#Year17Year1:The Bad

I debated on what order to place the next three blog posts. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly  of my first year back in the classroom after a 10 year hiatus. I decided I will start with the bad… go to the ugly and finish off with the good. A positive note. A happy note.


The Good The Bad and The Ugly – Angel Eyes

So what was so bad about my first year back in the classroom? I should probably put a disclaimer out there that “the bad and the ugly” really only happened during first semester.

  1. Freshman are hard. In my previous teaching experience I taught mainly eighth, tenth, and eleventh grade. I only taught freshman one semester. Freshman are hard. The transition to high school is vast. It’s not just going to a bigger school. It’s the expectations, the amount of classes/homework, no longer getting an A on a test without studying, etc. Students have a hard time with all of the social and emotional changes in their freshman year. When you add on the academic challenges of being in high school the first 9 weeks it might make them implode. I put this as “the bad” but I do have to tell you the good side to this. I did learn this year, I am GOOD for freshman. They drive me crazy at times but my expectations are high and I work with them to meet those expectations laying the foundation for other classes in high school. I am a good communicator with parents. This helps the parents adapt to high school as well. I try to keep them in the loop about their child and his/her progress. Technology helps me a lot. I use Google Calendar for all of my assignments. I email when big things are happening in class. I try to not let them be uninformed about their child in my class.
  2. School Community. One of the things I was looking for as I made the transition back to the classroom was the sense of community a school has. Due to the size of our school (Over 2000 students and 100 faculty members), community can be a challenge. It also didn’t help that I was a former District Office employee who was moving back to the classroom. There were a lot of questions as to why. “Who would leave the District Office to go back to the classroom?” “She must be a spy.” “She must have done something wrong.” I was not to be trusted until people got to the core of why I was teaching again. When I made my decision I wrote about why take a look back.  As you will see repeatedly as I reflect, I will go more in depth about the District Office to teacher transition in another blog post. There is a good side to this as well. About mid January, I was what I would have considered to be “accepted” but people at the school. I began to feel that sense of community I was longing for.
  3. Disappointment about student learning. One of my biggest disappointments for the first semester is what students would do for the “points.” It wasn’t about learning. It was about getting the most points to make the highest grade. The realization that points were more valuable than learning made me think ‘maybe I don’t need to put as much in to this. It isn’t what they care about.’ One rookie move for me was not thinking that every possible test bank I could use for tests was online. I had students memorize test questions from online test banks they would find. I was quick to catch on though… by the second test I had a student ask me a question about the test. The student kept saying, “The answer for this should be E but it’s not.” I asked the student what needed to be clarified on the question. The student repeated the comment. At that moment I knew this student had memorized the questions. because I rearranged the answers and the student memorized that question’s answer to be E.
  4. The feeling of not being good at what I used to love. This was the biggest “bad” for me. I felt lost. With trying to not sound like I am bragging, I am not usually bad at anything I try or put my mind to do. My true first year of teaching was in a rural South Carolina school. The students were all from lower socio-economics and the baggage they brought to school with them daily broke my heart. But that year seemed easier to me than first semester of this year. I wasn’t living up to MY expectations.  I loved teaching when I taught. Why wasn’t I loving it now? This is all I ever wanted to do when I was a kid. Why didn’t all the students love my class? Why weren’t they doing homework? Why wasn’t I implementing all of the things I learned that make great classrooms? I was stressed by daily teacher to do’s, IEPs, 504s, this meeting, that meeting, Student Learning Objectives, etc. I couldn’t focus on learning my content because I was stressed about this student not acting right or what if a child emails his/her mother during class saying I am doing or not doing something for their child. (This one happened by the way) I spent so much time worrying that I never got anything done. I always felt two steps behind. I didn’t know what to do so I slowly started opening up to my department head. She was my sounding board and my soothsayer. If it weren’t for her, I am not sure I would have made it.

The bad was horrible while going through it. At this point, all of these points seem so far away. The bad made me a better educator. It actually ended up fueling my passion to be better at what I do. My next post is going to look at the ugly of #Year17Year1. I am going to dive deeper in to the anxiety, crying, loneliness, and WTF moments.

Keep in mind the reason I can write about this now is because I am passed it. I have to get to the ugly to get to the good.




#Photojournalism Project for World Geography


**This is a cross post from my school blog.**

Geography is everywhere. As we move further along in the semester, you will begin to see geography in your daily activities. It’s time to start capturing those activities….

How will you do that, you ask? You will take a weekly photo and write a reflection blog post on how it relates to World Geography. We have all ready talked about a number of things like the 5 themes of Geography, maps, different parts of the physical earth, etc. As we move through the rest of the class, it’s important that you start to see the geography all around you. We will be talking about population and migration or the movement of people, as well as, culture, political geography, industrialization and development, agriculture/food, rural and urban land use. You will have plenty of opportunities to see geography.

