This kind of thing just lights me up!
This kind of thing just lights me up!

This school year, I have been privileged with the task of leading a group of students who are achieving very well and are ready to be challenged and pushed farther in both Language Arts and Math.  Naturally, I have been thrilled about this!  And scared… both emotions at the same time.

Being a book lover, I had already been considering starting a book review blog, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it.  But in addition to the Language Arts side of things, I would also be trying to challenge these students in Math as well; this meant I would need to learn many complicated games AND being able to teach and guide those games to students who would undoubtedly surpass my abilities in a very short time.  Did I mention the part about being scared?

Silly, wonderful students.  I love them!
Silly, wonderful students. I love them!

But everything came together piece by piece, and in September 2014, my journey with these students began with The Reading Eagles blog and Math Pentathlon games.  I must confess that it was impossible to foresee some of the challenges that would come my way:  keeping students motivated to do their best even though this “class” isn’t for a grade; overcoming a serious dislike of writing in a few of my boys (you know who you are); planning new blog post topics; teaching them deeper concepts in the very short amount of time we have; forcing them to journal and track their thoughts as they read; keeping track of what everyone has read and then keep the blog updated accordingly; creating realistic goals and incentives; learning those Math games!

The ever present candy rewards and sticky notes for their journals.  OK, let's just admit it - sometimes they have to be bribed.
The ever present candy rewards and sticky notes for their journals. OK, let’s just admit it – sometimes they have to be bribed.

In spite of the challenges (which I actually don’t mind because those challenges help me to improve), I cannot express in words the rewards I’ve “received” as a result of leading this group.  The kinds of activities we do in this group are the very things that light me up.  I LOVE helping kids find the right books; it gives me deep joy to see them grow in their thinking and problem solving abilities; reading their thoughts and reviews is pure pleasure; listening to them play new math games and use strategy makes me smile all over.

Next semester, I want to make sure the lessons I teach and the tasks I give continue to follow and deepen the standards they are learning in class.  I also want to do a better job of keeping track of student goals and find the right way to encourage them to raise the bar and meet their goal.  Mostly, I just want to continue this group forever because I adore these students.  Eagle Up has been the best surprise of my year so far!