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Friday, September 11, 2015

What a day!

Today was day three of our school year.  I honestly cannot remember a year that has been this amazing this early on.  Let me tell you about my day.

It started 1st period with a +GoToMeeting by @mehsprincipal about the grand opening of our #makerspace.  The students were enthralled with the information and the possibilities that the makerspace could provide.  He asked students to tweet in (right then and there) an answer to a question to win prizes.  The students were excited that we were encouraging them to use Twitter to win prizes and to tweet their pictures out from the makerspace during the day.

2nd period I had a very meaningful meeting with the ELL teacher about a student who speaks Mandarin Chinese. This is so far outside my comfort zone it's not even in the same zip code.  I asked if it would help to translate all the tests, activities and notes into his native language to accompany the English version so that he was more comfortable learning US History.  She was astounded that I would offer that.  I just thought it was a normal thing to do.  We talked for 40 minutes and I felt so much better about it after we talked.

3rd period my AP Government and Politics students were working on earning their badges to show that they have acquired and mastered the tech skills we will be incorporating into class.  For many students, this is way outside their comfort zone.  Many didn't even know what badges were.  I was so excited to see the students who finished early and knew what they were doing circulating around the room to help problem solve and help the struggling students. I didn't even have to ask them.  They wanted to make sure everyone was helped.  I'm not sure if this is a product of me talking about the fact that the smartest person in the room is the room on the first day and that it was all of our responsibility to make sure everyone is getting it, but they were so great!!

4th-6th periods I held a training for our mentors.  We have 65 of them this year. We have a mentoring program where upperclassmen are nominated by the staff the previous spring to mentor the freshmen in the following school year.  We have freshmen only study halls and traditionally we had mentors in there that taught student created lessons from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and then tutor the freshmen who need help for the rest of the period. The relationships and connections that have come out of this program are too numerous to mention.  Most people when they hear I teach at a high school think to that traditional stereotype of seniors pushing the freshmen into the lockers.  I can 100% say we do not have that hierarchy in our building.  The upperclassmen take it to heart that helping the freshmen transition to the high school is their job.  We have a football team that currently holds the state record for consecutive wins.  We are third in the nation in active win streaks.  Many of our mentors are football players.  That usually astounds people.  We have athletes of all sports, members of the band/chorus/orchestra, Challenge Team, AP students, struggling students, video game club students, etc. as mentors.  This year we have an unusual situation because half of the freshmen class does not have a study hall because of math lab and English lab.  We had to think outside the box.  We decided to have mentors go into the AIS's as an assistance to the AIS teachers, go to the lunch room as well as work with 9th graders during 10th period (after the school day) in addition to being in the study halls.  The discussions I had with the mentors today about their role left me in awe of how awesome they are.  We finished by watching A Pep Talk by Kid President (https://youtu.be/RwlhUcSGqgs) I asked the kids two exit ticket questions: 1. What can  you do to be "more awesome" for the Spartan community? 2. What are you teaching the world?  The answers to these questions were put on sticky notes and put on the whiteboard as they left the room.  Answers included "I can smile more" "I can spread my love of school" "I can show kids that struggle, that you can still succeed".  The answers were such a reflection of just how awesome our kids really are.

9th-10th periods I had kids come in and ask if they could put in some extra work on their badges.  IT'S FRIDAY folks!  These kids inspire me.  They want to come in on a sunny, 80 degree Friday afternoon to put in extra work on their badges.  I had 20+ kids in my room.

After that I happened to pop into the Superintendent's office (@vanfossenjason).  He used to be my principal and he always has an open door policy.  I stopped by to simply tell him one thing that could have been accomplished in two sentences.  Instead, I was there for almost an hour.  We talked about an upcoming edcamp (@EdCamp_CNY), flipping his cabinet meetings, his incorporation of our LMS (@schoology) into his day to day work.  We talked about edtech, meaningful experiences for our kids and how we can better support our kids.  I left there in awe.  Not too many Superintendents would spend an hour talking with a teacher at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon.

I then sat down for my daily positive emails home.  My goal is 5 a day, but the last two days I've done 10+ each day.  They are so addicting!!

I then went to the swim meet to witness the first relay of our first home meet set a pool record! Wow!! Way to go, Lady Spartans!!

I would say that the start of my 20th year of teaching is off to an absolutely positive start!  I can't wait for each new day.  I can't wait to see the kids each morning.  I try to find at least 5 kids each day I don't know and say hi and smile.  I really do love what I do.  I can't possibly imagine doing anything else!

I hope your school year is off to a great start!

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