Posts tagged teaching
Posts tagged teaching
It wasn’t until yesterday that I really gave how students feel about me much thought.
I mean, it’s nice when they like you; it makes the work easier and all, but I don’t sit up at night thinking about how to get them on my side. I’m not the world’s greatest teacher by any manner of means, but I like my students, I like my job, and I think that makes all the difference.
When I say that I like my kids, I mean I respect them as human beings, I am organized and orderly, I hold them accountable for their work and actions, I’m patient (mostly), I set good boundaries (they know I’m not their friend, but their teacher), I have a sense of humor with them, I listen to their worries and to advise them when asked, and I really know my subject area content. They believe I can make them better readers and writers, and that faith goes a long way when we get to the trickier material.
I can count on two fingers the kids who, over the past ten years, really really went out of their way to be memorably unpleasant. And hoo boy, they’re the ones who are memorable.
- The nineteen-year-old sophomore (uh huh) from four years ago who offered (quite politely, now that I think about it) to stab me when I asked him (again) to take off his hat, pull up his pants, sit down and get to work.
- The spoiled-rotten honors-sophomore from six years ago whose helicopter-parents supported him when he wrote an essay that he read aloud about how I shouldn’t be a teacher and that I’d probably gotten my job just because my mother negotiated it for me (he’s the reason, btw, that if this baby’s a boy, he’ll never, ever be named Jack). I sat through that reading with a smile on my face and thanked him graciously when it was over. It was the easiest essay to grade EVER. Whew, he was a nasty piece of work.
And that’s it, really.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been cursed at, called racist, and a whole pile of other things that teenagers say/scream/holler/whisper-passive-aggressively when they’re trying to hurt you. But they’d do that to anyone; it’s not personally directed at me.
The thing is: it doesn’t hurt me. They’re teenagers. I expect them to have wide-swinging emotions, hormonal highs and lows, and I expect them to say things that they don’t mean. It comes with the territory, you know?
And since I’ve seen everything they can do and heard everything they can say, nothing shocks me anymore and I can listen to their delivery with a straight face, thank them for their ideas, and then move on with the lesson.
All told, I’ve probably worked with nearly 2000 students over the past ten years. They all have a range of quirks that make them entertaining at best or interesting at worst.
They make me laugh. They inspire me to be creative. They get me to read interesting books and listen to music I never thought I’d like but do. I think about them all the time in a “hey, I think so-and-so would like this movie, I need to ask them if they’ve seen it” kind of way.
So really, when I crunch the numbers, 2 kids who hated my guts out of the nearly 2000 who liked/loved/many-of-whom-come-back-to-visit isn’t really a number I need to worry too much about.
I was in grad school, taking a lit seminar undergrads were also enrolled in for 400 level credit. This guy realizes I’m an English teacher and every week is pumping me with questions and for info.
He wanted to finish his BA in English and then get a transition to teaching license. He said he just wanted to teach lit. He didn’t want to teach writing.
“We’re just going to talk,” he said. They were going to sit in a circle and the kids would share their feelings about the text, and there wouldn’t be tests either.
There was no convincing him it wasn’t going to happen. Indiana requires writing and lit taught together. You can do some discussion, but kids need guidance. You have to have some form of assessment. It doesn’t have to be a test; but a project, speech, paper, or something has to be there to demonstrate knowledge, understanding, and critical thinking.
He then had the gall to say, “We’ll, your class sounds boring.”
I said, “It sounds like you want to be Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. If you remember, things didn’t actually go well for him. And I’ve been employed for six years.”
I ignored him for the rest of semester, and I really hope he didn’t get into a teaching program.
What is punctuation’s job? #Cool
How do you cover your chest? I own several tank tops/camis, but no matter how short I make the straps, the top always seems to work its way down. I’m not usually personally concerned if there is a little bit showing (I mean, they’re boobs, and I have them), but I am very personally concerned about being seen as professional during my student teaching and in general. Any tips?
E.T.A: I thought it was clear when I originally posted this that the tank tops are for use underneath other tops that I own that would normally be too low-cut on me. A number of direct and (quite frankly, rude) indirect responses have indicated to me that my assumption was wrong. The tank tops are not my main clothes, but rather boob-covering devices that aren’t working for me.
I love my higher ed friends.
I was especially interested in this tool:
Sometimes, however, teachers need to have a conversation with parents that goes a bit deeper than upcoming due dates. For these calls, it is helpful to remember that the positive phone call is as important as the negative one. I have a colleague who sends positive e-mails to her students who impress her or are just pleasant human beings, and she always CC’s the parents. Building this positive context goes a long way if problems arise later on.
To keep track of these interactions as well as the student behavior that prompts them, I highly recommend Dash4Teachers. There really isn’t anything quite like it out there.
