How’s My Quarantining? – Week 1

When this whole Coronavirus talk started 2 weeks ago, I highly underestimated the seriousness of the situation. Partially as a midwesterner, and a lot as an American. Why? The thought of something coming into the United States of America, shutting things down, being told to stay home doesn’t happen. It’s the most un-american thing EVER! I never thought I would be sitting at home, away from school, during my Spring Break writing about week 1 of quarantining shenanigans.

How’s my quarantining going? It sucks. I hate sitting around all damn day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great being home with my family. But, it’s not within me to stay still. My life, beyond family, has always been teaching whether it’s teaching tennis, life lessons, or history.  I’m still trying to maintain connections, trying to maintain normalcy, but it’s tough. It’s frustrating. On top of this feeling, here’s a run down of my first week quarantining:

  1. Monday through Wednesday – I blew my nose 180 times. In a 12 hour time period, that’s 5 times an hour. My nose is raw, it sucks. Good thing we have 3 tubs of Baby Aquaphor for diaper, and now, nose rash!
  2. On top of being sick, I made it through the first week of “school” – answering e-mails, maintaining my daily message I write on the board. I tried to make personalized videos wishing students well for Spring Break. I pride myself in creativity, and thinking outside the box with lessons. However, I’m not going to lie, it’s hard finding motivation right now. Luckily, Spring Break provides me with an opportunity to come up with something. In the end, I’ll find the motivation and think of something creative because ultimately it’s for the students. For them, during this time, I will come through.
  3. School is where I should be. I miss my students. I miss teaching in a classroom. That is all I have to say about that.
  4. Refer back to number 1 – I started off not feeling well. Now Teddy doesn’t feel well. My wife doesn’t feel well. But, we are fighting it and getting through.
  5. I’ve taken time to rediscover some old music I used to listen to – if you are not listening to Nathaniel Rateliff or Jack Johnson, please start. It’s what this world needs.

6. I can’t wait it for to warm up so I can make my way outside more. I don’t consider myself an outside person, but it’s been awesome so far. My appreciation for being outdoors has increased with each passing day.

7. I went to the grocery store on Saturday morning. I have a slight cough, and was afraid to cough in the store. What an awkward time to have a cough! I held that damn cough in for 30 minutes and let loose when I got back to the car.

There you have it – week 1 of quarantining shenanigans. Nose blowing. Sick, sick, and more sick.  Music rediscoveries. Finding motivation. Awkward Kroger trips.

 

Keeping Connections

Everyday I write a new message on the whiteboard for Room 505. Today’s message – “We didn’t choose this moment. But we can choose how we respond to this moment. If you have come to trust me a little this year, then take this advice to heart……breathe and persist. Time to step it up……own your learning……earn your learn.”

I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime. Honestly, I don’t know what else to say. I do know this……in times of craziness, I have always remained calm. It’s a must in the field of education. In tough situations, get tougher, think on your feet, and make it happen. However, this will be the longest 3+ weeks of my life spent wondering, “Is this the best thing for students?”

Earlier in the day, on this last day before break, I shared with some that this hasn’t been my best content teaching year. However, the one bright spot this year is my focus on connections. Each day I write a daily message on the board – something inspirational, something to make students think, or whatever comes to mind. With my 7th grade classes, I say every student’s name, ask them how they’re doing, and they have the ability to share something that made them smile or frown. This practice started off awkward….now I have tons of students sharing stories.

So, as I sit here tonight ready to begin the longest 3+ weeks of my life, I’m not worried about teaching content. Rather, I’m worried about lost connections. How can I find a way to keep my daily message going? How can I find a way to have students share and connect? I don’t have the answers now, but I do know I will make it happen.

 

 

 

Am I Goofy?

Before I became a teacher, I was a tennis professional teaching private lessons, group lessons, team practices, and everything in between. When I first started, my mentor gave me some sound advice, “You need to be 3/4th entertainer and 1/4th instructor.” I carried that advice, and philosophy, with me for years. Still do. Does it apply to school? Absolutely. Can, and should, the fractions change for school? Absolutely. But, I do believe we are part entertainer when we are in the classroom.

What brings this up? The other day a student asked me, “Are you goofy all the time outside of school?” Yes. Yes I am. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to make people smile and laugh. If I could get those reactions from someone, it was a fuel to my fire. I’m still the same way, and I see this trait in my daughter as well.

