Thursday, October 19, 2017

Not Everybody Likes Canned Soup

As the end of first quarter draws near, I am finally able to take a breath after what feels like 8 weeks of vigorously trying to not drown in the transition to a new high school, with new content to teach and two new teams to coach. I'll be honest, there have been times I questioned why I switched schools. It's been a tremendous amount of stress and made me question everything I thought I knew about teaching. But it's in these low moments, that I have to remind myself that we only grow and improve when we are forced outside of our comfort zone. This has literally been me at work so far this quarter. 

One of the biggest epiphanies that has happened the past 8 weeks is the realization that homemade soup is always better than canned soup. Always. In fact, I hate canned soup. 

A few years ago, our school district adopted the CPM curriculum for all classes Algebra and higher. It's not mandatory that we teach it exactly as is, but we are encouraged to follow the pacing and use the resources as needed with our professional judgement (isn't our district amazing!?). This post is in no way a bash on CPM, but rather a realization that as a teacher, I am my best self when I am teaching in a manner that works for me. I rarely used CPM in my Algebra class at the junior high, but as I worked to try to understand my new curriculum and tried to work through the sequencing and pacing of skills I have never taught, I found myself clinging to CPM for dear life. I was so worried about doing something wrong and getting behind that I forgot how to be "Miss Rowe" and instead found myself serving up canned CPM soup to the students every single day. I hated my classroom. I didn't like teaching how I was teaching. The students looked miserable when they left. And worst of all, I didn't feel like the students were actually learning. My biggest fear was actually becoming the reality of my classroom. 

Many of my students were in my class 3 years ago when they were in 8th grade, so it's been fun getting to see and teach so many familiar faces. One day last week a student walked by on his way out and said, "You teach really different now. I think I liked how you taught in 8th grade better.". I could have died. I literally wanted to just crawl under my portable and fire myself. I agreed with him. I liked it better, too. So after a weekend of soul searching and a few pep talks from some of my biggest education role models I came to the realization that... 

Canned or homemade, the kids are going to get fed. But oh my heck, isn't homemade soup just so much better? I am good at being me. I am good at teaching in a way that best highlights and caters to my unique style as an educator. And because of that, I am done with canned soup.

So what does that mean?

Students are talking. Students are moving around the room. Students are engaged and utilizing every waking minute of class time. Now, that's not to say that this can't be done with CPM. I'm sure it can. But it didn't work for me. And I am always going to advocate for every teacher to be able to make whatever changes are needed to do what is best for kids. And I am so thankful I work for a district and school that supports that same philosophy. 

We are a little crammed in our portable, but we are LOVING integrating activities like "scavenger hunts" or "problem loops" that force students to get up, collaborate, and check the answers as they go. 

Side note: Check out these awesome vocabulary visual cards here!

So here's to homemade soup! And the courage to teach in a way that works for you. You are the professional and you know what works best. And you know what's inspiring? No one can be you better than you can! 

Check out these awesome TpT Resources that we utilized this week: