samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #smileaday Breakthroughs. 
 
lightbulbOne of my favorite things about teaching is being there when someone has a breakthrough, when you can see the light bulb go off over their head, just like in a cartoon, and feel like you helped to power that light bulb. 
 
I teach for a local community college from time to time. This semester's class is called "Finish Your Novel" and is part cheerleading, part feedback, and part advice about building a writing life that lets you finish things. 
 
Today, I shared a plantser (half pantser, half plotter) outlining/structuring technique I've been using and the response was heartening. Looks like I'm not the only person this approach might help. One student announced that she was super excited to get back to writing now and try this out!
 
It's good to feel like you helped someone move forward. Super good. I still feel all glowy. 
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #smileaday When your students missed you. 
 
I was absent from school for two days which is middle school terms is something like a month. Substitute teaching a thankless job, and many substitutes aren't there because of their love of children or your subject matter. That said, to all appearances, my substitutes were competent and kind, but the kids still prefer their own teacher. Me. 
 
My return was straight out of Miss Nelson Is Missing. I hope the second honeymoon lasts out the week :-)

miss nelson is missing cover
 
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
#smileaday Teaching success. 
 
It's been a good week in my classroom. My roughest class made some serious progress today. It's exhausting, but when I can ride the wave of their energy and help it splash down in a positive direction, it's the most amazing feeling. Like I'm Diana Prince.  
wonder teacher logo
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #smileaday Building relationships with challenging students. 
 
I've got three new classes right now. Some classes at my middle school last all year, others one semester, others one quarter, so my "beginning of the school year" work resets for at least some portion of my day several times over the course of a school year. 
 
One of my new classes is a group of 7th graders taking semester Spanish. It's a big class: 30 kids in a classroom built for 20 (the district cap on language classes used to be 15, a decade ago when I took the job). This class is a rough one. It's 80% male. For those who don't deal with middle schoolers often, you should know that 13 year old males are not particularly mature or patient, and can be aggressive and super high energy. Classroom management is easier when the gender balance is more 50/50 at this age because the girls are more focused and cooperative. So, this skewed demographic is definitely a challenge. 
 
It's also got a mix of native speakers, kids with some language experience, and total newbs. It's got about 20% kids who are accustomed to failure in their classroom experience. I'm stubborn though. Determined that every one of them is going to make progress. I don't like to see 13 year old people accepting that school just isn't for them and they're doomed to failure. That's way too soon for giving up the fight. 
 
xena wants to helpIt's hard though. It's easy to lose heart when even basic conveying of information requires hacking through a jungle of apathy and resentment. These kids don't just automatically trust in the good faith of their educators. They've had too many experiences that hurt them. 
 
I knew I was getting somewhere in getting their buy-in today when one of the high-flyers (admin-speak for "kids who get in trouble a lot") turned to his friend who was getting ready to poke another kid in the ribs just to make him squeal in the middle of my lesson and hissed "Cut that shit out. The lady trying to teach us now." 
 
So far as he knows, I didn't hear that (it's a useful tool in teaching to be selectively deaf sometimes), but I was so pleased at the heart of that, if not the word choice. He wanted to hear what I was going to say because he wants to learn Spanish and has started to have faith that I can help him do that. That's a big step right there! 
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #smileaday Tea.
 
Today wasn't a bad day. It just wasn't really a good day either. I'm tired. I'm in the first few days of three brand new classes, while still teaching my other four. Of the three new classes, two are heavily stacked with especially needy students. I'm fighting a cold. But now, at the end of it, I'm sitting in my office wearing my new rainbow writing gloves and sipping Raspberry Zinger tea. When you need it, tea is the best thing ever. Warm, aromatic, and comforting. 
raspberry zinger tea
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #smileaday Getting out from behind the eight ball. 
 
A teaching day in an American public school is a ridiculous thing. With 90 nonsupervisory minutes a day (which are not guaranteed-this is not a state with a teacher's union), I'm supposed to prepare 7 engaging lessons for 150 tweens and teens at 3 grade levels in five different courses, do any followup needed (such as grading papers, analyzing test results, reaching out for support from families and other staff, etc.), and maybe eat and go to the bathroom at least once. 

behind the eight ball
 
I'm an old pro though. This is my 23rd year. You'd be amazed what I can get done with 30 uninterrupted minutes. I'm a whirlwind. 
 
But despite my experience and efficiency, I still end up buried a few times a school year. My semester ended last Friday. I wasn't the most buried I've ever been, but I was feeling a little frantic around the corners of my eyes. Like scary Bilbo when he was feeling thin, like butter spread over too much toast. 
 
So, hurray for teacher workdays! (I know, they're *all* teacher workdays, but these are days where I still get paid, but don't teach any classes or supervise any children, days in which I can get stuff done!). It's not enough, but they do have a way of popping up just when I can't see how I can go on without one. 
 
Today's was extra special because it was entirely mine to structure. Not a meeting in sight! Tomorrow, I'll be lucky to get ten minutes to do the actual work among the meetings, so I made sure to make good use of every second today. Even better: the copier stayed functional the whole time! 
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 
#smileaday Teaching adults.

Today I taught the first session of a semester long course I'm offering at Central Carolina Community College: Finish Your Novel. It's been a year or so since I last taught for CCCC, and I'd forgotten how lovely it is to work with a room of adults who chose to be there. A very different teaching experience than my day-to-day in middle school Spanish. Refreshing.

This group is especially engaging and I'm looking forward to our next meeting already!

spectrum explorer to architect
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
ahora entiendo meme #smileaday When a kid realizes how much they have learned. 
 
I'm showing a movie to my eighth graders right now: Bajo la Misma Luna. (If you haven't seen it, you should. It's brilliant). The characters in the movie speak a mixture of English and Spanish, just whichever they would naturally be speaking in the scene. I show it with the English subtitles on because it takes time to be able to listen to Spanish spoken at normal conversational speed and understand it, and very few of my students are ready for that yet. 
 
Kids are impatient and expect to be able to understand everything immediately. One of my big jobs is just keeping them hopeful that someday they will understand it better than they do now, and help them keep plugging away. 
 
Today, a kid who hasn't been all that strong a student came running up to me at the end of our class to tell me that he had understood enough to "get the gist" during one of the scenes. He's now newly enthused about his studies and I'm so pleased to have been there when we had that "maybe I *can* do this" moment of joy. 
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #smileaday The joy of gamification in education. These are some of my kiddos at school today playing a quizletlive. It's adorable how excited they got when they won.


samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #smileaday Middle school bedhead.
 
bedheadToday was our first day back at school after the holiday break. All these 11-14 year old people got out of sleep pattern for two weeks, stayed up for New Year's, slept till noon yesterday, then couldn't go to sleep last night.
 
So, they scrambled to get to school, and oh-my-gosh-darnit-cuteness all the bedhead! They can seem so grown up sometimes, but today reminded me how much they are still just kids.

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Samantha J Bryant

March 2019

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