Each day, I try to keep the classroom laid back and light hearted. In my opinion, people take things way to seriously. Test scores and content drive way too much. My approach this year is focusing on the individuals in the room and the story associated with each name. This is why I begin my 7th grade classes by saying their name and an opportunity to share something that made them smile or frown. With this, I often share a story or joke as well. It works. They like it. It gives me a chance to open up a bit. If I’m not sharing a story, you better believe I’m sharing a dad joke! For example: My first time using an elevator was an uplifting experience The second time let me down.

At the end of the day, focus on the individuals and their stories. make time to share and open up a bit. Have some fun and tell a joke: A farmer who owned 67 sheep asked me to round them up. I said: “Sure. 70.”

Positive Creates, Negative Negates (Round 3)

I haven’t written a post like this in a long time. It’s no secret, this has been a looooong school year for me. Larger class sizes, a new building, the addition of a new daughter, and just craziness of everyday life at a middle school. I can complain about a lot of things, but like most things in my life, I try to make the most of it and keep fighting the good fight. As always with these posts, I will focus on 3 positives from this year:

  1. Smiles and frowns
  2. New opportunities
  3. Gamified units

Smiles and Frowns

Three weeks ago I decided that Social Studies was not important. Instead, building community, listening, practicing empathy, and creating connections was more important. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this has been a rough year for me with school changes, student behaviors, and consistency. The icing on the cake was a student saying, “I love this class, but I don’t know anyone.” That was said in December and I felt like a failure. The cherry on top was a group of students that walked in and asked me, “Mr. Moler who do you think won the fight?” I lost it. 

Rather than go negative, I thought back to June of 2019 and the best keynote speech I ever heard from Joe Sanfelippo. He preached, “30 seconds is all it takes to change culture.” The next day, I wrote my message up on the whiteboard, “It’s not the amount of time, it’s what you do with the time. In a 7 hour day, you have 840 thirty second chances to connect to someone and make a difference in their life.” I took a chance and we took 2 minutes to send an email or text to someone and thank them. It made a huge impact – some students were scared to push send and some began crying. But that was alleviated when they received a nice reply. HUGE IMPACT. After 3 weeks, we devote Thursdays for taking 30 seconds, but I have noticed many students doing this on their own during the week. 

To help students get to know each other, I took a chance and implemented a Monte Syrie idea of Smiles and Frowns. At the beginning of class, I say each student’s name and they have an opportunity to tell me something that made them smile or frown in the last 24 hours. We do this EVERYDAY for 5 minutes. At first it was awkward, especially for 7th graders. However, more and more students are sharing. We have applauded successes, and gave pats on the back for failures. I’m seeing a community being built. Students are hearing each other’s names. We are getting to know each other. I wish I started this at the beginning of the year instead of 3 weeks ago. What happens in week 5? Week 10? Week 20? I haven’t a clue, but I’m seeing some great results now. 

New Opportunities

5 weeks ago, I was offered an opportunity by Jon Corippo to go to New Jersey and work with a small group of teachers with Eduprotocols over 2 days. I have never done anything like this before, and I was apprehensive at first. I worried about doing this because I didn’t want to leave my wife hanging with 2 kids. Moreover, I worried because I always have my self doubts and insecurities. Despite my self-doubts, I always come around and accept. Deep down I know I need to take a risk, learn, and grow as a teacher. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Although I haven’t done this yet, I’m excited to make my way to New Jersey Feb. 24 and 25 to share the power of Eduprotocols.

Gamified Unit

I tried something new this year that was a hit. I took Ancient Rome and turned it into a game called Barbarian Battlefield. I had students get into groups, and create Barbarian team names. This is an honest statement, and maybe not the best practice, but I thought of this over a weekend and put the website, story, and foundation for the game together in one day. Here is the website: https://barbarianbattlefield.weebly.com/ I didn’t know what to expect, but what I learned is the unit was fun. I threw in twists and turns along the way, and created new games. For example, I created badges related to ancient Rome (pictured below). Students could earn badges for quality work, winning games, or earning certain scores on assignments. Another aspect of this unit I liked were the side quests that students could do. Students had the opportunity to choose from a  variety of side quests – they could choose things that suited their interests and strengths. Overall, this was a fun unit that created friendly competition and helped bring out my creative side as a teacher.

