Reinventing My Classroom (and Keeping Myself Honest)

I'm dying to share some things today. I don't have long so excuse the unpolished-as-usual state of things.

In the last few months as I explore a feedback-focused classroom I have sometimes 'slipped' back into old habits. I'm not saying this is a terrible thing, but I have noticed it and have found it frustrating that I haven't been able run my classes exactly the way I dream of running them. 

Today a lovely tweet (thread) by @SusanCampo caught my eye; I was at the dentist waiting for my daughter to get her chipped tooth fixed (hooray for Science!) and saw this:

I’m not finished listening but had to stop and share this amazingness from @MonteSyrie “Teacher teach and students student. We fall back into routines and make artificial transactions” (instead of authentic relationships). If we instead choose to... 1/2 — Susan Campo (@SusanCampo) April 30, 2018
The podcast she is referencing is wonderful - I had a chance to listen today only because…

Trials and Tribulations of Gradeless Biology

Today is April 16th and I woke up to a world coated in ice. I knew at 6AM that school buses were cancelled for the day, and was frankly delighted to have a student-free day to catch up on my marking and other loose ends after a very busy month.

This tweet is what reminded me to put blogging on my to-do list; thanks Matthew and Pete for the little push!

Ideas, lead to writing, which leads to more ideas. (thanks @dougpete!). If you have a few moments at home today, if your school is cancelled, maybe you can write a blog piece? — Matthew Oldridge (@MatthewOldridge) April 16, 2018
So, what to write about? I have so many things I'd like to share; sometimes this causes me to write very LONG posts that touch on lots of different things. Today, inspired by the post/thread above, I've decided to focus on just one thing. That way, I'll have to blog more often to get the rest of my ideas out, right? We'll see. It's still a long post. :) 

Grade-less in Bi…

Just Too Busy

A few years ago, I learned how to say 'no' when I needed to. I started saying 'no' when asked to join (yet another) school committee. I declined invitations to Pampered Chef parties. I confidently refused dinner invitations when I knew I needed to hibernate at home on a Friday night.

It turns out I need a little retraining, though.

Returning to the classroom this year has been phenomenal. I feel at home. I love my work. Every day I am challenged and delighted by my students. I love the adrenaline rush of working in a school; there is never enough time to do everything on my list, but I thrive on the constant, joyful chaos that life in a school brings.

Ditto for home - my house isn't always clean and sometimes we run out of milk, but I love the challenge of family life. Cooking dinner, cleaning up after people and pets, driving people to and from activities, folding laundry, finding time to exercise...these things are just part of living with your tribe. It is busy…

New Year (Semester End!) Musings

The November/December high-speed train has made its yearly visit, and though I am certainly still exceedingly busy I've got some thoughts swirling around that I'd like to share. 

With only about 10 days left with my students I am firmly entrenched in a familiar January struggle that has me torn between doing what I need to do (some marking, end of semester conferences, prep for exams) and what I want to do (drop everything and work on plans for next semester). Spending a few minutes blogging seems like a great way to avoid making a decision about the other things. :)

Shortly before the Christmas break, my pre-holiday frenzy was interrupted by this blog post by Susan Campo. She wonders about the meaning of a 30% final evaluation in a gradeless classroom and reading her post put me into a strange head space. Having jumped back into the classroom this year trying lots of new things I hadn't posed this question myself...and it really threw me for a loop.

My path this year has led…

Midterm Reflections: #BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations

I've got an hour to spare and need to get caught up on this blog (not a little bit, a 'lotta' bit, as my daughter would say) is hard to express how busy October and November have been, personally and professionally, but I am determined to remain committed to writing about (and reflecting on) my teaching and learning this year. (In other words, WAY too early in the year to fall off the blogging bandwagon!)

This post contains:
#BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations/Conversations
Scroll down to the part you want to's a very long post! :) 

November 9-10 at #BIT17 Conference

It was wonderful to return to BIT this year, but so different than the last three years because I was leaving my classroom. Preparing for the conference while planning for my absence had my mind spinning a bit. I was presenting on work that I had done in the last two years as STEAM coordinator on the Program and Innovation team. This work was very dear to me, yet…

Student Voice in Science

I have been thinking about ways I can invite student voice into my Science classroom. Here are a things I have found valuable so far this year.

Revisiting Lab Notebooks
Many years ago, I asked that my Chemistry students keep a lab notebook to use for lab work. The purpose of the notebooks, at that time, was for students to record their data during the lab activity, then to write their 'lab report' in the notebook when the activity was over. I abandoned this practice at some point, finding the stack of lab notebooks made a formidable marking pile that I dreaded tackling. I think now that it may have been the monotony of marking 30 or 60 identical labs that I was actually dreading.

This year, my grade 12 students are using lab notebooks for some of their lab activities. Their first use of their notebooks was during our first learning cycle when they were asked to design and perform an experiment to electroplate a metal object. I made it clear to my students that their lab notebo…