the creative power of my students. As I sit with a stack of papers next to my desk, I am mindful that while this is the hard part of being a teacher, one by one it will all get done.  As a fifth year teacher, I am amazed by how much is still new and by the subtle ways in which I am more prepared than ever for the daily classroom occurrences.  It has been a busy start to the year, but it has been a good start.  I am looking forward to seeing where my classes go this year as they continue to build their community, challenge the course materials, and create their own content.

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apple picking in new england

Saturday afternoon I went apple picking with my advisory. These nine students are pretty awesome. Funny, smart, and kind, I am incredibly lucky to work with this group of students and to watch them grow up during their high school years. We headed out to Belkind Family Farm in Natick for some bonding and to continue to build our friendships. It was fun watching them be goofy with one another but more importantly inclusive of one another. I am hoping that this “advisory bonding” can continue to occur this school year. As juniors, they are so close to their final year of high school and it is just amazing how fast time is going!

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back to school

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It has started. The back to school commercials are in full force. Delighted parents run up and down the aisles of Target filling their carts with folders, pencils, clothes, and backpacks. Happy music plays in the background while their frowning children walk listlessly behind them. Of course, August is still the summer, but with the arrival of August comes the arrival of back to school anxiety dreams for me. These commercials don’t help either.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I am so lucky not only to have the summers off to pursue my other interests, spend time with friends and family, and travel, but when I head back into the school year it is to a truly amazing school filled with superb co-workers and dynamic students.  But, even though I do actually work in Edutopia, I still get those pesky anxiety dreams. They are always the same. Imagine:

I arrive back to school to only find out that the schedule I have been following all day is wrong and I am missing all of my classes. Or, I arrive to class only to realize that I have not planned a single lesson and am frozen in front of the students and, of course, I am wearing my yoga pants too!  Or, and this is my favorite kind of anxiety dream, I walk into my class totally unprepared.  I stare blankly at the students who begin to roll their eyes at me and suggest my teaching ignorance, only to fall flat on my face and break a tooth and I am in my yoga pants! AH!  Waking up in a cold sweat, I remind myself that (a) I am such a type A personality that I could never not be prepared for a class and to just relax and (b) I am still 3 weeks away from the start of school and as with every year once I am back it is like riding a bicycle and the teaching muscles will remember what to do and the kids will inspire me and the summer haze will fade into a crisp Fall. And being at school will be the exact place where I am suppose to be.

Dear Summer,

Please go a little bit slower.

Sincerely,

An Anxious Teacher

“Dear Summer,

Please go faster.

Sincerely,

A Crazed Parent” @NikkiMoff

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professional development session 1

My school has been a fountain of professional development opportunities. Each year, I have been lucky to have the opportunity to attend one (but most often more than one conference). This summer, I will be attending three. My first session started this morning and it has been interesting. I signed up to learn more about the Flipped Classroom. I have played with this concept in my class and have found that it is a helpful tool for teachers though it is not a “silver bullet” in how every class should be run. It does add meaningful individualized learning opportunities when done well. Yet, when done poorly, it can come across as passive video watching. I like the idea of the flipped classroom because it creates an interesting way to break up the typical homework of reading in a history classroom and create an environment in which there can be more interaction and intention when student head home.

This session has been interesting although not groundbreaking. This was definitely an introduction level program and while it cemented my understanding of what the concept of a Flipped Classroom is, it did not share too many fresh insights, examples, or technologies. Nonetheless, I am pretty excited with a few new classroom technologies that I hope to play around with over the summer including: videonot.es, hapyak, and padlet.

The really great part of PD though is being able to be a student again.  I forget sometimes what it is like to be a student.  How long have I been sitting here?  When is the next break?  How could I spice this up? Oh man, do I sound like that too? These are all just a few of the questions flooding in and out as I participate in this session. I learn so much as a student about the content that is being shared in the course but, more importantly, from how the instructor instructs and how the learning is learned. Observation is key in these moments and I am soaking up an array of divergent and interesting ideas to sharpen my own classroom skills and whether that is with the Flipped Classroom model or not is still under construction.

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