Friday, June 10, 2016

Week 39: That's All She Wrote (week of 6/10/16)

Brace yourself, this blog's a long one.

Well, here we are. The end of another school year. Admittedly, this time of year has always been bittersweet for me, even as a student. It's sweet, because who couldn't use the break? It's bitter because I'm a creature of habit. I like to know what each day will look like, even if the work hours are the same but everything else is dfferent. I like knowing who I'll interact with, even if it's the same 120 amazing young people. Sure, there are days where it feels monotonous and tedious (hello, state testing), but every day is another chance at something great. There have been many great moments this year.

As a professional, I took more chances than I thought I would. It's not that I don't take chances at all, I just thought (back in August) that I'd fine-tune some of the activities and lessons I've been doing for a year or two. Life has a funny way of shaking things up. Truth be told, I like it that way. For the first time, I taught less in the bullying unit. Instead, I gave students enough information to raise curiosity and questions and then set them free to research and build their anti-bullying presentations. I tried having my students do the introduction to "The Outsiders" by researching the different facets of the 1960s. The result of that research was that the students connected with the book deeper than I've ever seen, even including a plethora of 1960s details in their historical narratives. I incorporated two non-fiction book projects into my curriculum and had some incredible results: an infographic and a job interview. Both projects took a student's passions and interests and took them to the next level as they researched something they cared about and presented it in an interesting way, thinking about its impact on the world or what would make a person fit for a certain job.

This year brought me a class set of Chromebooks, affording my students and I the capability of research directly in the classroom without fighting for the computer lab. Kahoot and Quizlet Live were able to become weekly staples for vocabulary review. I was able to more closely monitor my students' writing on Google Drive and editing was a breeze. My AVID students were able to research the college and career of their choice, exploring everything their futures hold. We created websites to showcase what they found and introduce themselves to not only their AVID teacher next year, but to the world.

Today, we Lancers took a collective breath of relief a la Alice Cooper, "school's out for the summer!" I know I'm not alone in the fact that I'm partially relieved to be able to relax and breathe a little bit, but I'm also partially empty, the void left by 120 of the funniest, smartest, realest, craziest, humblest, and awesomest students. The best students anyone could truly ask for. Of course, I'm not only losing these guys and gals, I'm losing their support system, and mine as well... YOU! Thank you, sincerely, for all of the kind words and insights throughout this past year. I'm passionate about what I do and I hope that's clear. It's really easy to be passionate when you're teaching in a community that truly cares about the people within it. San Luis Obispo is an incredibly friendly and supportive place to work and there's not a day I walk onto campus taking it for granted. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to call this slice of paradise the place where I work and live.

On the horizon for me is an incredibly packed summer. I won't list everything here, but the highlights include going to Washington DC with 31 students (and Ms. Ahearn and Mr. Townsend), being trained to become a teacher trainer for the ERWC writing program, going to the AVID Summer Institute in Anaheim with Mr. Calandro, Mr. Schalde, and Ms. Rollinger, and visitng my brother with my best friend in Shanghai (he's showing us what he's been working on for the past two and a half years... Shanghai Disney!) And of course, there'll be a lot of WEB planning and prepping this summer as Ms. Ahearn and I prepare to kick of this awesome program in its inagural year.

Since I'm incredibly long winded, espeically in this blog (I'm sure you've noticed), I'll end it here. Thank you for allowing me to teach your son or daughter this year. Thank you for trusting me with their care. Thank you for your support and guidance. Thank you for taking my passion and making it grow exponentially. Thank you for everything. Sincerely.

And as I say to my students every day when they leave my classroom...

Go out there and don't forget to be awesome!
Kevin Laffin

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Week 38: AMAZING Job Interviews!!! (week of 6/3/16)

After two and a half months of reading, research, and hard work, students presented their mock job interviews to the class. We started in April with our Biography Prep Sheet. This handout was provided as a place for students to really look at the person they read about and find the important information about that person. Students looked at early life/family, education, career, influence, inspiration, and author's craft. Then, at the beginning of May, students were given their Job Interview Prep Sheet. This handout listed the five exact questions that the students would be answering during their interview. It also provided helpful hints as to what the interviewers are specifically looking for when they ask the questions.
Students were asked:
-Tell us a little about yourself.
-Why should we hire you for this position?
-What are your goals for this position?
-What are your weaknesses?
-How would other people describe you?

The students, at that point, also chose a job from the Community in "The Giver" for their biographical person to apply for. I provided a limited list of ten jobs for the students to choose from. All of the students' hard work culminated in their mock interview in front of the class. For each interview, I passed out "question cards" and had their classmates ask the questions. I've got to say, these interviews were AMAZING!!! Each and every student who presented did an amazing job presenting facts woven into their answers and explaining their answers thoroughly. I even had a few students in each class "dress to impress" for their interview. I am incredibly impressed by my students' hard work this week and their interviews, which were so professional and scholarly. Way to go!!!

We're in the home stretch now and the school year is winding down. As such, library books need to be returned not only to the LAMS library (if they were checked out there) but to my own, personal in-class library as well. If you notice books around the house or in backpacks with "LAFFIN" on the outside pages, please have them returned to me before the end of the school year. I'll be sending emails home this week letting you know if your son or daughter has one of my books.

Lastly, next Thursday is not only a half day but it's also the last day of school. Being such, any work that is missing online must be turned in by Thursday or it is a zero in the gradebook. Unlike the other due dates at the end of the other quarters and semesters, this one is a hard due date in that grades are solidified that day. Work cannot be dropped off at school on Friday or the following week. If it's not in, it doesn't get credit. Please check PowerSchool to not only check for missing work but to also see how amazing your son or daughter did on their Job Interview (if I'm not mistaken, everyone who presented on time this week scored "above standard", meaning they got extra credit on their project).

In AVID this week, we finished and published our websites, had our very last Tutorial, looked at the careers that would suit us the best in the future, and had a Fun Friday Tournament.

Questions for the drive home and dinner table:
-How did your interview go? What made it go that way? Are you happy with your grade?
-What do you think Jonas is going to do as he becomes the Receiver of Memory?
-Do you have any missing work or checked out library books?

Warmest wishes,

Kevin Laffin