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Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Confession

I must admit that I have fallen behind. Five hours of class with only a half hour break for lunch has a tendency to create a lot of paper. I haven't had a chance to look at the newest entries for the students blogs. I don't want to turn my back on the students during class and there always seems to be something else to do during lunch, like eat.

I guess I could actually work at home, but that would be setting a bad precident. I already had to do some planning at home and almost broke out in hives. I could at this point use my three year old son as an excuse, but the truth is there are about 50 million things I would rather be doing than working at home. Most of the them do involve my family. I could also at this point complain and say that they don't pay enough for me to spend extra hours doing work, but again I'm pretty sure that if they paid be like a doctor I still wouldn't do open heart surgery on the dining room table.

I think that if I don't take care of myself first then I will start to resent the kids. My life is devoted to educating myself. So though I don't take papers home to grade very often, I do spend time in theaters, galleries and libraries. Even watching television helps me become a better teacher.

Now that the confession and excuses have run out I would like to comment on the quality of work I have looked at. We have spent the last week working on poetry and on the whole I have been very impressed with the quality of work. Even when the poems aren't that great the amount of effort has been remarkable. Some of the greats are starting to drop and I am wondering how many of the students would be able to keep this up over the whole school year. When I first heard about the three week sessions with five hour classes I thought it was insane, but after work with the kids for eight days I think the shorter sessions help the students stay focused. Not only do they not have to sustain concentration beyond 3 weeks, but they only have to focus on one class and teacher.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The first Blogs

The first set of Blogs that I read were relatively boring. Most of them just listed what we did in class. There was no in depth ananlysis. I'm hoping for better results today. If they don't get any better I may have to create a sample to help them understand exactly what I am looking for.

Hopefully, we get some metacognitive commentary going on. I want to know more about what is going on in their brains than in the class. Next time I will share some quotes from the students writing.

As for the class I am happy with the intellectual level at which the class is working. The amount of prior knowledge and inquisitiveness far exceeds that of the students that I deal with during the regular school year at the Alternative Program. Teaching is so much easier when the students help drive the content and curriculum. My timing has been slightly off because things that normally take 45 min. are completed in 15, but the students keep me on my toes instead of chop blocking my every move.

Overall, it has been a pleasant experience.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The First Day

Today is the first day that I am having the students blog. With the exception of a couple of students everyone seems to be getting the hang of it. So far there has only been one mildly inappropriate user name.

I am anxious to see what they have to say about the class. Hopefully, these will work as a reflection on the learning that has gone on.

In the last two days we have read Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut and There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury. Class discussion has range from the meaning of equality to the role of technology in our lives. I admitted to the class that I love the internet. Of course, as Bradbury points out, the internet probably does not have the same feelings for me. I freaked out the first day I walked into my summer school class and discovered that there was no computer. It is moments like this that remind me how much I rely on having the world at my fingertips.

Having the internet in the classroom has allowed me to become a much better teacher, but I rely on it so extensively I fear that on days that the server is down I may have to resort to students taking notes with a stylus and a clay tablet. Maybe some day all students will have there on tablet PC to alleviate this problem.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Coming Soon

Summer school meeting officially started today. Classes will begin on Mon. I am still waiting on texts books. Apparently I am teaching Lit. and Comp. II. I hoping this means that they have passes Lit. and Comp. I. Though I don't know what that actually means. Teaching at the Alternative Program leads to a disconnect with the H.S. curriculum at times.

I have made a career, quite by accident, of teaching students who have fallen behind. If this were a track analogy I would be the one that picks up the kids who have collapsed during the race, due to being out of shape or to much smoking, and drag them across the finish line. Not only do I teach at the Alternative Program and summer school, but last year I worked in the Earn Your Way Back program which caters to students on long term suspension. I'll admit that the extra money is a definite motivator to taking these extra assignments, but It is nice to think that some of these kids succeed because of me.

Every once in a while one the kids that I pick up along the way does manage to stand up and stagger across the finish line on their own.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How can blogs help me teach

I will attempt to use blogs this summer to help my students reflect on their learning. Hopefully if it is successful then I can use it next year for my regular classess.

Journaling is an important part of education, and allowing others to comment on your thoughts can be very exhilirating. It can confirm something that you already believe, or it can cause you to question previously held beliefs. Whatever the case may be, it will allow students to get opinions from someone other than the classroom teacher.

Wish me luck on this summer experiment.