A double dose of 3-2-1s

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about you when it came to 3-2-1 time last week. It just so happens that one of my 3-2-1s had some personal information about one of my students, so I decided to hold the post until this week. (and I know you’re wondering, but let’s just say that my student needs some prayer in the upcoming weeks).

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got for you:

10/18

  • Our first issue of the school newspaper came out this week! The students are so excited to finally see their product, and I’ve been showing off to my friends. The answer is yes: It is just as rewarding to see an issue come out for an adviser as it is for a student.
  • We had a presentation about interviewing with Becki Nappi of the Spokesman-Review, and I was really impressed! I have to admit, I was a little wary due to my journalistic background. But, not only did she teach us well, she gave me some ideas I can use with my staff in the future.
  • I’ve been talking with some of my friends recently who say things like, “Oh man, teaching? I could never do that,” or “Hey, good luck; you’re going to need it.” I think that part of the reason I’m enjoying this so much is that I can laugh at the little things that could really annoy other people.

10/25

  • At methods class on Monday night, Andy handed me a book and video for “Night,” the book I’m writing a unit for. I was kind of speechless; I completely didn’t expect that. Methods class is such a great resource for ideas. If it weren’t all the way down at LCHS, I’d wish it was every week!
  • I was able to teach the sixth-period freshmen English class on Monday, and we were reading from “Inherit the Wind.” The whole reading-out-loud thing fell flat for a couple of scenes, until we got to a scene that was held at a tent revival. The student who was assigned to read the preacher’s role asked if he could come up to the front of the room, and the class really got into it. It goes to show that although I might try something, it’s the students who decide whether it’s successful or not.
  • While teaching that same class, I tried to tell a joke that fell flat. Whoops. Explaining it was a five-minute diversion. Coupled with Lindsay’s experience where she mentioned NSync and none of the students knew she was talking about, those two experiences let me know that you can’t assume students will understand the pop culture references you make. I’m close to their age, but not that close.
  • Going to the presentation on Student Voice was actually really cool. I was pretty skeptical when I sat down at the table next to that huge, mostly empty binder. But after hearing the presentations and watching some videos, I became more convinced. It’s not like they’re saying, “you need to do this for every assignment,” but rather, “why don’t you work this in somewhere and let us know how it goes?”
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3-2-1, 10/11/2008

Oh, hey.

One quick “definition of terms” issue to clarify: I use separate (but similar) vocabulary when talking about my time at MHS and at Whitworth. So, when I talk about “class” or “being in class,” that usually means I’m talking about my MIT classes at Whitworth. When I talk about “school,” that usually means I’m talking about MHS. If you’re ever confused, leave a comment and I’ll clarify.

Here are my four 3-2-1 observations for the week:

  • I spent Tuesday grading sophomore practice WASL papers with the district English faculty. I was surprised to find how much students were willing to disclose in those papers. We had several papers that were red-flagged because a student mentioned a pregnancy, feeling threatened by a specific student, etc.
  • There are few things more fun than going out to eat with a bunch of English teachers who truly enjoy each other. We went out twice this week (after WASL scoring and during the inservice), and they were two of the most fun meals I can remember having recently.
  • I never realized how cool turnitin.com is! MHS has a subscription this year, and we had a presentation about it during our inservice. I am definitely going to be taking advantage of that come spring.
  • If a student has a negative attitude, sometimes all they need is to be called on it (tactfully, after building appropriate rapport). We had a student this week who missed the after-school layout night, and so she was grousing about how we changed the design of the newspaper. One quick attitude check later, she became one of the more productive students in the class for the rest of the week.

What I’ve learned, 9/6 – 10/9/2008 (plus shoutouts)

Hey everyone!

So, as I previously stated, keeping up on this thing was one of my New (school) Year’s Resolutions. And I’m not going to let you down! I want to get back into the whole blogging thing. So, I’m easing into it here with a 1500-word post for you.

I find that it’s difficult to just “sum up” what I’ve learned, because there has been so much. Especially now that we’re spending time in real deal schools. Fortunately, we have a weekly assignment called the “3-2-1” where we list three observations or new learnings, two questions, and one “ah-ha” moment from the previous week. So to get back into the habit here, I’m posting all of my “3s” and “1s” from my 3-2-1s so far.

Before I jump right into that, though, I need to do a couple of shout-outs:

So! Without further ado, here come the 3-1s. I’ll continue to post these every week, as long as I remember to.