You can tap smiles or frowns for each day, jot down notes like “asked great questions!” or “was terribly disruptive,” and then tap “Call best contact.” You then select options like “Call completed” or “Left a message.” My favorite feature is the ability to sort by least recent calls, most frequent calls, and positive or negative. The more students we have, the more possible it is for one to “slip through the cracks.” Using this intuitive and simple app goes a long way to ensuring we’re helping all of our students.
Here are 4:
A comprehensive systems of badges, trophies, points, XP, achievements. This uncovers nuance and is capable of far more resolution and precision than a letter.
2. Live Feedback
Here, students are given verbal and written feedback immediately–as work is being completed. Live scoring without the scoring and iteration. No letters or numbers, just feedback.
In this process, work is graded as it traditionally has been, then, through revision and iteration, is gradually improved and curated. Eventually “lesser” performance (as determined by students, peers, families, and teachers) is replaced by better work, but without the grades. Grades jump-start the revision process, and that’s it.
4. Always-on Proving Grounds (Continuous Climate of Assessment)
In this model, assessment never stops–the result of one assessment is another. Not tests, but demonstrations. It doesn’t stop, so rather than halting the process to assign a letter, the process continues on.
What’s the Difference Between Doing Projects and Project Based Learning? [FREE GOOGLE DOC]
Nothing makes me more nervous than when we read a text of any length (novel, play, or poem) and the students’ copies lay inert on their desks.
You don’t need to do any research to know that blank pages give no clear indication of how much they’ve read, or how much they’re taking in, or what their questions are.
A student who’s “conversing” with the text through annotations, on the other hand, is a student who’s much more likely to understand what’s happening, connect it to their own lives, and remember it long after the last page is turned.
So I teach all my Juniors and Seniors to annotate text in two main ways: through motif guides that I give out along with the reading schedule of longer works, or color-marking poetry.
For public domain texts (like Oedipus, Shakespeare, and Frost), I make a slew of copies, one for each kid to keep in their binder after we work with it. When we’ve got novels checked out from the school, the kids annotate on post-it notes until their books are a veritable forest of motifs, questions, insights, and asides.
Here’s a couple of examples from this semester:
The first photo is how I teach the annotation of Oedipus Rex.
- Since the translation I choose is a fairly old-fashioned one, I know that the language is going to be a challenge. So we read the play together out loud, and pause after various speech chunks to talk about what’s happening.
- The students have two jobs: the first is to translate the text into modern English (slang is fine; many of them end up with copies that say things like “WTF?” or “SMH” in the margins when Oedipus gets mad at Creon or when the Chorus reacts to the truth, respectively. As long as the language they use in class discussions and their essays is academically appropriate, their translations are their own).
- The second job is to be on the lookout for the motifs I’ve indicated. I clue them in at first to know what to look for and what to mark, but before long, they’re motif-spotting on their own and flinging their arms in the air to point something out.
- The quizzes, Socratic Seminars, vocabulary illustrations, and other projects we do with the text come directly from the annotations we make. This gives me the perfect answer to the invariable question of: “Why do I have to do this?” A few students usually try to forego the annotations, but when they see that they can’t find the answer to because they didn’t make any marginal notes, they get on board.The second photo is how I taught “The Road Not Taken” on Thursday (I developed this technique with my mother, an English teacher of 40 years):
- I teach the kids that poetry color-marking is a three step process — read the poem, decide what the “so what” is (as in, why does this poem matter? How might it apply to me or the world? What lesson can be learned here?), and then find the evidence that helped them get the “so what” in the first place. This allows students to know that there isn’t just one answer: if they can justify it with evidence from the text, they’re golden.
- I used “Road Not Taken” this week since it’s a commonly misinterpreted poem. It’s often used at graduation ceremonies and in greeting cards to demonstrate the attractiveness of being a pioneer, a trail-blazer; but it’s really not about that at all. Or at least, I can demonstrate that it’s not.
- I also use it because it’s a poem that all the kids have encountered before and so we can apply new material (color-marking) to something familiar.
- I teach them about Diction (word choice; typically nouns and verbs), Details (specifics and descriptions; typically adjectives and adverbs), Imagery (language that appeals to the senses; the combination of Diction and Details), Syntax (punctuation and sentence structure), and Tone (the emotional atmosphere created by the combination of Diction, Details, Imagery and Syntax).
- For “The Road Not Taken,” I was able to prove my “so what” through the poet’s use of imagery, syntax and tone.
- The “choice” the speaker makes while in the woods that day is not really a choice: both paths are equal since “the passing there had worn them really about the same.”