So what are you going to do?

  1. Take a few photos a week that remind you of something about Geography
  2. Select one you want to write about.
  3. Create a blog post with the photo and the answers to the following questions.
    What is happening in the picture? Give us the context. Why did you take this photo?
    How is it related to geography?
    Which of the 5 themes of Geography does this photo connect with and how?
  4. Be sure to tag/label the post with the following #WG_SVH_PJP
  5. Publish your blog!

Take a look at some of the student blogs #WG_SVH_PJP is the hashtag for the posts!

When are they blog posts due?

Weekly on Wednesdays starting Wednesday, February 23 – We will write the first two blog posts in class for bell work. Want to see an example I created? Here is another.

How will you be graded?
15 points per weekly blog post.

Title and Tag: 3 points
Students need to create an appropriate title for each blog post and have the label/tag #WG_SVH_PJP

Overview: What is happening in the picture? Give us the context. Why did you take this photo?
A one paragraph summary of the photo. Summary paragraph: Be sure to answer the basic questions of who, what, when, where and why in your paragraph.

0 points
Connection does not fit the photo or is only listed.
Section not answered.

2 points
Overview paragraph does not answer who, what, when, where or why. Or is not a paragraph just a couple sentences.
Minimal sentence structure or spelling errors.

4 points
Overview is a paragraph answering a few of the who, what, when, where and why.
Minimal errors.

6 points
Overview is an in depth paragraph answering who, what, when, where, and why.
Proper sentence structure and no spelling errors.

Parts that Connect: How is it related to geography?
Which of the 5 themes of Geography does this photo connect with and how?
Student makes connections from the photo to one of the 5 themes of geography or something we have studied in class. The connection is clearly explained. At least 1 paragraph.

0 Points
Connection does not fit the photo or is only listed.
Section not answered.

2 points
Connection is listed but not explained and loosely fits with the photo.

4 points
Connections paragraph connects this article to one of the 5 themes of geography AND content we have studied in class but does not give examples or explain the connection. (Does not answer how it connects.) Shows a good correlation to between the connection and the photo.

6 Points
Connections paragraph clearly connects this article to one of the 5 themes of geography AND content we have studied in class by giving examples and explaining the connection. (How does it connect?) Shows a strong correlation to between the connection and the photo.

What are some tips and tricks to help you out?
Take More Than One Photo
Be sure to take more than one photo. The photo you intended to be the one for the blog post may not be the one that gives you the words you need to reflect. Take a few of different images of things going on throughout the week and select the photo when you are writing the post.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Don’t wait to take your photo until Tuesday with the post being due on Wednesday. Let this be a thoughtful process.

Blogger app (Android)
Place the blogger app on your phone and log in using your school login. This will allow you to take photos and upload them to a post from your phone. You can then write the post on your phone and publish or save it to draft and finish it on your computer

BlogTouch FREE version (iOS)
Blogger is suddenly missing from the iOS app store. This will at least help you get photos from your phone to a post.
iOS users can also create a folder in Google Drive called Blog Photos and upload them to the Google Drive folder to add to your blog later.

Portable sound booth for your classroom

As I begin thinking of things I want to do in my classroom next year, I turned towards audio and video. I want my class to be heavily intertwined with projects. One of the issues I repeatedly see in classrooms is poor sound quality on student videos. What could I do to help with narration or voice overs in student projects? I did a little research on this and I found a DIY $20 solution. I made my own sound booth from an 18 gallon tub, a twin size “egg crate” mattress pad, and spray adhesive.

PicMonkey Collage


Now that I have the booth made it’s time to test it. I have a SnowBall microphone for the booth. My students will have Chromebooks to record their audio. The great thing about the Chromebook is you can connect USB microphones and they work great. If you do not have external microphones to use, you could simply place the Chromebook in the booth to record using the default microphone.

There are a number of apps available to record and edit audio on the Chromebook. For this test I used AudioRecorder. It is a simple app to record and save audio as a wav file. This app also works offline. So here are the test audio files.

Without the sound booth

Using the sound booth

I believe there is just enough of a difference for the audio to sound clear and full. If you are interested in taking about 15 minutes to create a DIY sound booth for your classroom, here is the video tutorial I used to make mine.

The only thing I didn’t like the tutorial is I did not cut the hole in the bottom to set the microphone in. with the SnowBall mic there was enough stability that I didn’t feel I needed the hole.

So if you try this, I want to hear from you. Comment below with your experiences. Also, if you use Chromebooks, what apps are you using for audio recording and editing?