SOL14: Starting a New Year

Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsey for creating that place for us to work collaboratively.

In the Midwest, our school schedules vary.  Professional development schedules seem to vary even more.  August is always the beginning of a new year.  Sometimes it resembles March:  if it comes in like a lion, then it tiptoes out like a lamb.  Which was it this year?


Weather?  check

Relatively calm


Teachers?  check

Ready to learn


Students? check

Ready for learning


And then the late summer hit.

Hot, humid, blistering tormenting weather!

Were there any signs of the oncoming weather?

Many . . . but what good is fretting about uncontrollable weather?


Exactly one month ago yesterday my computer died. It was the fourth day of work. The fourth consecutive day of training. All links were open and live when the screen went dark and stayed dark. It would not turn back on. Not one single light was visible anywhere.  I was 50 miles away from one of our main offices with a class that had persevered in spite of the lack of air conditioning and internet access for the participants.  Black screen of death.

It wasn’t a complete surprise. I had been “limping along” waiting for “after July 1st” and the new fiscal year. But the suddenness was still a shock.  15 minutes to class time.

Fortunately, I had my personal laptop that I had been using since the June and July Writing and Reading Institutes at #TCRWP in New York City (longest battery time of all computer choices).  I was feeling a bit “schizoid” as some materials were on my computer and others were not.  It sounded like a simple solution.  “Don’t panic,” my internal voice said.  I wanted to go outside and scream, plead, bargain “PLEASE, just one more day!”

Obviously it was not meant to be.  I googled how to “present” a power point from my MacBook Air.  Settings – display – find that silly “dongle” in the backpack and the magical “tech bag” – remote . . . . . each minute went faster and faster.  My 15 minutes was gone. 3 minutes until show time.  Plans D, E, and F were vague possibilities in my brain.  “If this, then this as I pounded on the keyboard.”  Calm?  Not so much.  Was panic helping?  Not so much.

We were one minute late starting.  Some materials for the day were totally not accessible because they were locked inside the black dead shell of a computer.  Did we accomplish our goals?

Absolutely, yes!  Because at 15 minutes to start time with a dead computer my goals changed. It was survival mode. Technology was not my friend.

Life sometimes fails for the adult.  But what about our students?

Are there days when our students are in survival mode?  Are we “in tune” with their needs?  Do they need the comfort and security of the routines of our classroom?  How do we make sure they also have a way to voice their frustrations?  I’m not talking about a full day of whining and complaining.  But what if it truly is not a good learning day because of events beyond their control?

What learning will you and your students negotiate today?
When have you had to scrap everything due to technology failures?
How did you “trust” technology again? 


PS. So my good news is that I have my new computer. Last night I added:

  • skype
  • dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Twitter
  • and this morning I am polishing off this draft of my blog post.  Earth is back on its regular rotation.  Life continues on!
What challenges have you already overcome this year?
How do we learn and grow from our own challenges?





12 responses

  1. “Life sometimes fails for the adult but what about the student?” Exactly. I had similar problems the entire first 2 weeks. I’m good on my feet but my new class was trained heavily on white board instruction. It was hard plus all the push in interruptions of scheduling this mainstream and that coach here and another coach there and speech and social skills and secretarial information gathering. I was spinning. And snapping at some people. I’m adapted and scrapped ready made materials for student interest. It gave me a whole new outlook on the year. I very much like your Slice today as it really made me think and reflect. You are good at that… Glad your tech savvy self is working again!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Brenda!
      It’s so hard to be graceful, in the moment, when something is not going well. But in the bigger scheme of life how important is it? Admittedly, it was a long, hard month and there were some things that took two and three times as long as it should have. I have Microsoft office now on my Mac so I can at least read and edit on multiple laptops.

      But what is the message for our learners? What happens when we, the adults, don’t have “perfect days”? Do our actions and words really match our expectations for our learners???? Or do some of those “unvarnished behaviors” slip out???

  2. Oh I so hear you, on the adult and kid level. Yesterday was like this in my classroom. We had weather: pouring rain and humidity. That coupled with a Monday, which always is a bit of an adjustment for students, combined to make a day that was less than i’d hoped for. Students simply worked on what they could work on. The new challenges I’d planned I saved. You bring out such an important message here. Children have so little control over the factors in their lives, we need to be aware of that and allow for those “black shell” days where the best we can do is a holding pattern.

    Glad you got the tech going again. Thank you for this.

    1. Julieanne,
      Maybe we need to schedule 10 – 15 minutes on Mondays deliberately to decompress at elementary and gear up for the week and encourage students to build this into their routine. For some of our students, that first day back to school after a holiday or weekend is just disastrous and they feel the consequences for days.

      Tech can be oh, so helpful or oh, so time-sucking! I’m also grateful that it is going again! ❤

      1. What a great idea decompression Monday moments. We have PD time on Tuesdays and hence a shortened school day. Maybe it would be better to make that shorter day Monday. Hmm…

  3. So wise, Fran – in spite of the tech driven panic, you didn’t forget that any learning begins with the understanding that it’s a negotiation between teacher and student, and implicit in that is sensitivity and flexibility. Glad yo are up and running with the tech, Fran.

    1. I meant “you”, of course!

    2. Tara.
      We have to remember our target! LEARNING! So nice that technology is again working! Being prepared tor both low and high tech is helpful!!!
      Looking forward to seeing you again in November, my friend! 🙂

  4. Oh, Fran! I didn’t know that happened to you! So sorry! Glad everything worked out as best it could.
    Makes me think of my day yesterday. We had a deluge of rain starting overnight. Many districts around us canceled classes for the day. Not ours! To put it in perspective, we received 5 inches of rain in less than 12 hours yesterday. Our average YEARLY rainfall is about 7 inches. Needless to say, it was a wild day. Many students stayed home, some students came when they could. I think my last student arrived around 9:00; 6 were out all day; 2 left early for doctor’s appts, and 2 more were picked up early. Our after-school program (basically child care) canceled, so we had to contact all those parents to find out how their children were getting home. I decided early on I wasn’t going to let it get to me. We were going to enjoy the day, and I wasn’t going to fight their curiosity and wonder as they stared out the window at the water all around us. We had more read-alouds and I showed them their first book trailer: Beekle. So yes, sometimes life happens. It’s our job to keep our students front and center.
    I do have to say, though, today I am exhausted!
    Hope everything is settling down for you!

    1. Wow! Allison, I saw a lot of rain in AZ and NV but did not hear any amounts! And you are so right; it is our job to keep our students front and center. (still trying to find things on the computer – not sure where everything is!)

      Stay safe!

  5. Flexibility and being able to adjust our plans at the drop of a hat is key! I’m sorry about your computer, but not surprised that you didn’t let it defeat you. Your point about recognizing when our students are in survival mode is such an important one. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Thanks, Catherine!
      In the scheme of life, and today in the shadow of 9/11, there really are so many more important issues. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, perspective is the first thing to go. Centering on “what really matters” is so critical!

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