Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day Seventeen!

I came to work today with a new fire, intensity, and excitement to push myself, push the students, and really change the world. I think that every once in a while we need to be given some hard feedback that we do not want to hear, before we will really start to shape up our game. I took a little step backwards yesterday, but in the end it resulted in a good little reminder that I have come quite a way from day one, but I still have a lot to learn.

That being said I spent the first two periods working busily on lessons that I needed some feedback on and guidance from both Anne and Kristin. At times it is really hard to plan because I want to do a good job and then I think my cooperating teachers know what that looks like best. So I wait, try to plan, and then ask them. Guess what? They throw my question right back at me. This is a learning experience and they want me to grow. I want to grow too, but no one ever said this was going to be easy.

Tenth grade was good. We did vocabulary today in a little bit of a creative way, which was really good and engaged the students. I had them come up with twelve names of people and twelve objects. Then they used the two lists of twelve and their twelve vocabulary words to form sentences with partners. I then had them share their favorite example. I learned that even through it was important for them to work on the vocabulary, it is not vitally important that they get all their examples done. It took way too long in the grand scheme of things, which I was a little disappointed in, but you take that and learn from it to improve for the future. I cut them off at twenty-five minutes, which was good, but next time I should focus on cutting them off at twenty minutes. Maybe I should just have them turn to the correct page and then go with the activity, making sure to incorporate and get an example for each word. There is always something to work on. We finished Act One of Macbeth in class, which is a good thing. Some students had Shakespeare Set Free, which translates the text from the Shakespearean language into modern day text, open while I was teaching. At first I was a little disappointed, they were not paying attention and really getting the point of the lesson. When I reflect on it though, they were using their resources to assist in their learning. It was a good point for me to consider, I have a problem using Spark Notes and other places like that for straight information, but what about just a different translation to aid in their understanding. I asked one student who was using it what she thought, and she really enjoys reading a more accessible text. It comes down to me not really making a big deal about the students’ understanding the language line by line, but instead understanding the major points. They are still required to make meaning out of the text, but this way it is a little easier for them. I talked through this issue with Kristin and she suggested that I put a link on the website for them to use if they want and then have a discussion with the entire class about the use of the alternate resource in class. I think that’s a great idea and will do that tomorrow.

The seniors today had a little catching up to do. I explained to them that I have now taken over their class officially too, so that means that I am now up to three complete classes that I have control over. Then Anne told me to treat them and the class like a college prep class. So I moved through material quickly and had a little discussion at the end of each piece. I reflect on it and realize that my teaching methods and the type of technology I am using are nothing like my college classes, but the amount of homework that I assigned is definitely similar. One thing that Anne and I discussed after school was the constant battle in education and teaching between content and conversation. How much do I cover in class and get through and how much conversation do I have on that content. The seniors, more than any other class I teach, are so conversational. They love to discuss and it is a pleasure to be there and lead those discussions; however, how can I realistically cut them off so that we can move on to some more content? Where do I draw the line and how do I draw the line? We got through some major content today, but did not do as much reflecting. However, we did enough reflecting that we did not get through all the content. So where is the balance? How do I know if I have reached it? Anne said that she still has not gotten the correct balance in her schedule and talking with my co-department chair after school she mentioned the same thing. However, I struggle and want to find the correct balance and it will be something I think I will figure out more fully with this group of students. What I was most proud of was that I made the transition in thinking and ideas from my tenth graders to the seniors. That transition is one that needs to get better and I started to realistically understand that transition and what it looks like in the classroom and how it is reflected in the lesson planning. If anything, that is my big take away for the day.

I finally got to attend American Literature today, after teaching all of Anne’s classes and being busy during fifth hour it was nice to be back in their class today. However, it was even nicer because Kristin is going in for a minor surgery tomorrow and I get the pleasure of taking on that class on Friday and then picking it up completely starting on Monday – Here comes four classes and for different preparation periods. I can say one thing at least – I’m not sitting in the back of class taking notes anymore. Kristin was struggling to come up with a new way to make literature connect to students’ real lives. Currently they are reading The Narrative of Frederick Douglass and she wanted something to do that connected the reading with an action they could do. So she came up with something very similar to what I am doing with the freshman and the Assignment ~ Change the World project. They are coming up with an action plan to assist in world change that relates to some element of the book that they are reading. They are actually being asked in small groups to realistically change the world – what the definition of the world like is a discussion that I need to have with them next week. It was really neat to see how Kristin interacted with them around this project and how excited the students seem to get started. It was great to be back in here, although Friday and four classes are coming soon so I am enjoying my time right now.

I enjoyed the last period of the day until an administrator dropped in for an unannounced visit. I know it is their job to make sure that I am teaching well, but there she was in the back of the room watching me teach grammar to 9th graders. It added a little more pressure to what I was doing, but when I reflect upon it I did not change anything about my instruction. I am proud of that. Just because she was there I did not do more examples, less examples, call on other students or anything. I taught just like I do any other day – trying to put everything I have out there for the students. At times that’s hard though because sometimes my best is not good enough, or at least I do not think it is good enough. Anyway the grammar portion of the lesson ended and we moved into looking at the Assignment ~ Change the World paper and the first paragraph in detail. We did a little activity that required them to look at the different parts of the first paragraph and then put it all together into one overall structure that we then hung on the wall. That activity seemed to help them, but then we looked at an example. I am in the mindset that everything should be modeled multiple times, which I did not have ready to go for class. It is my fault and I will take the blame for it. However, I had the example and called everyone up out of their chairs and to the front of the room around the projector to look at the example. I had a student highlighting the important parts, probably not the smartest decision. I want to get students involved, do not get me wrong, it is just that her highlighting was distracting from the instruction. The example also did not have all the required parts of a first paragraph, which provided for a teachable moment. However, I really think that the students need to see a good paragraph to look at what they need to do and actually inspire them. This example did not meet what I wanted it to, but I am continually learning and tomorrow we will re-cap what we did today with a better example and hopefully that will help them visualize and work on writing their first paragraphs well.

Today was a good day and I learned a lot. I felt like I had a newer, fresher, rawer mentality to teaching. I was comfortable, excited, serious, funny, and enjoyed the experience all at the same time. It was not easy and I was frustrated at the end of sixth period with good pieces of the lesson and then also other parts that flopped a little. Although, I learn, grown, and come back tomorrow ready to teach my heart out for these students for another fifty-nine minutes.