Jan Term Journal – Day 8

Well, today was the big day in Ms. McKinney’s fourth grade class. I was back, and I had 90 minutes to teach fourth graders the fundamentals of journalism. I started with the news values (what makes something news?), and I was amazed at how quickly they picked it up! There were a lot of new, big vocabulary words for them to learn, and they did a great job. I ran through a bunch of hypothetical news stories, and gave them a little quiz to ask them to define which news values were involved in each story. Most of them got about six out of the eight I gave them correct, which was more than I was expecting from fourth graders who were essentially doing high school work. Next week, I will be helping them write news stories about the inauguration. In order to prepare, their homework is to read a news story and bring it in so that we can analyze the news values present in the story.

After school, we went downtown for dinner. On the way back, this woman would not pay her fare or get off the bus. When it became apparent that it might be a while, most people got off the bus to wait for the next one. But because Tyler and I didn’t have any more cash, we had to stay on and wait out the escalating conflict. The bus stayed stopped until the driver could get her off. Eventually, she did leave, but not before being asked/pleaded to/berated by at least three other very, very angry passengers. Tyler and I debated getting out to walk home, but we still had two miles to go and we had made it that far into the fiasco, so we decided to stick around. Eventually, the bus driver got off the bus and started yelling at her. I think that sent a message, because the woman finally decided to get off the bus. A girl sitting near Tyler and I looked at us, shrugged, and said apologetically, “I’m really sorry, guys. This is California!”

Jan Term Journal – Day 7

My work in Ms Boegel’s seventh grade math class is actually fairly similar to my work in Ms. Barba’s third grade class. I’m tutoring students on their math! I had no idea that this is what I’d be doing (it certainly isn’t my specialty), but fortunately, it’s just elementary/junior high concepts. I would be pretty stuck if I were asked to help students with geometry or something more advanced.

What I’ve been doing for the most part is taking groups outside to get some practice in on their times tables. When we finished that, though, I was in charge of running a “study hall” for some students who were pretty far behind in class due to missing assignments. My job was to keep them on task, and their job was to complete as many assignments as possible during the period.

This worked out pretty well until they started asking me about music. Music is one of my passions in life, and I couldn’t help but discuss Radiohead with a group of seventh graders. I tend to think of myself as pretty good at restraining myself from going off on a tangent in class, but there are a few buttons that students can still push in order to get me off track and music is definitely one of them. I know I need to get better at this; I remember in high school when we would get our teachers off track because we knew that we could. I don’t want to be so easy to distract in the classroom.

Jan Term Journal – Day 6

Today was my only real day in Mrs. Sheffie’s sixth grade science class. Last week, she wasn’t aware that I was coming and didn’t have anything prepared for me, and next week we have Monday off for Martin Luther King Day. We did a lab – finding items outside that we can use to make “fossils” with plaster of Paris. Between the members of the class, they made fossils of sticks, leaves, bark, feathers, and even a slug. Science was never really my strong suit, and I found myself having issues even making the right consistency of plaster! However, I think all of the “fossils” set up, and Mrs. Sheffie was so happy to have my help. I wasn’t so sure that I had helped that much, but I guess just having another set of eyes and hands in the classroom is always helpful.

I was asked once again to watch the sixth graders at recess. I’m not sure who was more exhausting today, the sixth graders or the third graders! Third graders run around like crazy, ask tons of questions, and are generally exhausting. But because I’m in their class most of the time, they are at least used to the idea of seeing me as an authority figure. I don’t have that luxury with the sixth graders, however. The Monday mornings in Mrs. Sheffie’s science class are good, but they aren’t enough to give me much real pull with the students.

Also, the questions that the sixth graders ask are a little more difficult than the ones the third graders ask. “Do you have a girlfriend?” “What’s Mr. Knox’s dad’s name?” “Have you ever heard of the rapper Easy-E?” and on and on. I can’t discipline them for being curious; it’s actually fun to have some real conversation with students (well, about half the time). But sometimes I wonder if their line of questioning goes a little too far.

Weekend Bullet List 1

One of the things that is so frustrating about going on vacations without most of the people you love is that it’s hard to explain everything in detail. So for our doings on the weekends, I won’t even try. I’m going to post some bullet lists with everything we’ve done so far, and I’ll include links when possible. That should at least help you to get a birds-eye view of our touristing around L.A. I took my camera around with me all weekend, but I’ve been pretty bad at remembering to take pictures… So, we’ll rely mostly on links.

