Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Routine.

In a dazed state, I hear that wretched noise. That piercing annoyance on my bedside stand. It’s the worst time of day - morning. I stumble out of bed to the shower. The routine begins - shower, contacts, teeth, clothes. Between these blur of events, I somehow throw together a lunch. By 6:40, Doug and I are ready to roll. Our journey even farther south begins. By 6:55, we pass Arcola. By 7:05, we’re cruising down Washington Avenue towards Simmons. At 7:10, my second routine begins. I fill my boards with objectives, agendas, and bellringers. It’s 7:30. I hear the roar coming down the hallway. I have the privilege of starting my day with freshman, and they’re the first students dismissed from the gym. I had a friend highlight a similarity between the arrival of my freshman and one of the top grossing movies of all time - Jurassic Park. When the glass of water trembles, you know the T-Rex is coming. The freshmen are my T-Rex. After a chaotic twelve minutes, the bell to start homeroom sounds (sometimes). I quickly turn on CNN Student News, the perfect ten minute clip highlighting the world’s biggest events to subdue the students from their hyena like behavior. Finally, the the 7:52 bell rings, and first period starts. It’s show time.

I’m convinced that time changes during school. First, second, third, and fourth period become this blur of bellringers, assignments, and consequences. It doesn’t help that I go from English to Latin to Spanish to Theatre. It almost feels like a revolving door; as quickly as students come, they also go. After second period, I frantically try to gather my things to change classrooms for Spanish. When third period ends, I do the same thing, trying to beat my students to my own classroom. When fourth period ends, I can finally breathe. Fifth period - my “planning” time. It’s a true gift from the heavens because fifth period is the lunch period. I am grateful every day that I don’t have to herd students to the cafeteria. Of course, fifth period passes quickly. Before I know, it I’m jumping off the waterfall again, and I’m not going to land until 3:48.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth period are just a repeat of the morning. English, Latin, Theatre. Because of fifth period planning, I have the luxury of fixing anything that didn’t go so well from the morning lessons. The latter half of the day is more difficult. The students are less willing to cooperate, and they are definitely not as attentive. That 3:48 bell is about the best thing that happens. It’s like winning the lottery on a daily basis. Consistently euphoric. By 4:15, my room is back in order, the boards are clean, and Doug and I are in the office ready to swipe our cards. By 4:45 we’re home, and the best part of the day begins - just a little later than I would like it though.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chapter 3 Reflection

I found this chapter interesting and applicable to my job. At first, I was hesitant to read yet another chapter about reading comprehension strategies. This chapter paid off though. I was intrigued by the four “Dimensions of Comprehension.” The two that stuck out to me were the personal and social dimensions. I feel as though the personal dimension plays one of the largest roles in a classroom like mine. With students who cannot see the point of their education and have little care for their future, it’s hard to find ways to keep them engaged. As the book states, “Ignoring the personal dimension of adolescent learners when setting expectations for reading often leads to disappointment and frustration for both teachers and students” (48). I completely understand this statement.
Another strategy I liked was the language of process technique. I feel as though this is something I can do with my students. On some level, I feel like I already do it, but am not actively aware of it. Each bullet from making and checking predications to verbalizing points of confusion and demonstrating fix-up strategies can be easily executed in the classroom. My only concern is that these techniques will take immense amounts of repetition to begin to make an impact. Regardless, the idea of a “process statement” is genius – it forces them to think about the content statement. My students struggle with this all the time (I say struggle with some hesitation because I feel as though some are just apathetic or lazy). Many of my students are great at sounding out consonant and vowel sounds but have no idea what the sentence or passage is actually saying.
I’m a fan of these process guides that are discussed on page 60. I feel that these would work great with my students, especially in Latin. We spend a lot of time on workbook problems which are directly answered by passages in the book. Many of my students struggle with these even though I tell them over and over to use their book as a resource. Today was the first day I projected the questions on the board and walked them through how to find the answers in the book. I’m hoping that this will help them on future workbook assignments. We will definitely spend more time practicing this though. My only hesitation with the process guides is that puts a lot more of the work on the teacher. I know it’s only a technique to ease them into independent reading, but I share the same concerns that some of the teachers in the book revealed.
I also liked the idea of opinionaires because they force our students to have opinions about something! So many of them take the easy way out, but I like this technique. It’s another way to force them to think about a topic that hopefully we can discuss later. I do wonder, though, if my students would be capable of verbalizing their opinions. I can see them taking a side and then being unable to support it. that’s one of the reasons why I thought my classes weren’t quite ready for classroom discussions (which the book says are typical of high school classes). I feel that since our students are so far behind academically, that they haven’t quite reached this level of mature thinking yet. Who knows, though, it might be worth a try!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dazed and Confused

