11 February 2016

The Tyranny of Sick Days

My four-year-old must have thrown up fifteen times between 10:30PM and 3:30AM. Her daddy had her all cleaned up and her bed stripped by the time I came out of my Nyquil coma after the first round. You see, last week, her brother had brought a monster cold home from second grade and thought it was funny when he got snot on me while we were playing.

Now she's only thrown up twice since last night, but I can't hear and may or may not run out of Dayquil before I drip on a student's paper again.

You see, we can't leave tests for a substitute, and even if an IPA doesn't count as a test per se, who's going to do the conversation section with the students? Nothing like some good old-fashioned face-to-face with 2/3 of the class when you can only breathe through your mouth.

Now, my husband has maybe a few meetings a week tops that he can't miss and just has to power through. I have three 90-minute meetings every day, Monday-Thursday, and then non-stop meetings on Fridays when we have field trips and Academic Hour and clubs. So he got to sleep in and stay home after our baby girl's brief return to newborn sleeping habits--the day after a 12-hour work day for me. Whereas I? I have 1,001 decisions to make before I can even think about calling a sub when she has one more round of pukies at 5AM.

I suppose I could go back to the old IPA setup and have students converse with partners instead of with me. They could even call into Google Voice if need be, since iPads and Chromebooks are only to be used under the direct supervision of bona fide school faculty. I mean, they might do all right that way. But if the 1/3 that conversed with me the day before my surrender to the viral infestation ends up performing better on that "test" because they had me to help--or the 2/3 without does better because I wasn't there to make them nervous or cough on them--then I have another week's worth of make-ups to sort out.

Still, I suppose it's better than trying to get them to talk about a video they watched yesterday next Monday--or Tuesday, if the weather proves as ominous as students and weathermen would have us believe. I mean, I could build in some re-watch time for that 2/3, but then what do I do with the other 1/3?

And don't get me started on the portfolios that would have to be pushed back into grading crunch time.

A homework day is also a no-go with mobile devices and this week's work being all pinning, blogging, and vibbing. They can't very well hop on WeSpeke either. Backed myself into a 21st century corner, didn't I?

There is that completely innocuous vocab/grammar/writing tic-tac-toe board I've had in the emergency file the last two years, but thinking of what losing this weekend to grade would do down the line...I'm sicker thinking about it.

Then I flash back to Tuesday afternoon when I reminded my math colleague having fever chills not to push her body too far by staying and grading late. "You'll just stay sick--or get sicker."

Then my English and science colleagues storm my room.

"You're not thinking about what's important," they say, all but pushing me out the door.

But the conversations! The weather! The grading!

"We'll split up planning and watch them put the iPads and Chromebooks back," they say. "We don't want your germs anyway."

"Go.  Home."

Sick days can be even  more oppressive than sickness for teachers. But with a solid support system, they can't keep you down. Stomach bugs? Colds? The flu? Those can keep you down. Don't give what power you have left to Sick Days.

If you don't have a team who has your back when it comes to the bacterial battlefield, you need to find one. Maybe it's a family member who's not afraid of a little four-year-old vomit. It might be some friends who can cover in those rare instances when your immune system does not come through for you. It might be a solid sub--or set of subs--who knows how your class works and how to take care of business (even if they're not exactly fluent in your language). Heck, it might be a good Pinterest board of quick printouts and students who hate to see you hurting.

With the right army on your side, you can fight back against the tyranny of Sick Days.

Just do your fighting in your pajamas.

07 February 2016

What's in a Seesaw (and What's Not?)

I'm not using Google Classroom quite as much as I did last year. Uploading videos and submitting shared work have been big hassles. Also scrolling through and finding previous assignments to add to portfolios? It's been a bit time consuming.

Seesaw, however, solves those problems. Gone are the days of waiting for a video to process on Google Drive before you can share it with your team or even just watch it. No more figuring out whether you have to add the file, add a link to the file, or comment with the link on a Google Classroom assignment that you worked on with a partner.

And if students need examples to post to their VoiceThread portfolios? They can just check the class folder! And if I want them to submit their own work before inspecting examples, I simply hold off on checking the little green check mark saying their approved until all work for that assignment is submitted! What's more, I can even post the best videos, portfolios, or writing sample photos to a class Seesaw blog to hold up as examples for students AND parents!

Students' portfolios, however, are still Google Sites/VoiceThread hybrids. I think it's just a little more polished for display and reflection purposes. However, most of the samples that end up in the portfolios are also in Seesaw folders, just in their pre-revision, pre-reflection forms.

So what are some of the things sitting in my students' Seesaw folders right now?
  • First-day review station videos (GreenScreen karaoke and AdobeVoice story summaries)
  • Links to their new e-portfolios
  • Images they can use for e-portfolio title pages throughout the semester
  • Links to their individual blogs for the "Mejor yo" unit
  • Links to each Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking Voicethread for each student
  • Introduction videos for conversation buddies in other schools
  • Folders full of conversation videos for each song students have discussed
  • A screenshot of a blanked out activity infograph everyone can copy and mark up
  • Photos of their "Escribe en Cinco" notebook pages
  • Photos of clean copies (pre-Sexton-highlighting) of their IPA writing
This means...

  1. Everyone can enjoy each other's fun videos without necessarily taking class time to broadcast them.
  2. I can always find each student's portfolio, whether or not it's turned in for that week's update or linked in the pledge--and so can they!
  3. The portfolio process is streamlined for the rest of the semester (just download and upload!)
  4. I can always find their blogs for checking posts--and their teammates can always find them for commenting!
  5. If they had embedding problems with their VoiceThreads in their Google Sites, I can check the original source, and maybe even fix it for them!
  6. They could upload quickly, and I could (make Sr. Sexton) download quickly to share with our penpals!!
  7. They can edit out the blank space and make one or two solid conversation videos with their best questions and answers (bonus! speaking reflection!)
  8. They can mark up the image to show their labeling skills (thought the image quality was  higher with Nearpod--just harder to distribute).
  9. Their portfolios have their writing in their own handwriting for extra authenticity--and none of mine, for extra professional neatness.

However, there are still a few things you will not find in my Seesaw feed or theirs:

  • grades, scores, or proficiency levels
  • specific comments and feedback
  • survey questions for reflection or class business
  • assignment descriptions, rubrics, or reminders
  • videos that last more than 5 minutes
Classroom is still my favorite for disseminating information. Students (and my principal) get emailed updates for each grade, assignment, question, and announcement with Classroom, and I have a quick way to see who's submitted work, and who needs a little reminder. Plus they have a little more space to play with, say, if their teacher keeps them talking for 5 minutes and 11 seconds during the IPA.

But for basic sample collection of just about any sort? Seesaw has saved me and my students a lot of time already this semester.