Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Equinox!

Well, I guess officially passing into autumn is as good an excuse as any to get going with the blogging again!

I do like to use the equinoxes and the solstices as excuses for having a class party.  They're non-denominational transition points that can be acknowledged on their own, and traditional events of many cultures also tend to cluster around these dates.  And, since they fall every three months, they provide a natural moment to pause and reflect on learning, celebrate successes and consider how to move forward.

Many teachers have a break over the summer, but my program goes year 'round.  Our fiscal year begins on July first.  In the 11-12 year, I spent a lot of spare time developing a spreadsheet for more accurately tracking student data -- we're a not-for-profit organization and teachers have been doing much of their data-tracking manually.  I tried things out on the data for my three classes and made refinements along the way.  (Actually, I trashed the first attempt completely and redesigned the whole thing from scratch at one point!)  In June, I was asked to tweak my spreadsheet further and make it available to other teachers for the new year.

Needless to say, I've been tremendously busy!  In addition to implementing the "tweaks", there was testing the spreadsheet, documenting its use, giving workshops, and supporting teachers as they got on board.  There was also correcting some errors (dang!).  And I'm capturing feedback for continuing improvement (next year's model).  Finally, this particular spreadsheet doesn't serve the needs of all of our departments.  I committed to working out variations that can better serve our volunteer tutoring group and the family literacy folks. And that's not to mention pulling together the end-of-year reports on my three classes and beginning new classes in July!

Geography studies with the new group.
With mixed feelings, I gave up my classes in the Far Northeast of Philadelphia.  I was sad to leave behind two lovely groups of learners, a decent non-classroom location (a library basement with access to a kitchenette, a locker, tables, chairs, a chalkboard and wifi), and a very supportive group of librarians.  On the other hand, I was happy to get away from the relentless blasting of the Air Vent From Frozen Hell!  Winter or summer, we all wore sweaters and wraps.  And the constant whoooosh made speaking and listening practice a real challenge.  The good news: the new teacher is very nice and also quite skilled.  She lives fairly close to this remote corner of the city, so her commuting time will improve, too.

I continue with the high-intermediate/low-advanced group which meets at a library branch in Old City and I took on another class in the southwest corner of the city.  This is a group of high-beginner/low-intermediate learners.  Again, a helpful group of librarians is going to play a big role in making this deal work out.  I'll share more about the class in upcoming posts.

Oh, I did get some time off in August to celebrate 30 years of wedded bliss with hubby.  We hiked in Banff National Park and we used the earned calories to eat very well indeed!  This picture is near Victoria Glacier.  That's Lake Louise in the distance.

Earlier in the summer, every spare minute not doing the stuff above was spent hiking in local spots in order to prepare for our trip.  It was worth it!  Now, I expect to be posting more regularly to the blog.  Stay tuned ...

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