The dreadful month has come. The month that everyone in the program has warned us about. It’s October. On the upside, it’s the last week in October. The downside is it’s almost November. Am I lost in a corn maize with no exit and an overgrown entrance? My conclusion is yes.
I’m probably in the most discouraged state right now. I’m discouraged for the reasons listed above, but also because of my recent return from fall break. I spent five days in my wonderful home state of Iowa. In my mind, home is where the heart is, and Iowa is the permanent residence of my heart. Always has been, probably always will be. It’s hard for me to think about where I was a week ago (even harder for me to think about a year ago). My world in Iowa seems so far detached from my world in Mississippi, and the only thing holding them together is the license plate on my car. No need to dwell on this any longer, but I’ll end with a countdown. 22 days until Thanksgiving break.
I’m still a zombie teacher (which is fitting for Halloween week). I wake up, take a shower, get dressed, make my lunch, get in the car, drive to school, set up my room, teach the kids, drive home, prepare for the next day, go to bed, wake up, and repeat. The worst part is repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Anyway, despite the melancholy feel of this blog, I’d still say I’m happy. I believe one of my gifts is staying happy. Regardless of what happens at school, I still categorize myself as happy. I’m a naturally happy person. When I come home, I try as hard as possible to detach myself from that zombie teacher stuck on repeat. It’s hard, but I try. As long as I’m still smiling we’re good to go.
I believe that the latter half of the semester will go by more quickly than the first half. There’s more to look forward to – more breaks, a definite end, and the beginning of the end (second semester). I might have a different outlook on my job when the countdown is to the last day of school instead of the last day before Christmas break. As of right now, I feel like I can relate to my English students. We’re currently on the writing process which will probably end up being the hardest objective for them. They seem confused and frustrated by the entire process. I seem confused and frustrated on how to teach them. Regardless, we’re on the same boat, maybe different decks, but we’re definitely on the same boat.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chapter 4 Reflection

When reading Chapter 4 of Content Literacy for Today’s Adolescents, I kept thinking of one topic I’ve been continually discussing with my roommate – student interest and engagment. Teaching English would be exponentially easier if every lesson incorporated something that interested the student. Like most things in life, however, that is much easier said than done. Trying to find real life connections between my English objective and my students’ lives is quite the difficult task. Like Brozo and Simpson write on page 90, “Interest is one of the most potent motivators for students,” but as I would like to add, one of the harder tasks a teacher encounters. The idea is revisited on page 101 with “learner autobiographies.” I enjoyed reading about this activity and would like to implement it in my English class. My only hesitation is that some or most students will not take it seriously. Another problem my students might face is the inability to express their thoughts due to a lack of vocabulary and writing ability. I’ve also wondered whether or not my students have an interest in anything that would require them to think on a higher DOK level. At times I feel that many of my students would avoid higher level thinking like the plague and immediately recoil from its presence. Regardless, attempting an activity such as learner autobiographies can only help so it’s worth a shot.
I found this chapter to be very readable and applicable to my life as a first year teacher. Some of the ideas, such as creating an assessment portfolio are wonderful, but like I mentioned earlier, are much easier said than done. Implementing a portfolio would be great for the teacher’s reference, for showing student growth, and also for documentation and later references. Creating assessment portfolios would be an immense amount of work. I’m currently trying my hardest to just stay afloat with a ten pound brick already in my hand. Anyway, the chapter reminds us that assessment is not “an activity that teachers ‘do to students,’” but an “ongoing activity” that includes both teachers and students and the evolution of instruction and learning (89). I need to focus more on interpreting assessment data. I’m okay with giving assessments (although, mine could probably always be improved), but I need to spend more time studying the data that comes from it. From this, my teaching can be improved and my students can learn better.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"He want use ot pay twenty-five ticket for an small little honey-bun which I barely get ticket for."

I’ll be upfront and say I was nervous to ask my students if they thought I was fair. I surveyed my students after Doug and Carmelle, and they both got mainly positive feedback. My classes are okay, but I still struggle with consistency, and I was sure my students would mention that. Anyway, I put the question up on the board this past Monday. I planned on asking my first period class (who are great) and my sixth period class (who are not so great). I wanted to see how the two would compare. In first period, my life is easy (relatively speaking). I only give out a handful of warnings and only a few copy assignments. My sixth period is the opposite. I feel like I’m on patrol and checkmarks accumulate like crazy. When Monday started, though, the counselor came to my homeroom and said in ten minutes a substitute would be coming in for my class. I was to report to the office to take part in administering state test make-ups. The world came crashing down because I had not planned for a sub. I frantically started compiling work for three preps and the “Is the teacher fair” question became a question for every class. Luckily I was only gone for the first four periods, but that increased my number of responses tremendously.
The glorious end of the day finally approached. It was time to read my reviews. I was nervous and not emotionally prepared to read negative feedback, but then again, when would I ever be? I started with first period and they were so nice. Some students made some valid points such as when I go after the student who rebuttals more than the one who started it. Some just wrote basic responses like “he fair” and “no he not fair” but gave no support for the comment. There were a few really great ones that said I was their favorite teacher or I get along with the students really well. Nothing can put in a good mood faster than that. It was time to read second period – my wonderful Latin I students. They were just as nice. In class I received my most comical responses. One student’s reasoning for why I wasn’t fair was because my ticket price for a honey bun (25 tickets) was unreasonable and he’ll never get that many (which is a lie because I hand out tickets like crazy). Anyway, I’ll fast forward to sixth period where I was really curious to read the responses. Everyone but two people said I was unfair. I half expected this to happen. I could only take one or two of the responses into consideration because the rest were all unsupported criticisms. I was surprised by one response. A girl who in the beginning of the school year I had so much trouble with responded that I was fair. Side note – these were “anonymous” in the sense that they didn’t have their names on it, but let’s be real…I’m their teacher and I know their handwriting. I was pleasantly surprised to read her response.
I’m glad we had to ask our students if we were fair. I probably would have never done it otherwise or would have been too afraid to read the answers. I’ll say that I left school with a smile on my face, and it was not just because the school day was over.