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2 Tough Days and A lot of Questions

I thought teaching middle school was hard…….until I’ve spent the last 2 days with my daughters – Leni (3 years) and Teddy (5 months). When I’m at school I don’t always know what goes on at home which means I make up what I think should go on. As a result, when I get home and the house is in chaos, I’m disappointed. I refrain from comment, but it’s hard for me to hide my facial expressions. These last 2 days, I figured what exactly goes on day to day. The answer is…….you never know what in the hell will happen……….sometimes it’s a good day, sometimes a bad day.

Managing 7th and 8th graders is tough enough, but nothing compared to a 3 year old and a 5 month old. What’s going to keep Leni happy? What’s going to keep Teddy from crying? Will Teddy take a bottle and sleep for more than 20 minutes? Will we make it to ballet on time? Did I bring enough clothes and diapers with me? Do I need a bottle? I expect things to go as planned, but this isn’t one of those gigs. I think that’s what stresses me out – the unknown. Kudos to my wife for doing the day in and day out parenting. Our daughters are healthy, happy, and sweet as can be and she gets all the credit.

All of this had me thinking, however; sometimes we think we know what students go through. Partly, because we were students. Sometimes we assume and make up the things we expect of them. The truth is, we really don’t know what they go through. Maybe it’s tougher than we think.

What if we followed a student’s schedule for one day? Class to class – 50 minutes at a time. One subject after another…….most of which isn’t cross curricular. Learn. Forget. Learn. Forget. Learn. Forget. You get it. Would this exhaust our minds? Would we have a better understanding of what they go through? Would a full day seem easy to us?

I know I asked a lot of questions here. But, these questions I don’t have answers for. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the answers……….but for one day I would like to follow a students schedule to find out.

It Matters

As a teacher, I am easily asked hundreds of questions per day. Some about content. Some about life. Some that make me think. And, some that make me laugh. For example, the other day a student asked, “Why did you become a teacher Mr. Moler?” I responded with, “This might sound cheesy…” Then another student chimed in, “You can’t be cheesy, you’re a vegan.” The other day, a student asked me a question I have never been asked………

“Why do you share so much stuff on Twitter and Instagram?”

Usually I have an answer. This time I didn’t. So I stopped and I thought about it, and here is why I share so much stuff.

In the moment when students are creating and learning, it might not seem important or matter to them beyond a grade. However, learning should go viral and inspire others. I love sharing student work and “stuff” because it matters to me. Good, bad, indifferent…..it all matters to me. Plus, I know it matters to, and inspires, others. Stop and think about it…….how many times has New Richmond Middle School student work mattered and inspired others around the world? Countless times, and that’s pretty cool.

 

A Change

Three weeks ago I decided that Social Studies was not important. Instead, building community, listening, practicing empathy, and creating connections was more important. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this has been a rough year for me with school changes, student behaviors, and consistency. The icing on the cake was a student saying, “I love this class, but I don’t know anyone.” That was said in December and I felt like a failure. The cherry on top was a group of students that walked in and asked me, “Mr. Moler who do you think won the fight?” I lost it. 

Rather than go negative, I thought back to June of 2019 and the best keynote speech I ever heard from Joe Sanfelippo. He preached, “30 seconds is all it takes to change culture.” The next day, I wrote my message up on the whiteboard, “It’s not the amount of time, it’s what you do with the time. In a 7 hour day, you have 840 thirty second chances to connect to someone and make a difference in their life.” I took a chance and we took 2 minutes to send an email or text to someone and thank them. It made a huge impact – some students were scared to push send and some began crying. But that was alleviated when they received a nice reply. HUGE IMPACT. After 3 weeks, we devote Thursdays for taking 30 seconds, but I have noticed many students doing this on their own during the week. 

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To help students get to know each other, I took a chance and implemented a Monte Syrie idea of Smiles and Frowns. At the beginning of class, I say each student’s name and they have an opportunity to tell me something that made them smile or frown in the last 24 hours. We do this EVERYDAY for 5 minutes. At first it was awkward, especially for 7th graders. However, more and more students are sharing. We have applauded successes, and gave pats on the back for failures. I’m seeing a community being built. Students are hearing each other’s names. We are getting to know each other. I wish I started this at the beginning of the year instead of 3 weeks ago. What happens in week 5? Week 10? Week 20? I haven’t a clue, but I’m seeing some great results now.

Update: I intentionally didn’t do smiles or frowns, or 30 seconds this week (Feb. 17 week) to see if anyone would say something. I wanted to see if it mattered. The students spoke loud and clear – IT MATTERS!