Twas the Night Before School Starts… (A Poem)

‘Twas the night before school starts

And all through my mind

Was a voice that kept saying,

“Relax, you’ll be fine”

Then came another saying,

“What about this?”

I began to fret

About things I had missed

Would my lesson be perfect?

Would they like me okay?

Would there be far too many…

Or would I scare them away?

Then through the din and all of the chatter

I began to refocus on the things that most mattered

Community building

Shared goals galore

Young, bright open minds

Who could ask for much more?

Upon my face, a spontaneous smile

At the weeks to come and the work in piles

Representing reflection, coveted growth

Representing those things that mattered the most

I summed up my courage and bid summer adieu

To return to my calling, to learning anew

So welcome dear students

My partners you are

On this wondrous adventure

To reach for the stars.

The Irony and the Agony: Reading Semester Evaluations

It’s that time again.

Time to read my semester evaluations.

And this semester’s evaluations were particularly important as they are the last ones prior to my retention review this fall, so I have to admit that I’ve been waiting with some trepidation to find out the results.

I couldn't find a nervous picture of me, so I thought I'd add a photo of the Iron Man Beanie Ball that my son just got. It helps me distract me from my trepidation.

I couldn’t find a nervous picture of me, so I thought I’d add a photo of the Iron Man Beanie Ball that my son just got. His name is “Irony” — No, really, that’s what he named it.

As is typical when I receive a set of semester evaluations, I go straight to the numeric data.  Just like my 8th graders used to–look for the grade.  Grade mongers habits die hard.  And numerically, aside from a small blip on the screen (1 score of 3 on a 6-point scale in terms of instructor effectiveness with the rest being overwhelmingly 5’s & 6’s), the numbers looked good.

Yes, this is my actual thumb

Yes, this is my actual thumb

Then, I moved to the comments.  Some of them were incredibly touching and way more complimentary than I would ever be towards myself. Here are a few of my favorites:

“She is the best teacher I’ve ever had….I wish I could take her for every class in the program.  If you want to improve education, hire more Dr. Hsiehs”

“I have never felt so confident in myself until this class. I’m used to hearing everything I’m doing wrong and what I need to work on.  You told me what to work on and when I did, you praised me for it.  I honestly cried.  I rarely show emotion so for me to cry because I was happy was huge!”

“She is so dedicated to making sure we are prepared to be the best teachers we can be. Best professor I’ve ever had”

“Dr. Hsieh’s attitude and passion for both the subject matter and for us as students is incredibly encouraging.  I want to do well not only for myself and my future students, but for her as well.  She shows so much confidence and dedication that I feel more prepared and competent.  All of the work is directly usable and rooted in practical applicability”

Aw, shucks.

And while it wasn’t all positive, with some students discussing the overwhelming nature of discussion board posts (which was what I had anticipated), many also noted the importance of the posts for their learning.  A couple also highlighted pacing and one noted a greater need for behavior management strategies (i.e. addressing problematic behavior) and differentiation strategies (which I also want to focus on more next semester given student performance on various assessment measures). Overall, I felt their feedback and critique was fair and very much aligned with my own reflective self-evaluation and that made me feel happy.

The happiness is written all over this piece of paper

The happiness is written all over this paper

What made me happiest about reading through this set of evaluations, however, was that, for once, I actually didn’t focus disproportionately on the negative (okay, okay, I did focus on that 3 and 4 that I got for 5-10 minutes, but before I would have focused on it for days and it would have been the subject of this entire blog post) and I let myself be moved by the difference that I was able to make for most of these awesome future teachers.  I actually acknowledged that while I may not be the right professor for EVERY SINGLE student, almost every one gained a lot from the course that they can take into their future classrooms and for the few students that may not have, I am only 1/4 of their credential program.

So, perhaps the true irony (aside from the one pictured above) is that these evaluations were not particularly agony inducing.  They were, as they should be, tools to help me engage in reflective practice.  And that is a HUGE step forward for me on this journey.

What I Did This Summer

I haven’t been blogging too much on this blog this summer, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.  So, in homage to all the inevitable first day of school, “What I did this summer” essays, I thought I’d add mine–partly to convince myself that I haven’t been languishing around all summer and partly because I don’t know if most people in my life actually understand what it is that academics (especially pre-tenured ones) do during the summer “break.”


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This summer has been FULL of writing.  Writing conference proposals, writing papers, working with co-authors…and even getting things published! My first research article on new teacher professional identity came out online and there are submissions at all stage of the pipeline (in progress, under review, in press, and published) so I’m feeling like spending most of my summer at my kitchen table and office desk have been worth it.

Black Sheep #1

Oh, and I started a food blog which was my own personal writing project over the summer.

Escondido Unified School District Middle School STEM Summer Institute

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For a week of this summer, I was fortunate enough to work with an amazing group of middle school teachers who teach for the Escondido Unified School District at their summer STEM institute where we explore cross-curricular Project Based Learning in ELA (English Language Arts), Science (Life & Physical Science) and Mathematics.  As part of the ELA segment that I was facilitating, we read text sets about the feud between Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Robert Hooke, culminating in both “Fakebook” pages and a preface to a revision of a section of Newton’s Optics or Hooke’s Micrographia.

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(This photo, in preparation for institute, demonstrates that I’m not just an ELA teacher…I’m a math nerd at heart!)

CSU Linked Learning Convening Meeting

Wow, it’s a good thing for Instagram because I had actually forgotten about this one! In early summer, the CSULB Linked Learning planning team that I have been a part of for the last year helped to coordinate a CSU Systemwide convening to discuss the ways in which Linked Learning and College & Career Readiness inform our work in educator preparation.  It was a great but exhausting (for the planning team for sure!) two-day learning and planning convening meeting.

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Preparing for Retention Review

Last year, I was fortunate to participate in an Academic Portfolio workshop based on the work of Peter Seldin and Beth Miller.  This year, I came back to the workshop as an internal mentor, which prompted me to spend a chunk of my summer revising my portfolio for my upcoming retention review in the fall.

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(Last year’s version of my portfolio–this year I’ve got more binders!)

Rediscovering my Family and Life Outside of Academia

It wasn’t exactly ALL work this summer.  I also spent some time being the mommy taxi (especially in these last 3 weeks of half-day camp) and took an anniversary trip to Oahu and a weekend family trip to San Diego.

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As the sun is setting on my summer, I’m really proud of how much I’ve grown since I started this blog mid-way through my first year in academia.  Here I am, ready to enter my third year and excited to meet a new group of credential candidates, do more research and writing, and visit the classrooms of more of my first year students, many of whom are starting their first full year in their own classrooms!

Grateful times in the life of an assistant professor.  Hope you all had a great summer too!