return to “Big J in Greater New Orleans” index
previous entry .......... next entry
written Sunday, 9/10/2006
Wow, finally, I don’t feel like I have a whole lot to write about. Of course that won’t stop me from rambling.
Throughout my entire rookie school year, each day brought new adventures or reflections that I felt compelled to document weekly. This year though, I’m already feeling quite content to let a week go by without updating this web journal.
Only an odd sense of guilt compelled me to write today, two weeks since the last entry. I would hate to imply that my teaching experience at Lusher isn’t worth writing about. In fact, I think it’s every bit as interesting as my time at Bonnabel or West Jefferson – just not as dramatic or novel. And that’s a good thing.
A couple weekends ago I spent about 5 or 6 hours calling the parents of all my students. I had once heard that this is a good thing for teachers to do every year. Establishing good rapport with parents is much easier when the first contact with them is not for the purpose of delivering bad news. Last year I didn’t bother, but since parental involvement is so high at Lusher, I figured it would be worthwhile.
Although the thought of making so many phone calls initially felt like a tremendous burden, I ended up enjoying many of the conversations. The parents were typically very appreciative that I took the time to do so. They clearly support their children, but they also offered support to me if I have any trouble with their kids in my classroom. In the following week at school, a couple administrators commented that they had spoken with parents who were already praising me.
On Thursday we held Open House at the high school. At both Bonnabel and West Jeff, I could count on one hand the number of parents who attended such events. At Lusher, I’d estimate that at least 2/3 of my students’ parents showed up.
Parents followed the academic schedules of their kids, spending 15 minutes in each class. During my pitches, I mentioned a survey that I asked all the students to fill out on the first day of school. Among other things, I had requested that students tell me what they want, and don’t want, from their teacher. A common response was: Teach the material – Don’t just give an assignment without explaining it.
I use this feedback to justify my fairly predictable class routine. A majority of each 50-minute period is spent with homework Q & A, and the discussion of several examples as I introduce new material. I worry though that this will become a stale formula. My main source of fun or variety is through brainteasers at the start of most class periods (I had started doing this at Bonnabel, but dropped this part of the routine at West Jefferson).
I got a boost of confidence when a number of the parents at Open House commented that their children were enjoying my class, or at least thought I was a reasonably cool enough dude.
I definitely appreciate a more pleasant atmosphere with the students at Lusher, yet it still came as a surprise that some students are allegedly enjoying their time with me. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out why there are still far too many who aren’t “getting it.” I feel we haven’t even gotten to the conceptually difficult stuff yet. I frequently pause during the examples to gage whether students are following along, and (perhaps predictably) they claim to understand. Randomly selecting students to answer questions along the way seems to indicate a decent level of comprehension. However, quiz grades demonstrate otherwise. I guess I can relate to being reluctant o confess one’s own ignorance in a large group, but this week I chastised them for not asking more questions. I told them about the most brilliant technical guru who I ever met at Lockheed, who would not hesitate to query the janitor if that’s what it took to further his learning. Gradually the number of questions started to increase by the end of the week, but I still feel like there’s a major learning barrier in my classes. I need to find some way to reach more of the students, or at least be able to tell when and why they’re not “getting it.”
The time for mid-quarter progress reports is fast approaching, and I suspect I’ll be utilizing that good rapport I’ve established with parents. This coming week I’m going to start phoning to alert some of them that they’re children are not doing so well in my class.
Holy crap, there’s a ton of paperwork at Lusher. The lesson plan requirements are far more detailed than what I’m used to. It seems that every week there’s a new barrage of documentation tasks being added to my to-do list. Weekly behavioral and academic probation reports, personal goals, yearly lesson plans, progress reports, special education reports, blah blah blah blah blah. I hope it all just becomes part of a manageable routine soon enough.
Lusher has a long history of after providing school programs. This week I started my “Graphic Design Tools” class at the end of the day, twice a week. It’s not like I don’t have enough things to occupy my time. I just want to pull my load with the extracurricular activities, and this is something I eventually wanted to do anyway.
The idea was that I’d see interested high schoolers on Tuesdays, and middle schoolers on Fridays. I suppose it’s understandable that there would be more demand for after school care with younger kids.
Only two students signed up from the high school (which, at 226 students, is much smaller than the middle school anyway). One of them is a very likeable kid who’s in one of my Algebra 2 classes, and I didn’t know the other one. This class has the potential to be so much fun. With only two students, I look forward to guiding them through some fun projects that I have in mind, and exploring any ideas they may develop along the way.
Fridays will be quite a different experience. I’ve never dealt much with middle schoolers before, and the class list was closed once 24 of them signed up. Their unbridled energy and shorter attention spans will require a different approach. After about a half-hour of showing projects I’ve made, I suggested they go ahead and launch the Photoshop program. I intended to show them some of the basic controls, but quickly lost their attention once I showed them the “paintbrush” tool. In no time all the computer monitors were covered with random splashes of color. Trying to recapture control was futile. My claim that I could never be a middle school teacher was being strongly reaffirmed! Thankfully, grades will not be assigned in this class. The sole purpose is to keep kids safe and entertained after school. Since they appeared to be having fun, I just sighed and decided to enjoy their enthusiasm. I strolled around the computer lab to observe the Pollock-like masterpieces for the rest of the period.
Class ended, and I escorted the kiddies downstairs for dismissal. The weekend had finally arrived, bringing a couple days to recharge for the next week of activity.