Holy Cow.

March 1, 2009

I’m exhausted.

I find that I have not followed the traditional first year teacher cycle.  I’m just now getting to the disillusionment portion that was supposed to hit last semester.  Actually, maybe it isn’t that at all; maybe I’m just hitting third quarter burnout really hard…  I think that would be fair considering that I’ve always struggled 3rd quarter, plus I’m still taking graduate classes on the side, let alone the fact that I have two toddlers with birthdays (and the planning for the parties) all hitting at the same time. 

I find myself ridiculously clinging to the goal of reaching summer vacation – it represents a break to spend time with my children again!  I miss them!  It also represents an opportunity to reevaluate my curriculum, reorganize, and catch up on my reading.  Unfortunately, it may not be all that I’m hoping for, as I will probably be taking 3 graduate classes in order to finish my Master’s once and for all. (Provided they actually offer the right courses at the right times…)

Anyway, a recap of my spring curriculum thus far…

Shakespeare: 

I’ve got a lot of work to do for next year to rev up this unit.  I need to find a way to make it both more hands on and interactive, but more importantly, more ACCESSIBLE.  It seemed to be a struggle for many of my students to comprehend much of the original language.  I plan on trying to get really serious about this over the summer I just spoke so optimistically about. 

On the bright side, I think the projects were developmentally appropriate.  Next year, I just need to provide more time, more instruction, more notes, and more ENERGY!  (And a non-butt kicking test to provide additional accountability without setting students up to fail.)

Emily Dickinson and the Transcendentalists: 

Idk yet.  I think the Dickinson project was appropriate, but wish I would have had the time to squeeze in a heartier Romantics unit.  I skipped Poe and Irving.  I won’t make that mistake again.  Additionally, increasing the Rom unit will provide the necessary time to break up the “project frenzy” I went on this January.    I just felt like projecty stuff fit the curriculum for both, but they were back to back which felt grueling.  Also, I need to streamline the Transcendental project which sounded complicated but was simple in practice.  My explanation should be much simpler next time… 

The Enlightenment: 

We FLEW through this.  I found it a little stressful going so fast.  Also, I was ill and had a sub for the first day of this unit AND all of my stuff was at school.  I didn’t even have my textbook.  I’m going to bring home a student copy of each text so that this problem doesn’t occur again.  Scraping, I had them watch the Gulliver’s Travels movie that I had been 95% sure was in the library.  Lucky me!    It was freakishly long and I’m gonna be MUCH more selective regarding which scenes I show in class next time. 

Next I had them read a short satire from Twain (I know, American lit in a Brit lit course…) in class because it was short and relatable.  Then we read “A Modest Proposal”.  Next year I will set up a panel or something for discussing it, IF we read it again.   I’m still undecided.  I’m planning on finding an interesting way to return to the idea of satire before the end of the semester.  That way I can offer more structure and guidance.  Satire’s tough to write.

The Great Gatsby:

I did a lead up from Transcendentalism to Harlem using the obvious Whitman and Hughes poetry.  I was mostly pleased with this small group activity, though I hate watching “groupwork” that involves students copying their fellow group members work…  It bypasses the notion of discussion and carrying on an interesting an relevant dialogue…  Yet I am at a loss as to providing a strong form of accountability that does not require me to engage in nagging at any time.  Any suggestions??

Then I passed out a newpaper assignment, “Gatsby Meets the Press” – and yes, that is a borrowed title.  Unfortunately, I haven’t scheduled us to have a solid block of time in the library/computer lab yet and we’re over halfway through the book right now!  I need to set up a much smoother and more conscientious schedule next year to provide ample time for all of our work – novel related and for the project.

We also wrote a paper (early on) that I called a Character Connections Essay where students were required to simply introduce each major character (support from text) and show how they were connected.  It was only summarizing but I feel it is a worthwhile reminder of good writing, using quotes, and most of all a check to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.   Then we did skits and a Gatsby Tea Party to give the kids a little brain break – between that paper and a butt kicking “quiz”, they deserved it! 

I’m planning a second Socratic seminar over the American Dream when we finish up the book.  I’m still interested in seeing what else is out there because I think this novel often resonates with teens and I would like to amp up the unit a little bit.

The I-Search:

Ok.  All I’ve done so far is introduce it and require students to make a plan for WHAT they will be writing about.  The “research proposal” – and I’m not sure that’s what I want to call it – is essentially a “KW” without the L.  You know, here’s what I already know about the topic (my interests, strengths/weaknesses, and the options I’m considering) plus what I “want” to know- what do I need to look up now? 

I’m hoping that writing the paper about what students want to do after high school, now that it’s time to schedule for the exciting Senior Year (you know, ACT scores are in; what classes do I need to make sure I have before I apply for college… lots going on!) will keep them focused.  I feel like this is an opportunity to think seriously about what they want, as this time of life is often so rushed that students don’t feel they’ve had ample time to consider such weighty decisions.  Wish me luck!

Alright – I’m all finished with my tolerably coherent (I hope) ramblings and hope that this will give me some reminders this summer when I’m stuck inside working on next year’s plans.  Any comments would be appreciated!!!

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