Header Photo Credit: Sharla Hoff
I remember that feeling, being in a haboob before we knew the word “haboob.” Wonderment, trepidation, a lungful of whatever was driven loose by wind.
First day of junior high, and families arrive together, parents holding the hands of seventh graders? Something has already shifted in the humid, blasting morning.
The teachers hold cellphones with spreadsheets sending students to their first advisory. Students have printed their schedules, but they’re worthless currency. Each day is different.
Half my advisory is not in front of me. Where are they? Shrug. Mark them absent. The ten of us learn names, facts and fictions.
First day is ding ding ding from Google Hangouts. I discover what all those spreadsheets were for. My students patiently wait for me to mwa-mwa-mwa.
Community circle. “Hi, what’s your name?’ “My name is Araceli” “Hello, Araceli” Toss the inflatable globe to students from all over. Pins on our map.
Lunchtime I follow the class out to make sure they know how to do the cafeteria. My 8th graders all promise to help the newbies.
Can’t take attendance. Take it on these spreadsheets and team leader enters it. Does she sleep? Where do my students go, how do I know?
I walk my students to class. I can’t remember the room numbers and it’s all mwa-mwa to them. Most everyone is across the hall, anyway. Team.
Yoga Pretzels. The four-hour ELD block is actually almost four hours… in a row. I ask my students to lead these yoga poses. Unclear; relaxing.
The faster these kids can name things the better. First the nouns, because there are physical examples. Classroom labels: chair, books, projector, pencil, paper, balls.
A four hour block is too long for squirrelly boys to sit on a yoga ball. I teach the word “bouncy,” an adjective describing personality.
Community circle whiteboards:
Students try to explain. “I feel happy because…” It’s going to be okay.
I can be oblivious to the promising clouds. No windows and a blur of Hangouts, spreadsheets, students and activities. The heat sinks in driving home.
After two weeks, laptop carts are in! We have… drumroll please… Google Translate! We sign into Chrome. We bookmark everything. We Classroom and Canvas it up!
Mindsets, clubs, celebrations, playtime, advisory, sessions, Synergy, embedded electives, teacher of record, Ctrl+F. I sway and scramble in the winds, using cognates whenever possible.
Behind the dusty haboob, hope for the driving pour. The wind snaps weak branches, uproots the comfortable shade. The rain turns everything green, I hope.
Note: This year our 7th and 8th grade junior high school shifted to a team-based system within a flexible, bell-less schedule. Fitting the rigid requirements of ELD into these fluid, teacher-driven and student-centered concepts has been challenging, to say the least. If I can make it through the year, I see the promise. Knowledge of students and student choice will drive each day, not a bell schedule. But right now I am trying to make it through each day feeling like I can focus on what really matters, the needs of the students. It’s a balancing act, and everything we’ve always relied on has been reinvented. I am truly hoping for the rain after the haboob, and I can feel a few fat drops.
Some links to give you a taste of what we’re up to:
- Rhodes to Success (video based on last year’s pilot program)
- 7 Mindsets
- Larry Ferlazzo’s Best Resources for Learning About Restorative Practices
- Summit Learning