This weekend we:

We did a good job of keeping busy this weekend; Tyler is a great host and the public transportation system down here is pretty easy to navigate. I hope we can get as much done next weekend! Stay tuned…

PS – One of my favorite TV shows, 30 Rock, just dominated the Golden Globes. Booyah.

Jan Term Journal – Day 5

Friday! This week has flown by. I have really loved my work at St. Columbkille so far. It has been one of those experiences that makes me wonder if I should have gone for elementary certification instead of secondary. Maybe someday, if I need a change of pace, I’ll go that route.

Today I was back to fourth grade, helping the students polish up their descriptive writing pieces. As I read each student’s paper, I started realizing that a lot of them were talking about eating 12 grapes on New Year’s. I thought it was a little peculiar how each student listed such a specific number of grapes, and how they had all eaten the same number.

When I came across this phenomenon for about the fifth time in a row, I finally asked one girl, “I have a cultural question to ask you. Is this eating grapes thing a New Year’s tradition?” Every student in her row vigorously nodded. She said, “Yes! You eat 12 grapes and make 12 New Year’s wishes or hopes.” When I asked if they ate 12 because it was one for every month, the students answered in the affirmative. Through my research, I had never heard of this tradition, and I thought it was a good one! Why not give students a reason to hope for the new year?

In third grade, it was Jasmine’s birthday and her dad brought pizza in for the whole class. This surprised me because I know that most of these students’ families don’t have a lot of money. It was awfully generous for him to bring that in, and it was a lot of fun for me to take part in the birthday party that the class had for her. Afterward, I got to supervise them on recess and the class freaked out because there was a dead rat on the playground. We moved to a different area for the rest of recess. Sometimes, I get reminded that kids are kids, no matter where they’re from.

Jan Term Journal – Day 4

Today, I had the chance to go on a field trip with the seventh and eighth grade students. We went to La Salle High School in Pasadena, where the students took part in workshops on art, jazz band, drama, technology, and broadcasting. They did these for two reasons – to get a taste of high school and to take part in some activities that just aren’t available at St. Columbkille. I went with nine of the eighth graders to the art class, where they made self-portrait busts out of clay. They were led by eight LSHS students, which was nice because there was almost a one-to-one ratio of LSHS students to St. Columbkille students.

During the art class, I was able to talk with two girls from LSHS about their high school experiences (LSHS is a private Catholic high school), as well as how they got set up with their service-learning class that led the workshops. While I was talking to them, I was reminded how much I miss my students at MHS. I’m going to e-mail my mentors there soon, so that they can be updated (and update my students there) about my doings during Jan Term.

When I got back, the third graders were at recess. They were so excited to see me! That was good news, because I was pretty excited to see them, too. Supervising recess is usually the highlight of my day. The classes here are pretty strict behavior-wise, so recess gives me a chance to see the students as kids, rather than students. Several of the students ran up to hug me as soon as I arrived. One girl, Elba, started calling me “daddy,” which made me a little uneasy at first. But then she started laughing about it – she was trying to be silly, not making a comment on our relationship. Kids can be so funny sometimes.

Jan Term Journal – Day 3

This morning, I worked with Ms. McKinney and her fourth-grade class. Before class started, she told me I could do anything I wanted – even teach the class. I haven’t ever taught a class of this age group, so I was a little bit worried. I told her I didn’t have the elementary teaching methods down, but she said that I shouldn’t worry about that. The class went to their Wednesday morning mass, but I stayed behind to plan.

The fourth graders were working on writing short descriptive essays about their Christmas break. The first paragraph was about their Christmas celebration and traditions, the second paragraph was about what they got for Christmas, and their third paragraph was about what they did to celebrate New Year’s. They had already written a draft, so my job was to help them revise.

I decided to have the students read their essays out loud to a partner and highlight any parts that are hard to read out loud. Then, they were to trade papers and underline any misspelled words. This editing and revising is a vital step in the editing process, and it was fun to be able to get some actual teaching in.

After that step, I gave each table group a thesaurus and told them to work on word choice – spicing up their language to be as descriptive as possible. They were to start by highlighting five words that they wanted to change and looking them up in the thesaurus. I walked around, monitoring student progress and helping them understand what some of the synonyms meant. It was actually really cool; I got a chance to meet most of the students and get a sense of where they are in their writing. I’ll be finishing it up with them on Friday!