Thursday, August 23, 2012

Today We Had 'The Talk'

Today we had the talk, you know the one I am talking about. The 'don't take advantage of your freedom because if you do it might go away' talk. The 'because we do things differently in here, that doesn't mean you can do what you want' talk. The 'think about the community before you think about yourself' talk. This was day 7.

I am really not surprised that we had to have this talk. I am kind of surprised it took this long to be needed. When students have had very little freedom to choose their own path, we shouldn't be surprised that they don't know what to do when they have a choice.

I just need to keep reminding myself (or you can help remind me too) that having to continue to speak to them about it, remind them of the consequences of their choices, and giving them opportunities to succeed or fail is what I have to do. I just hope I don't lose my cool.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Letting them Choose, Letting them Succeed, Letting them Fail

After three years out of the regular ed classroom I am having to apply a lot of new beliefs. I can tell you there is a huge difference between what I believe is right and what I may be able to pull off. This is one example of what I am thinking.

I really do believe learning is social and that the students learning and sharing together is a much more powerful model than the teacher lecturing or students reading quietly to themselves. I also know from experience that many students excel in this way. Unfortunately I realize to many students, this is a bit too much freedom. So many students have had teachers constantly nagging them to work that they don't now how to self start. As soon as they are 'turned loose' they are completely lost.

Now I am struggling with how to approach the students that are not working, not using their time wisely, and are not learning. I know that they will soon discover that they wasted their time and I know better than to put much weight on grades this early in the year, but still I struggle with allowing them the opportunity to fail. I don't want that, even though it may be the only good way to move them towards independence.

What have you done in the past when you have been in this situation? I would love your feedback.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reflections from the First Week as a 6th Grade Teacher

I don't plan a coherent narrative for this post so you can skip around as you choose. Instead I will just run with a stream of consciousness.

Sixth graders are much smaller than junior high students. I know they grow a lot this year, but it is really obvious now. I need to keep in mind that big body changes mean big changes in other areas as well. I also need to be on the lookout for overtired students.

Creating good lessons takes much more time than following the schedule in our textbooks. I used to spend a lot more time running worksheets than I did planning. I am happy to say that the opposite is now true, although it does eat up a lot of home time.

Working on lesson plans is a lot of fun for me. I am grateful for this because if I didn't enjoy it, I might not do it. I believe that the time I spend creating these plans will pay off in the classroom.

My room wasn't completely ready. I don't have a fifth string on my guitar (I broke it re-stringing it). I don't yet have the exercise balls in there either. I am working up the courage to put them in. I don't want them to be a distraction even though I believe they can really be useful for some of the students.

The students love writing on their desks with whiteboard markers. Anything that helps motivate them to write things down is alright with me.

I am still no good at remembering names. I actually take knowing most of their names after three days as a positive sign. My goal for this week is to have them down. Any non-invasive, non-embarrassing ideas on how to do this?

I'm not satisfied with how I am evaluating what they are learning. My assessment skills are either rusty, or I never had them to begin with. I need to speak to them individually to help assess what they are learning.

It was really easy to get them to start writing reflections. This has been the biggest #win so far in the classroom. Without them sharing these reflections I would have no idea what they learned last week. (See last paragraph.) Now to transfer these written reflections to video reflections.

Relying on technology is a frustrating experience. I had a lot of trouble with the connection between the iPad and the Apple TV on Friday. I really hope that it is resolved now. I find that I can't let a problem like this go and will waste learning time trying to solve the problem. I need to learn to let it go and work on it when it won't disrupt the classroom.

Once again I find myself unable to separate my day job from my leisure time. I can't enjoy quiet time because my mind immediately moves toward thinking about my classroom. Good thing I enjoy it.

I think this is enough rambling for a three day week. :)