Wednesday, May 24, 2017

When You Need a Break

It's May, we all have those days.  You have the mountain of grading staring you dead in the eye that needs to get done.  You are just feeling so unmotivated thanks to months of grinding through material.  Teacher fatigue happens to the best of us.  Now, what will you do about it?  One of the most important things to remember is teaching is mentally, physically and emotionally draining and self care is paramount.  Let's talk about lazy days.

Project Work Days
Here's the rub with this one:  while the day itself can often not be too mentally taxing, the lead up takes a lot of work.  The project needs to be rigorous enough that it makes sense to give the time.  Once you have that project though, turn on some music and turn them loose.  This one works well for me mentally and in terms of pedagogy.  I'm a constructivist for those who have read a lot of teacher academic writing.  I believe, especially in science, in letting students explore and make discoveries.  This allows the ideas to stick a lot stronger.  And project based learning is great for that. So pros: lots of independence.  Cons:  Lots of prep and planning.

Find Those Best Science (or Your Own Subject) Movies
For biology, I feel like you can't go wrong with Planet Earth or with the Disney line of movies.  Also, Bill Nye never goes out of style.  His new show has a lot that is applicable to current science classes, and I can see turning one of the episodes into a pretty in depth discussion.  In particular, the last episode in the Netflix series can be a great intro to scientific method and can help alleviate that beginning of the year exhaustion.

The ultimate for my physics people is definitely Neil Degrasse Tyson's Cosmos.  The information is great, visuals are good and is overall an enjoyable romp.  I'm a fan.  Plus, there are oodles of online resources in terms of worksheets to use for all the above.  Or, you could use the videos as some sort of evidence for a written assignment.  Also a good idea.

Another great way to bring in student voice is have them create videos as a project and then show them in class.  Less reading for you overall, and they love to see each other.  While they sometimes hate watching their own product, if a student is anxious, they can sit outside.  Also having strong presentation or video class norms is imperative.  This also makes grading crazy easy.  Just have the rubrics in front of you while the video is playing and there you go, all done.  Rubrics, I think, over anything else have allowed me to give timely feedback by grading quickly and having clear standards.  By no means do I think I write great rubrics, but I'm getting better at it through collaboration with colleagues.

The Post Test Day
My master teacher back in the day would always show a fun movie the day after the test.  Why?  To grade the damn test.  She would use that time for kids to compile their stuff from the unit to put into their portfolios and do the reflection.  I kind of wish I felt like I had the time to do this, and someday I might give the post test day its due.  As of right now, however, I kind of do this on the actual test day in some form.  However, it was a nice chunk of time to just crunch out the tests and allow students to organize themselves and reflect on what we learned that unit.
Tweets by @tomatopolish