Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Second Week: Writing Workshops

In the second week of the semester, I began to practice with some of the classroom policies I wanted to implement throughout the semester. Writing Workshop was one of those.

I actually did less redirection than I thought I would have to. Some of the worst behaved students were working on some of the coolest pieces. It's amazing what they'll produce when they aren't pushed into writing an essay. (On the horizon though is the one essay I require them to write for each portfolio so that I meet state standards. That encounter could be what I need to fear).

Some decisions I've made after the first week:

Nancy Beauprez (my mentor teacher) pointed this out and I agree. In first and second period, students weren't allowed to move around the room. Fourth and fifth (for whatever odd reason in my head) were allowed to. This encouraged more discussion and less writing. Today, students will be expected to remain in their seats.

One on one conferences are a huge part of writing workshops, especially when you're getting started with a population that hasn't worked in them before. Last week I had a sign-up sheet, but I think today and Thursday, once things settle down, I just going to start calling people up for conferencing on their pieces.

We'll see how today goes.

Saturday, January 7, 2006

First Week

I just finished my first week (really just three days) of teaching.

I loved it.

Junior high hasn't changed much. It seems pretty similar to what I remember. I've been paired with an excellent teacher, Nancy Beauprez, who has given me plenty of rein, but doesn't just abandon me alone in the classroom (like some student teacher horror stories foretell). My class website is also up and linked to Boltz.

I have two big thought to recap this week with.

The first has to deal with discipline. So far, when there's talking in class, I've just waited for it to quiet down. I'm hoping this will continue to work. Nancy believes it will and that I need to just stick to my guns. A part of me feels the need to put the fear of God in the students for just one day, and everything will be fine after that. If I wait for my students to be quiet, but then don't get as far with them, am I doing my job? Since they are minors, shouldn't I attempt to educate every student to the same extent as every other? I don't know. And if I should put the fear of God into them, how the heck do I do it? I have no idea.

For those of you who have listened to my podcast, discipline has been no where near the problem I thought it would be. I got a lot of really great kids, for one. I think my formal dress has probably helped (the heels are killing my feet though). [Formal dress as in a tie, not a literal dress. See, I made a little joke there. You may laugh.] I also think I got a lot of practice, thanks to Rebecca Fox at Fort Collins High School.

The second thought is on homework. I give a lot, and I don't know how I feel about that. On one hand, I think the students will learn a lot and it's not just busy work. On the other hand, they do have other things going on in their lives besides English class (as sad as that is) [you may laugh]. This weekend I asked them to write two single spaced pages on a biography of their life. After listening to students tell me how cruel I was, I came home and told my wife the assignment - and got the same response. Ouch.

Next week they have a five work vocab quiz on Friday that they need to do a word scroll on each word for homework, they need to read a poem, do one writing notebook entry at home, and read to pg 20 of The Pearl by the following Wednesday. What do you think? Is this too much?

So there's the first week. Hope it's gone well for those of you heading back to school as well.