Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day Five!

Ok, so I apologize that this e-mail is getting posted a little later than the day of as I am currently at my friends' ranch out in the mountains. It is really nice to get out of the city, eventhough I really enjoy the city it is really nice to get out and hear yourself think a little bit. Today it was nice to wake up and sit in the sun with a view of the mountains and the foothills and grade papers. Plus a little extra sleep was helpful!

On Friday I spent the day once again at AHS, as with every other day this week, and overall had a great week. First period I spent meeting with a librarian who is coming in to assist my sixth period seniors. It was really nice to get to know another professional in my school. He had some great insight into my classes and also taught me a lot about the school and the resources avaliable.

Second period I did a little preparation with Krisitin in advance of taking over her 10th grade class. It was a lot of fun talking through the lessons I am going to teach and getting everything prepared for class that day. Third period we actually went to class and started the students off on publishing their memoirs on their wikispaces. I had a little time where I worked with three students to help them set up their wikispaces, which it was really fun working with a small group instead of a large group all the time. These students are publishing their memoirs on their wikispaces, for the entire world, and not just turning it into the teacher. They are also "wikifying" it - adding in pictures, music, and hyperlinks to their memoirs to make them more exciting and more relevant to their lives. It is really interesting to me to see what these students are doing with their memoirs. I really wish that I was back in English 10, to get to put my writing out there for the entire world to see on my wikispace - who would have thought about that five years ago?

Third period I went to British Literature and truly felt like a student. These are my seniors and they finished "The Last Lecture" and then talked about their own last lecture / final project that they need to give near the end of the school year. The majority of this period I was working in the back on a computer planning lessons and getting everything ready for the end of the day. All the students had laptops and I felt like one of them working away in the back and trying to pay attention at the same time.

Fifth period I spent inspiring my juniors on to success with metaphors and writing their essays of place. They were an interesting crowd, and I must say that I am still getting used to the whole fact of only having them three times a week. Why can't I teach one of those classes instead of the ones that meet five times a week? Just kidding, I would not trade my freshman for anything. They are incredible and lots of fun, it's just teaching juniors what a metaphor is and only seeing them three times a week is a completly different schedule than I am used to.

Then sixth hour came and I went and visitied my good friends, the ninth graders. They were a little wild on Friday, but that was probably due to the fact that it was the end of the week. I made sure that they looked at their grades before we started class, as I had all their grades up to date by the time class started. Grading is something that I enjoy, not for the fact of putting grades into the computer or even assessing student work, but because I get to give feed back to students and help them to get better. Plus the whole no D policy makes everything a little better. When I really give students a bad grade I know that they can make anything up if they want to, it's just that I truly hope that they do. In class I gave them work time to work on their concept map webs and to help each other out to get better ideas of what they can write their papers on. While they were doing this I circulated the classroom and actually met with every student about their own webs. While I was doing this the students got a little carried away and not a lot of them actually completed their in-class assignment. Which as a teacher is a little disappointing, but then again it was their choice and not mine. At the end of class we watched a video titled: "I Remember When" that speaks to what students remember when they went to school - life before cell phones, hotspots, and a whole variety of other technology. It was pretty interesting. Then I thought it would be really cool to gather around the globe to finish the week off focusing on what the students want to do - change the world. Then the bell rang and my first week was over.

After class I really considered my fifty-nine minutes with them. Was it effective? Did they really learn the material? Are they actually prepared to start this essay? I honestly did not think so, and I voiced this concern with Anne. She explained to me that the most these students have ever written was one paragraph. They have no concept of progression of proof. No concept of evidence in a paragraph. No concept of concept mapping, other than what I taught them. No concept of a thesis. No concept of how to write a long paper. I was thinking and expecting them to be here, when they were actually down here. That was honestly my take away for the day - there you go Anne. I hate to say it, but I was expecting some unrealistic things from my students. So I travel up to the ranch, take a little time off to grill, hang out with some friends, and refocus on the task at hand - to change the world. Tomorrow I will evaluate and look at how can I break down the steps and really get these students from their really large topics down to something small that they can actually research and write about. I need to take them from a topic the size of the world and bring it down to something the size of Denver - hey, that's a great analogy, I just might use that on Monday! Then from there I need to model, model, and model some more. They need to see what a true example looks like. I need to stop talking through examples and start physcially writing them down for the students. Randon, don't be afraid of the blackboard - just because it's not a whiteboard or electronic doesn't mean that it will hurt you! So that's the goal Anne and I set for next week (which is a great idea by my mentor there to actually set a goal for the week and then strive to reach that goal each and every day). I will give the students physcial models of what I expect from them. Meaning tomorrow I will plan to actually sit down and plan out webs for all my students. What is an A, B, and C example web. What does one look like that actually has a position they can support? What is an adequate action plan? Where should they really go with their topic? Those are all things I need to look at, but most of all I think that I just need to model the heck out of these webs. Model each one and for every student in the entire class until they get how to create a web, what it looks like, and where everything goes. That's the only way that I think I know how to do it. Then we will go from there and they will all re-do their webs and this time I am actually going to grade them. Then from there they are going to start doing quality research and start to truly formulate what is going on and where their projects are going. And I am going to demand that the entire class stays up with this assignment. Like I told them, changing the world is not easy - no one ever said that it was going to be - so why should teaching students to change the world be any easier?

After school I went to "The Bubble," or otherwise known as the dome where the women's soccer team practices. It was really nice to actually see the women play and the goalies in action. Let's just say that I can't wait to get my feet wet and start training these goalies. They all need a little fundamental work somewhere; come on goalies are the most critical people of themselves on the planet. All stuff that I look forward to helping them out with.

After talking to Anne about my day on Friday I honestly was completly exhausted. Then it was off to soccer practice. As I reflect on the entire week, though, I recognize one thing Anne told me: "Think about where you were on Monday and where you are today." I have changed. Not only as a teacher, in the classroom, with my students, but I have gotten lost downtown, had fun running around the city of Denver - literally - and even more so than that I have adapted to a schedule and a life that involves making a difference every fifty-nine minutes. Even though I wake up way early and go to bed way, and some would say much too late to be teaching in the morning, it's about those fifty-nine minutes with the students. It's about the fifty-nine minutes to make a difference. It's about those fifty-nine minutes to change the world. I believe, in some small way, my actions this last week during my fifty-nine minutes have done just that, or at least I hope they have for someone, - changed the world.

But it doesn't stop there. On Monday I get another set of fifty-nine minutes. The challenge starts all over again, but at the same time that's the beauty of education - your education is never really complete.