9/6

  • My mentor teachers are perceived by students as two of the best, most fun teachers at MHS. Students who take their classes always speak highly of them to others, and every grad that I’ve talked to says I’m pretty lucky to have them for mentors.
  • Each class has its own personality, and it can be greatly affected by the presence (or absence) of a single person. I have three sophomore English classes with very different “feels,” and they are all different for a reason.
  • No expectations. When students walked into class on the first day, I immediately started drawing conclusions about what sort of student they would be based on what they looked like, who they sat with and how they acted on the first day. After four days at MHS, my initial conclusions have already been proven wrong by several students. In the future, I will be more intentional about reserving judgment until I have actually met and interacted with students and given them chances to prove themselves in the classroom.
  • Teachers do everything on purpose. Every classroom activity has some reasoning behind it, whether it’s helping the students to master content, coming at content from a different angle, or just learning students’ names.

9/12

  • Freshmen are energetic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are hard to handle 100% of the time. One class had a practice WASL writing sample to do this week, and I was surprised at how well-behaved some of the students were for the last 45 minutes of the period after they finished. One of the rowdier students even asked if he could read out of a mythology textbook for a class that also meets in the room.
  • Test anxiety is real! I knew that some people had more trouble than others when “under pressure,” but I hadn’t really experienced it until I graded 90 16-point quizzes. I was surprised when I compared the names to the grades because several good students did poorly, while others who hadn’t been as responsible up to this point did very well.
  • I got the chance to teach five periods this week, as one of my mentor teachers was sick on Thursday and Friday. As I was reflecting on the experience, I realized that I was coming to like the idea of teaching more and more. When I started the MIT program, I was probably about 70-75% sure that I wanted to do this, but since I’ve been at MHS that number has gone up and up.
  • We start classes at Whitworth this week, and I’ve found that I feel kind of bittersweet about it. I am excited to see the other people in the program and converse about our experiences so far, but I am really disappointed that I won’t be at MHS full-time until the spring. I have been having so much fun so far, and I can’t wait to take over full-time!

9/19

  • “Exceptional learners” means “learners that require some sort of exception,” not necessarily “gifted learners.” This was a confusion in terms for me until class started this week. This dichotomy is immediately visible at the dictionary.com entry for “exceptional”.
  • Each class has its own personality, which is nearly tangible from the moment they walk in on the first day. As the first weeks go on, however, it becomes more and more evident. Apparently, on one of the days I was in class, one period “decided” they needed a seating chart. At this point in the year, I wasn’t surprised.
  • Breakthrough is awesome! I went to school on Friday, primarily to see this class in action. It’s a leadership/self-actualization/community service/etc. class. When I went, their lesson was on one of the Eight Keys of Excellence – “Failures Lead to Learning.” They watched a 10-minute movie clip and then had a kinesthetic activity. This is the kind of class I can really get behind!
  • I went to school on Friday, and I had missed it after being in classes at Whitworth the previous two days. It was great to be able to experience my mentors’ classes that I normally don’t get to see, especially Breakthrough (see above). I think I’m going to keep going on Fridays.

9/27

  • I think my English methods class at LCHS is going to be a lot of fun. Our teacher seems very realistic and focused on giving us practical strategies that we can use in the classroom, rather than more theoretical work.
  • I love going to all of MHS’ football games. While I see my 120ish students in class every week, sitting close to the student section (but not in it) gives me a chance to observe them in another context – with their friends, having fun outside of school. Which, of course, gives me a different perspective on their behavior in class.
  • One of my mentors has shifted from a less academic focus, and some of the students are having a hard time with it. If you start the year off “having fun,” I think it’s important to work some content in there as well so that when the content fully hits, students aren’t totally taken aback.
  • We had Open House this week at MHS, which was my first real contact with any parents. I was surprised that several of them had heard of me, and a few mentioned how highly their student thought of me. While I was flattered, the real “ah-ha” moment came when they mentioned how lucky I was to be working with my mentor. While I never really had any doubt, it was good to have my mentor’s reputation confirmed by parents who have been around the MHS district for a while.

10/4

  • When running a newspaper staff, there is a fine balance between “advising” and “getting too involved.” The students were just starting to lay out their pages this week, and I wanted to jump in so many times! I have to learn to let them work – it’s their paper, after all, not mine.
  • I watched a senior AP English class this week, and I was struck by the differences between this class and my classes of freshmen and sophomores. It was fun to be able to actually be able to discuss a short story with a class and hear things other than “this story sucked.”
  • Students can be reluctant to share in class, unless the teacher demonstrates first. I taught one period earlier this week where the students were supposed to do a journal entry titled, “My Closest Call to Death”. They were all lost when I announced what they were supposed to write about, but after I told my story, they couldn’t stop talking about their own stories.
  • A big part of the beginning of each school year is setting students up for success. One of my mentors tries to front-load the year with a lot of little assignments so that students who tend to struggle start off on the right foot. I think this is a great idea, and the students do too – many are excited about English because that they are keeping a high grade for the first time, even as more difficult work is setting in.