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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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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Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.52.51 PMScreen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.53.07 PMThat’s right, we got to ride a camel!

students

The wind has been howling outside my window since yesterday evening. Sleeping was challenging as I was awoken by the ceaseless bellowing. The disturbed sleep reminded me that a potential snow day might await in the morning if the wind was any indication of the intensity of the snow outside. At 3AM, I crept to the window, pulled the shades open, and evaluated the snow. Thick snowflakes fell in whiteout conditions. I noted the inevitability of the snow day to come and snuggled back down between the sheets for a few more hours until confirmation would arrive. The alarm sounded 5:45AM, and I bounded to my phone but no alert for a snow day!  I bemoaned the plight of shoveling the 7 inches of fallen snow and the long drive to school. Nerves gathered in the pit of my stomach as I considered my driving skills, my corolla’s maneuverability, and my personal inability to be “that teacher” that calls out on an “un-snow” day. Disappointedly, I headed into the shower and asked David to keep me posted, “Don’t hesitate to disturb my shower should news come in.” “Of course,” David said as he sent in his own “I will be working from home e-mail” to work.

Just as I wrapped up in my towel, David came in with a grin on his face, “You are home, babe!”  The utter delight left me ecstatic.  Not only could I avoid driving the treacherous roads, not only did we get a snow day, but our two week Spring Break starts now!  Oh, the irony of Spring Break starting with a snowstorm!  Of course, though on this day when I am enjoying my unexpected day off, I am also reminded of how amazing my students are. Within minutes of school being called off, I received the following e-mails that warmed my soul and made my really miss school today:

“Good morning Mrs. X this is my presentation I will not be attending school today thank you.”

“Since we don’t have school do you still want us to share our presentations with you? Do you want us to record ourselves and send it to you?”

“Since we have a snow day today, I thought that I should just share my prezi with you so that you have it. Hope that you have a nice vacation!”

It will be two weeks until I see these curious, thoughtful, hard-working young men and women.  While I will absolutely enjoy the time to myself and this time in whichScreen Shot 2013-03-08 at 9.47.22 AM I am not “Mrs. X” but just Melissa, not seeing them, not working with them, not observing their talents, answering their questions, watching their presentations, or facilitating their discussions will leave an emptiness to my day. I will miss the kiddos in the next 14 days plus 1 from this snow day!