I feel amazing after the first week with the kids! My schedule is beautiful, I haven’t got a classroom to take care of, and I think that this is the best school opening I’ve had in my career so far (this is the start of my 6th year). That doesn’t mean everything is perfect, but it makes dealing with those imperfections much easier when you feel like you have a handle on things.
Junior English classes did their baseline writing this week, and I’ve been fairly impressed so far. They understand basic structure, have a firm grasp on thesis statements, and while their arguments aren’t necessarily impressive, at least they’re thought out. They do need to learn a little more variety in organizational structures (almost all of them were written in that god-awful TAFI style), and how to be more specific in their support. We’ll get there.
On Friday in my theatre classes, I made them sit in a circle for the last 20 minutes of class (that’s the picture below) and write out what they learned this week and two questions they had of me regarding what they learned, the class, what was coming, etc. I had more than one student ask “What are we going to do in this class besides play games?” I don’t know if that is good or bad. Each of the games is designed to up comfort level, body/voice awareness, and responsiveness. So somewhere along the line, I didn’t explain that well. Or it could be awesome that they simply don’t consider my class to be work. :-) But I will make sure I find a way to address this. I don’t want them to feel like they aren’t getting something they expect because their expectations are skewed.
As I step into my sixth year of teaching, I am finding myself finally comfortable with the process of starting a new year. The change of schools last year was my crossroads - deciding whether I was in this for good or I would be finding a different line of work.
So, I’m in. This year, my goals are to let things go that I can’t change and learn to work this horrendous system that is now in place. I will learn it, and I will learn to work with it, through it, and around it. And my ultimate goal - now - is to change it in whatever way I can affect it positively.
In other, day-to-day news: I get to float in exchange for taking an ISS (in-school suspension) section. I see this as a double bonus. I needed one less English class to grade to stay on top of all the work associated with creating a strong theatre program, and I don’t have the stress of keeping a classroom up. For the first time in five years of teaching, I am the closest I have ever been to being 100% prepared for the first day of school (which is Tuesday).
Pretty cool, eh?
1. Random collections on Fridays, return the next Friday. My department head does this, where Friday is an organization day. She tells the kids that everything they do is subject to being collected and she won’t tell them what until Friday. The random element (she says) makes them do most of the work, and since it’s several assignments, it’s very difficult for them to just complete that day.
2. Signing for absent students. When students return from an absence, the assignments are in a binder, easily accessed, written by day. The student must sign that they received their assignment, and also sign when they turn it in. A little different from my original “pink slips”, but I think I like it better.
3. I need an actual drama curriculum. That will be this summer.
4. Better planning needed for plays. I need to make sure my stage manager is on top of things, and keep it smaller to save all of our sanity.
Ugh. Another day, another test. The PERT is just one more test added to the battery of tests our high school students must pass in order to graduate. We said LESS testing, not MORE, people. And since it is IN ADDITION to the already required FCAT testing, I assume, similar material, I’m wondering where the money is coming from and where it is going to.
So I ask again…why?
1. Permissive “dances” look like this: student (S) disrupts, teacher (T) asks politely and feels annoyed, S disruption continues, T repeats and reminds, S disruption continues, T Gives warnings & 2nd chance, S disruption continues, T reasons/lectures and feels angry, S disruption continues, T yells/threatens, S disruption continues, T sends kid outside, S disruption stops. The only teacher ACTION is in bold - all the rest are VERBAL steps. (p. 84)
2. “‘I thought I was giving them every chance to cooperate, but I can see I was giving them opportunities not to cooperate.’” (p. 85)
3. Punitive very similar but T verbals look like this: shames & feels angry, writes name on the board, argues/blames/complains & feels very angry, writes name on board/gives final warning, threatens/challenges, argues, sends kid to office, makes kid write sentences. (p. 92)
4. Mixed “dances” leave the kids really not knowing what the signals are.
5. “The best way to stop a classroom dance is not to start one. Teachers can avoid dances altogether by starting off with a clear verbal signal and by supporting their words with effective action.” So skip the verbal steps (except the first, where you clearly tell them to stop and explain the consequence THAT WILL STOP THE BEHAVIOR. If the disruption continues, follow through with the consequence.) (p.101)
6. For me, this requires planning. I need to know exactly what I can do for consequences, because so many options are removed due to legal issues (can’t send a kid outside, but sending them to another class is supposedly forbidden, as well). So if I sit down with an administrator, I think I could reason out what I can do to stop misbehavior.
My aunt - who was a high school English teacher for almost 30 years - got me this Great Courses DVD set on the best practices of teaching. Thought I’d sit down with it and type out my notes here, because I’m such a professional student that I can’t remember much unless I write it down. It’s not so much that I’ll go back and read it, but more that the physical act of writing cements the information into my brain.
And I figured maybe some of you could get something from it, too. So I’ll set my notes down as I watch, and see if anything cool comes out of it.
From The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator from The Great Courses (Professor Patrick N. Allitt from Emory University)
Ok, this is a little boring, but it’s only 1/2 hour lectures - 23 more - and I think this guy might have some really great things to share, so I guess I’ll stick with it for a bit.