Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day Sixteen!

Today was what you call a major learning day. Anne got back from Florida and we sat down to have a little chat and let’s just say it was not the most pleasant chat we have ever had. In fact, it was a little disappointing on both ends. Look at the next post, titled “Reflections on Mentoring” for more information. Needless to say, that conversation first hour had a somewhat subdued effect on parts of the rest of my day.

Being that it was a Tuesday I had plenty of time to plan, re-plan, and fix ideas, lesson plans, and deal with other minor things that did not get accomplished prior to today. So I spent a lot of time planning. I am really noticing how much I enjoy the variable schedule and getting a little more freedom on Tuesday and Thursday with my schedule to plan, observe, and meet with other teachers. It has really turned into an opportunity for me to get things done, but in a collaborative manner with others in the department and the building.

English 10 went well today. They continue to be excited and energized about Macbeth, which is a good thing in my view. The students share their thoughts really openly with the rest of the class, which is exciting from a teaching standpoint. I once again utilized the “Think, Pair, Share” method in the classroom to discuss parts of the play, which has worked out really well. We continue to move through the action and the students continue to volunteer to come up and play different parts. However, I am getting the same people coming up and acting out parts of the play. This does frustrate me a little, but I can’t force someone to come up and play a part in front of the class. That is just not fair to the student or to the class. So I continually get the same students over and over, which does bring an added sense of consistency to the play. It is one that has been helpful thus far; however, in Act Two we will be splitting everyone up into acting companies to work through this part of the play. Kristin mentioned keeping the same actors throughout for the examples, which I really like, but I would also like to see new people volunteering. I don’t feel right calling on students that do not like to read aloud or in front of the entire class, although I want a happy medium. How do I reach that point and where is it? I don’t know, but I will continue to ask questions, reflect on them, and see where they lead me in the future.

English 9 was a handful today. It was great to be teaching them and individually they are a great group of students; however, today I think I may have made a mistake or two. We covered the beginning of the class with CSAP practice, that is the big state mandated exam that happens every year (By the way, it apparently costs a lot of money to produce, proctor, and grade this exam every year – think about it every single student in the state takes this exam at some point. With all the education pitfalls in budget concerns one of my administrators mentioned that they should just cut the exam to every other year. That way the schools are still receiving feedback and the state are still getting their numbers, but here money is being saved and not having to go to a standardized test every year. Maybe that money could go to increase technology, go towards updating faculty at conferences, improving the teaching salaries, or maybe towards investing in places that could truly use a few extra dollars to raise their test scores. Sorry about the random, but related thought). From there I covered with the students the topic sentences that they write that are based on their thesis statements. Before they worked on their thesis statements I gave them the structure for the entire first paragraph and then went back to the topic sentences and gave them work time. Probably not the smartest move to over cover material and then expect the students, and they are only 9th grade here, to look at and understand what they are going to do with the topic sentences. I guess, looking at the whole Assignment ~ Change the World paper I would probably do some things very different at the beginning. For instance, I would make sure that the students understood that the world is just as big as they make it. Each of our own lives and the situations that we live in are our worlds. I am asking them to change the world, but that also includes the people and situations around them and not something half way around the globe. Secondly, I would make sure to have good examples and break down every element step–by–step at every checkpoint in the paper. In addition, I would try and follow one complete paper or thread through the entire assignment. These are still things that I can pull into the teaching I am currently doing, but am also realizing what a mess I was the first week or two. Teaching is learning so that is good that I now know, can reflect upon it, and move on. In this class I also really tried hard to get them to model what is going on in their first paragraphs. I gave them example after example and then started to relate it to the actual structure that we went over. Then I asked them if they understood their homework on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, and most of them had a four or five. I was happy about that, but then Anne after class asked the hard question – “How will you know that they really understand the material? You can collect it, but is there any other way that you will know?” It was a really important thought for me as I consider what I will be doing and how I will be giving credit and feedback in the future.

After school Anne and I had a really good chat about mentoring, listening, feedback, and just learning about teaching. It was a good experience, but one that was really hard at the same time.