In a Perfect World I Would Teach…

In a perfect world I’d love to teach at a high school where I could (within reason) create my own classes.  At my high school, seniors took 6-week seminar style social studies electives and I LOOOOOOVED it.  I chose to take one on the 1920s, another on the Vietnam War, another on current events in Africa, and I actually don’t remember the other one (oops, sorry amazing seminar teachers).  Ever since then I thought that would be a great way to teach.  I would have students in the class who genuinely wanted to be there and I would be able to teach things I was truly passionate and exceptionally knowledgeable about.  I would be able to take a small-ish topic and go more in depth with it than a traditional class schedule would allow.

what and how I would love to teach one day in a perfect world

what and how I would love to teach one day in a perfect world

Yes I enjoy teaching (and am knowledgeable about) a lot of topics in the history/social studies world, but I certainly have my preferences.  I have always wanted to teach a full class on Europe from 1919-1945 and another class JUST on the Holocaust, but again, even short seminars (like half a semester each) on topics such as art theft throughout history would be great.

One reason why this has been on my mind lately is because I do have a lot of flexibility in what I teach in my Thursday class.  If you’re new here, it originally started out per the director as a “Music Theory” class, but then due to parent opinion turned into a “Western Culture and Civilization” class with a preferable focus on including art or music of some kind within each topic.  I had incorrectly predicted the pace at which we would move during the French Revolution Unit and we finished it 3 weeks before spring break.  I didn’t want to start another “big” topic/unit because our spring break is 2 weeks long and I didn’t want the kids brain dumping everything so with permission from the director, I decided to teach a mini-unit on art theft throughout history.

I was honestly REALLY excited about this.  It was going to be completely out of the box for the kids and I hoped that my enthusiasm would help keep them focused even though spring break was in sight.  The first week I told them we were starting something totally new and they’d learn what we were going to study by completing a cloze passage.  I made one passage for the 5th/6th graders, another for 7/8, and a third for the 9/10 kids.  Since NONE of the kids had done a cloze passage before I suggested that they skim the page first, see if they could get any clues, and then start filling in the blanks.  I also told them to not get hung up on the “right” word (as in the word I had in my answer key), but rather a word that would still provide a reader with the general gist, so if I wrote authorities and they wrote police that was fine, if I wrote escaped and they wrote got away I told them that was fine too.  The kids all figured out that it was about art/painting theft and after we discussed the general gist of the passage we dove into the material.

The cloze passage had given them an overview of the topic and contained detailed a few different examples of art theft, including one where the thief was caught but the art was not recovered (they had a lot of fun guessing where the paintings could be and how we might find them), one where the thief and the paintings were recovered, one where neither the thieves nor art was recovered, and then they had a paragraph about this topic during WW2 (we followed that up the second week of this topic by spending the whole class period talking about art theft during WW2).

We then looked at pictures of dozens of paintings that had been stolen over time and the kids had a lot of really great discussions about why people steal, what their motivation is, is the risk worth the potential reward, what makes paintings in particular a target, etc, and then they diverged into the half-serious-half 7th grade-mentality of “I bet this is how they got away with it,” and their thought process was definitely sci-fi movie worthy than class worthy.

On the last day of this unit, I divided the kids up in to pairs/groups of 3 and they were each presented with a real life case of art theft, and then acting as reporters, presented the facts to the rest of the class press conference style, and answered the questions posed by their classmates.  Having something physical like that the day before spring break, and interactive, I think was huge in keeping them engaged.  I recommended Woman in Gold and Monuments Men to them to watch over spring break since overall they were pretty enthusiastic about the topic, and one parent already emailed me thanking me for the recommendations, as a family they had already watched Woman in Gold and were going to watch Monuments Men next week.

When class let out I did feel bad that we couldn’t keep discussing this topic after spring break since we do have the rest of the curriculum to get through, but it definitely reignited my burning desire to not just teach history from the Revolutionary War through the Cold War for the rest of my career.  I love it, I do, but I also really really really want to teach classes on smaller/more focused topics.  Maybe I should start considering higher ed?  We’ll see what opportunities present themselves in the next few years.

If you could teach anything you wanted what would it be?

How I Re-Organized My Toddler’s Stuff

Before we had our daughter, I had the mindset of “I will not let toys overrun our house,” and “we’re not going to have useless cr*p” lying around.”  Well thankfully, 2 years later I’ve been able to stick to the second one.  Everything we (or our family) has gotten for our daughter has a purpose (sometimes multiple purposes depending on her age, like her piggy bank, she’s been playing with that for a year and a half, but the way she plays with it changes as she grows and develops) and has staying power.  Plus, I’m not counting books in the “overrunning our house” part of this.  I don’t think there can be a limit as to how many books a kid can have (a by product of how I was raised and my personal obsession with reading) so she has close to 200 books already (though admittedly her chapter books I’ve bought waaaay ahead of time).

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how I keep my toddler’s books and toys organized

Now for the first one, her things have certainly not “overrun” our house, but there was always stuff lying around and not everything was getting played with or read (yes I know kids have preferences, but sometimes I think we would forget something was there, or a book hadn’t been read because it was buried under 99 other books).  Her books were in bookcases, her toys were in baskets and bins and stuff, but it wasn’t organized and everything was always accessible–sometimes too accessible.  Sometimes I wondered if she was overwhelmed by the options she had.

Over Christmas Break I decided it was time for a change.  I’m pretty sure I had gotten the idea somewhere on Pinterest but can’t find a picture of it at right now to link back to.  Anyway, what I decided to do was to get one bin for each day of the week and divide up her books, coloring books, stickers, puzzles, and toys of all kinds among each bin (I tried to evenly divide everything up so there was an equal amount of everything in each bin and so it wasn’t all about animals one day, trucks and cars another day, etc).  This first picture is a mostly before shot.  I had already taken EVERYTHING out and put it ALL on the floor and had started dividing the books up when I realized I could write a blog post on it and would need a picture (that empty spot was where I was sitting).

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the before shot of re-organizing books and toys

And here’s the after: one bin for each day of the week with books/puzzles/coloring supplies/stickers/toys as evenly distributed as possible.  Her kitchen will be accessible each day, as well as a small set of blocks, her magna doodle, 2 balls, and her stuffed animals (they’re in their own zip up container though so they’re easily contained if need be), and in her playroom she has another small bookcase full of books.  The bins are in my closet so she can’t just upturn them all or switch things around on me.

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the after shot of one bin a day

As she gets older I’ll modify this system as need be (I already have a separate bin with workbooks and “school” stuff in the works) but for now this is working pretty well.  If she asks for play dough and it’s not in that day’s bin I tell her she can play with it the next day and that we can build a lego car or tower today and stuff like that usually works for her.  One day she specifically asked for The Pout-Pout Fish but that was in the previous day’s bin so I made a game out of helping her recite it from memory, then we looked at the current day’s books and she got excited enough about “Noisy Bugs” to let Pout Pout Fish go for the time being.

Clean up at night before her bedtime goes significantly faster this way because now it’s just “get everything in the bin,” not put the books here and the crayons there and the legos here and the puzzles there, etc.  That alone makes this system totally worth it!

Do you have a tried and true organization/sanity saver tip or trick?  Leave it in the comments below 🙂