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The Typical Day

Wow. Seeing my students in different learning environments this week has opened my eyes to a sophomore student's typical day at our high school. I must say, I am blown away by their daily schedules and the amount of content they learn each day. While I know they take 6 other classes throughout the day besides my English class, until you actually sit in some of these classes, it is hard to imagine what they are actually doing on a daily basis.

This week, I had the opportunity to visit the following classes: AP Human, Chemistry, Health, and Creative Writing II. While the plan was to observe just one student, I was excited to see that each class I visited included more than one of my students. With this, I was able to touch base with multiple students later in the day about what they were learning in their classes. This opened up the chance for me to connect with more of my students and truly invest in their learning - not just in my class - and to learn more about them.

As I sat in each class, I continued to conclude that wowza....our students are learning so much in EVERY class period. While I didn't expect my thoughts to be what they were, I am excited to share my takeaways about student learning and a typical day from this week's observations:

1. Their schedules are difficult, and they are asked to retain so much information in one 45 minute class period, X6.

2. It must be difficult for students to shift their focus from class to class, as they only get 5 minutes to move from class to class, in a very crowded hallway. It is challenging for me, too.

3. There are so many shifts in vocabulary throughout the day. Students are exposed to numerous content-related words, and they are asked to not only know what they mean but to draw conclusions about information using them.

4. Have you ever really watched students process information they are learning? Each of them do something a little different. For example, in Mr. Ragusa's Chemistry class, students watched him model working through the chemical reactions. They looked at his work and then down at their work. Scratched out notes and then furiously wrote down new notes. When he asked questions, some students raised their hands. Other students shared their answer with their table-mates. Others said the answer to themselves. Some had confidence while others needed reassurance. It was quite enlightening to see this process when I wasn't in front of the room teaching.

5. Students need time to work through their new skills or new information during class so that they can ask questions and get feedback from the teacher. In every class I observed, our teachers did an awesome job providing time for their students to work through their confusion, ask questions, and get feedback. In Ms. Tegan McQuaid's AP Human Geography class, she talked through maps and information students read the night before and provided some great information to help them remember and understand. From there, she gave them time to process and talk with a peer. That was a necessary break in order to retain some of the information she presented.  I also loved that our teachers didn't wait for students to ask questions. They stepped into the trenches and provided feedback as they noticed it was needed. Talk about personalized learning.

6. Wow - our students act differently in every class. I was amazed to see how focus and energy changed throughout the day. Classes in the morning were quiet and extremely focused. My classes in the middle of the day tend to be more chatty and energetic. At the end of the day, it was obvious that students were tired and struggling to stay on task. Who can blame them? It is a long day.

7. There is so much variety during the day. A student might be learning about the periodical table one period, writing creatively about an apple another period, reading and analyzing a play the next period, synthesizing maps and information in the next period, and then having a discussion about real-world issues in the next class period. In Mr. David Ricca's health class, students talked about life expectancy and what it takes to really take care of our bodies. Students were engaged and had great opinions on why some people live longer than others. Can you imagine talking through deep questions like this and then switching gears completely to read The Crucible in English class? Wowza. It really made me consider what I was doing in my class every day. Are my expectations realistic for a group of students who do all of this in a day's span? How can I engage them but also challenge them to take ownership of their learning? Based on what I saw in other classes, it all comes back to the 4Cs: Collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication, and the bonus 'C'...curiosity.

8. When students are engaged, they do such awesome things. I was amazed at how they learned and demonstrated their learning in a class period and a full day. I loved hearing what they thought of the class and/or activity. I really need to ask them more consistently what I can do to help them learn and grow in my class. They have a lot to offer when we give them the chance to do so.

9. They appreciate breaks in the day to do something that brings them joy. For example, some students take classes like Creative Writing in order to have the opportunity to write. To reflect. To think. To be calm. When I visited Creative Writing II, Mrs. Gillian Schneider asked me to participate in the writing activity. It was so fun to forget what I was doing before the observation and what was coming next. I got lost in writing and enjoyed the activity. The class period flew by. Luckily, I got to work with one of my own students during this observation. She explained how much she loves the class, as it brings her peace and comfort during the hectic day. I love that she was able to articulate this need for her social and emotional health. Now that's what's up!

10.  As I always share, we have some awesome teachers here at Neuqua Valley High School. Our students have teachers in every class that work tirelessly to support their students and personalize their learning experiences. Their passion for teaching is evident, and I hope our students appreciate what they do on a daily basis to help them learn and grow.

You see, my friends....our students are challenged throughout the day but work hard to make the most of their time. Bottom is important to understand and acknowledge what a typical day looks like for our students. Ask them about it. Have them share what they are learning. You will be amazed at some of the awesome things happening - every minute of the day - here at Neuqua Valley. #whatsup