- Three words give away the tone: “sorry,” “doubted,” and “sigh.” This language, in combination with the image of the speaker fretting over how “[he] could not travel both and be one traveler” establishes early on that there’s an element of regret in the decision that’s made. The “sigh” that happens later, at the end of the poem, cements that sense of regret, and the syntactical choice where Frost uses a double dash as a parallel to that sigh by making the reader sigh while reading the poem also helps to support my “so what.”Students work in groups to develop a collective “so what” before moving to independent practice. I make lots of copies so that when we practice, there’s very little risk if someone gets it wrong; I just hand them a fresh copy, and they try a different “so what” and look for evidence that works.
Thanks to hithertokt for the question that led to this post
And by “data” I mean any information collected from a group of students in an inorganic and inauthentic manner that is then used to obfuscate and declarify (as the Car Talk guys like to say) the progress and assumed learning of those students.
The observations I make as I grade a stack of essays is useful and authentic information. It is what I imagine data was meant to be at some point in the golden past.
I don’t make bar graphs or keep a tally of who can write a thesis statement and who can’t, but when I see that students are struggling with an idea that forms the foundation of our curriculum, I know I need to revisit that concept, whether it’s in a class-wide brush-up or a one-on-one tutoring. And then I reteach that concept in a different way, or try to come at it from another point of view to make it as accessible as possible.
I am after all, a professional. I’m spend hours with my students before, during, and after school. Who would know what they need better than me? Who can deliver what they need better than me?
But somewhere along the line, “data” turned into the only valid way to measure student “progress” and “success.”
And “data” became a weapon used against teachers by increasingly hostile school administrators and “learning consultants” who use it to prove that not only do we not know what we’re doing, we must be actively plotting against our students and our school since we don’t joyfully embrace whatever silver-bullet educational theories they’re peddling today.
I am, however, willing to compromise—
So when I finally get my own classroom, I know what I’m showing on the first day.
How and Why We Read: Crash Course English Literature #1 (by crashcourse)
I remember reading the Odyssey, The Merchant of Venice, In the Penal Colony, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, A Clean Well Lighted Place, and The Crucible.
I am truly glad for the success of the series, but I feel like teachers have to consistently teach popular reading materials instead of a wide variety of literature. If you have a varied and structured unit plan for the book, that is understandable. But it seems that it is not pushing your students. Maybe almost dumbing it down? I don’t know…Anyone have any thoughts on this trend?
In many classes, the teacher has the choice of either assigning ambitious work that the students will never complete because it appears dry, or assigning academically ”trivial” work that students will be excited about because it’s more relevant to their lives. It’s a rare case when you can combine these situations.
Students are completely aware of this separation. I’d bet good money that most of them have a pile of books they have to read for school, then a separate pile of “fun” and leisure books that they read on their own time. While you’re in high school, those two piles never seem to overlap. Hell, most adults don’t even have overlapping piles. And that’s a HUGE problem.
Contrary to what so many people think, the point of English class isn’t to get students to read old classics. Sure, that’s a bonus that helps to contribute to a well-rounded education, but it isn’t necessary. What English class actually does is help students learn how to critically analyse writing, get in the overall habit of reading, and walk away from literature with a continuously new sense of realization each time. If your kid can become fully engaged in reading instead of just going through the motions, then you’ve been successful.
Books like The Hunger Games can help with this! Most kids know the story by now, they love the characters and they still get excited by it. Getting to bring this into the classroom is a godsend since they already know what they’re talking about. This allows teachers to dig deeper into the writing. You can get by with only a short explanation of the literal plot and character descriptions, then dive straight into the significance of each literary aspect. Instead of asking “Okay, so who did Katniss befriend in this chapter?” you can ask “Okay, so why might Katniss feel the desire to befriend Rue, even though they are technically enemies?” This is higher level thinking that forces students to analyze the book instead of parroting back details. It’s awesome when you’re working within time constraints.
I’ve got no issue with The Hunger Games being brought into classrooms. I’d rather see it with younger students, like in 6-8 grade, but I can honestly see it working out with 10th graders too. There is a lot of good material in there that can be used as a jumping point for other dystopian literature. Connect it with more traditional academic novels like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury. The struggle of society vs individual is going to be present most school books, so YA dystopian lit can be a fun introduction to that conflict for kids.
There’s really no sense of “having” to teach popular books, but a well-varied curriculum is always going to include different genres and newer publications. Why not take advantage of new YA reading crazes and let students get excited about their work?
Of all of these, I’m most impressed by rule #3.
Leave your work at work.
As a full-time teacher, I was given this tip. I have to wait for Tom to get off of school every day (I get done at 3:30 and he gets done at 4:40). When I’m done doing hallway duty at 3:30, I get my classroom grades into Schoolmax (I am caught up on grading almost every…