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Back to School - Five Highlights

Going back to school after a long vacation is always hard. For me the winter break is particularly challenging as it's one of the few times that all five of us are together. After the holidays are over and my daughters go back to the US, it takes a few days for me to adjust to that empty feeling that invariably engulfs me wherever I turn. However, this year, I've been able to manage the shift from being with family 24/7 and no alarm clocks to spending most of my time with students and getting up early by hiding out in my classroom. Before you tisk tisk my decision, let me say that it has helped me transition back into the routine of school life. I have had two good days with my students and we have accomplished important work.

Here's a list of the top five highlights of these past two days in no particular order:
  1. My 7th graders have started reading their books for our Mock Newberry Award. The teacher librarian at my school and I chose 15 books for my students to read. So far, the response has been great. I can't wait to listen in on some of the conversations my students will be having over the next few weeks about these books.
  2. My 7th graders are writing about their One Little Word (OLW) to be published on their newly minted blogs next week. This is my second year doing OLW and my first with my students. I will be writing about my own OLW, soon. So far, my students are choosing great words to help them focus their year. My 6th graders will be working on their OLWs tomorrow.
  3. My 6th graders started a mini research project about Ancient Egypt. They started out with a question and then added more related questions using the 5W's. They are taking notes on index cards, noting sources, and verifying information that they find. I will be writing about this process, soon. I am looking forward to their presentations about what they learned.
  4. I ran into one of my ESL students from last year who wanted to share that he finished Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. I had started reading this book with my ESL students last year but we weren't able to finish the book. It was a challenging read for my students and it was taking a very long time to read aloud. So, we put the book down and students who were interested were encouraged to read it independently. Of course, this encounter made my day!
  5. I had lunch today with one of my colleagues. It was nice catching up after the break. We went to a nearby sandwich shop, had a delicious lunch, and relaxed.
Not bad for two days of school! 

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(4) How can I strike a balance between student choice and making sure my students learn what they need to learn at any given time?

(5) Am I demanding too much from my students?

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Any thoughts are more than welcomed!