Saturday, February 17, 2018
I recently participated in a Twitter Chat where the idea of homework was brought up. It has always been my philosophy that homework should be given when and where practice is needed. In essence, in math and in reading. By practicing using newly added math thinking there is grasp and growth. We know, or at least we should acknowledge, that the only way to become a better reader and writer is to read more. Reading should become habit through regular practice- both for enjoyment and specific purpose.
Again, my philosophy.
As a social studies teacher, I learned a long time ago...that only a small handful of students will actually do the reading when assigned, thus the use of the reading assignment was never of value.
With the growth in use of 1:1 devices...our district has Chrome Books, I am finding more valuable purposes for homework. The thing is, I hate calling something new by an old name when and where it will carry an ugly connotation. Thus, Think-work was born.
So far, I have found that having my students watch brief video clips in conjunction with brief reads, it prepares my students for richer discussion the following day. This also leads us nicely to the in-class reading and work that we do daily. (Including any Inquiry)
The Think-work can take as little as 15 minutes which I feel is enough, when done well, to make things worth while. It is not busy work. It is not a worksheet. It is not done so I can add more grades. It is not done to promote compliance. It is real work.
Those that do not do the Think-work, quickly find themselves behind and lacking the background knowledge for the class. The consequences are therefore- Natural!
Friday, February 16, 2018
As I have been teaching for a long time, it never ceases to amaze me how different middle school classes can be. I teach 4- 7th grade social studies classes and 2- 8th grade social studies classes. Even though each class is at a little bit different level, the difference in class personality is incredible! Yes, Class Personality.
Every class has its own personality which is made up of much more than the sum of individuals. The mix of students make for an interesting "monster."
Today, I delivered basically the same lesson to both 8th grade classes keeping in mind the things that get them engaged. One class took this very interesting concept explored in class and made it seem like I asked them to stare at grey paint. The other class was so into the said concept, that I could not stop them. The conversation and curiosity could have lasted eight hours.
As much as I see this happen on a regular basis, I am still blown away by the differences and challenges they pose.
I guess, if this challenge didn't exist, planning for the perfect engagement might be boring. Teaching keeps you on your toes. One must be flexible in places that they didn't know existed.
But all in all, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
After recent events, I am left with many feelings and emotions. Most of all, I am left feeling like I am happy, thankful for the life I have. I am thankful that I get to be a teacher and I am charged with keeping my students safe. I have a wonderful life, and wonderful wife, and a wonderful home.
I am lucky.
I appreciate each moment and enjoy what is in front of me right now.
I am not putting blinders on, simply appreciating life as it is.
As much as I would like to be part of the solution, I am not in a position to take care of more than what is in front of me.
I can caught up in the arguments, or I can celebrate life.
I choose to celebrate life. My life.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
So...today was Valentine's Day. In Middle School. It is quite a social experiment and observance of human growth and development.
Regardless if the students are in 6th grade, 7th grade, or 8th grade...there is a massive range in which each student celebrates the day.
I see 6th grade boys giving 6th grade girls big Teddy Bears and hugging. I see 8th grade boys or girls giving friends lollipops.
There is no true linear sense of development. Some 6th graders are ready for dating...apparently. Some 8th graders are not yet ready to be interested in the opposite sex.
But for all...friendship and caring for each other creeped through the halls like a pink fog with hearts.
Middle School maturity is amazing. Only in Middle School.
I would not teach any other grade level.
And tomorrow...it will be business as usual as if today didn't exist. That of course if with the exception of the 79 boys that asked girls to go out with them today and we turned down. Tomorrow might feel a little bit different.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Today, at the end of class, my 8th graders were talking about a movie that will be coming out soon. I jumped in and started saying how much I was looking forward to that movie. My kids, stopped and one said, "you are just like one of us. You know what music we listen to, what electronics we like, what brand clothes we like... You are like a big 8th grader."
I really am. And...that's perfectly fine. In fact, I would not want it any other way!
Teachers, good teachers, naturally assimilate to our students' culture. I have seen it in all levels of school- elementary, middle, and high school. We immerse ourselves into the worlds of our students. We know what is important in their worlds and lives. We know the little things like fashion, music, movies, and whatever our kids like at the moment. I am positive this is a geographic thing as well. I am sure that based on where we live, we can recognize the nuances that make our kids...our kids.
As I take a step back and realize that I have been assimilating to the world of middle school kids for the past 20 plus years, I have to laugh. Who knew that this was a side effect of being a teacher? A good teacher!
We hear all of the time about the essential part of learning is the relationship a student has with their teacher. It stands to reason that the more immersed in our students' culture, the more ready we are for these relationships.
If acting like a 13 year old will help my kids learn...I am ALL in!
Monday, February 12, 2018
Today, as I sat back and looked at my 8th grade honors students, students that I was lucky enough to have now- two years in a row, I realized how much things change for students.
I met these students right out of 6th grade. They were small, unconfident, scared. They were innocent and curious. They were starved to learn while wanting to please their teachers.
Through the time I have known them a lot has changed.
They have almost too much confidence.
They are worldly of a world I may not understand.
Their innocence has been lost to a degree.
They are the center of their own attention.
They want to please their peers.
They are trying on being an adult. They are finding out who they are in this world. They are creating their own identities.
They are not purposefully moving on as in a decision has been made. They are following their nature and growing, maturing, and becoming who they were meant to become.
We have to accept this to teach middle school. This is true, I am sure, in all grade levels...but, in my humble opinion, middle school shines a beacon on these types of changes.
I am glad that I get to teach middle school.
Sunday, February 11, 2018
I hope this does not come off as a rant, as I love the people that I work with and know that they all truly have the best interest of the students at hear...
As February oozes on, like thawing sludge after a long frozen winter, I am seeing some of my peers lose their patience with students. I want to rescue them both- my peers because this is not like them and they obviously are under pressure or some sort to be resorting to this. And... the students because they are not really doing anything different and for the most part, are being blind-sided by the behaviors of the staff members.
We are in this together. We have all dealt with the Februarys and the Aprils. We have even endured the Novembers....which thankfully are all behind us now.
It takes some reflection. We really need to take a step back and look at what we are doing. Our voices can be less patient than usual. Our reactions can be more hair-triggered than in October. We don't mean to be mean. We are human. And so are our students.
Be intentional about your actions and reactions for a week. Stop and reflect through an empathetic lens. Slow down and be in the moment. Often times we are really unaware that we are acting or responding differently.
Sometimes, our responses cause our students to act out. If we are not careful, we can be the reason for their misbehavior and even consequences. This is NOT who we want to be.