Third Quarter & Third Observation

My head is spinning from the wild week it has been. The third quarter rushed up upon us and like many teachers, I scheduled papers due on that day from all four of my classes so now have a ton of essays to read and grade before the deadline late next week.

In 10th Grade English, we rang the down the curtain on Macbeth, completing the discussion of Act V on Monday followed by the quiz and a discussion of the Ordered Universe during Elizabethan times. On Wednesday, the kids did an in-class essay, using one of two prompts I provided them the previous week so they had time to prepare. Overall, I learned a lot from this unit and suspect should I teach this play again, I’d be doing it vastly differently.

Thursday and Friday were the introductory days in our unit of Dystopia. Oddly, it was also my final couple of days being large and in charge. I’ll be tag-teaming with my cooperating teacher these next two short weeks before she regains the reins after the April break. I spent Thursday discussing what the students thought made up a Utopia and if it could be achieved.

On Friday, I had a full court press as my two cooperating teachers and advisor were on hand to formally observe me. With my advisor coming in, I had tons of extra prep to do including tidying up my Macbeth unit plan to turn over for grading along with other documentation he required. Meantime, my initial lesson plan was rejected as being a little vague and a little all over the place without a real sense of how to differentiate the lesson for those above and below the average scale. I did a revision and raised the red flag asking for help.

So, Thursday, I spent quite a bit of time after school talking with my primary cooperating teacher all about it. What became clear was that my English Methods class really didn’t teach how to draw out students, probe deeper and the like. Nor did I know how to build a unit so the laundry list of missing pieces of my education grows. I was advised that I come prepared but commit the sin of trying to stuff too much into 48 minutes and therefore rush through things rather than let the kids ask their questions and debate an issue. I therefore dropped nearly half my lesson and focused on just discussing Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones who walk Away from Omelas” and defining a dystopia.

Fortunately, I had the period 8 kids first so I could use them for a trial run. We had a fabulous conversation about the story and the topic, which did indeed cover The Hunger Games as we explored how America became Panem and what made that world a dystopia. For good measure, we even discussed if the Desperate Housewives of Wisteria Lane were dystopic.

I was feeling pretty good as the period 7 kids filed in but then they upended me by getting to the meat of the story within the first minute and I had to recover. We got up a good head of steam, once more probing if District 1 was a Utopia while the rest of Panem was a dystopia, if that was possible in other works. Heck, we even touched on Hitler’s ambitions to create his vision of a totalitarian utopia through the Holocaust. It was a lively, engaged conversation and my advisor was quite pleased with what he heard.

As for the seniors…this week they watched Persepolis and had three stories to read while completing their papers which were due on Wednesday. I had just period 4 on Thursday and it bombed because the kids came not having read the stories. Nor did they particularly like the film. My cooperating teacher was informally observing so when she spoke up, I let her deal with the kids while I watched, observing how to get the unprepared and recalcitrant to speak.

For Friday, with my teacher’s advice, I tried something different, putting a writing prompt on the white board to get the kids focused on the film and stories. That led to a far better discussion so I am definitely learning. But in some ways, I am perfectly happy handing them back to their regularly scheduled teacher on Monday.

3 thoughts on “Third Quarter & Third Observation

  • April 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm
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    Having students watch Persepolis without knowing the underlying historical background makes it difficult to find a connection. I would have suggested showing a clip of Shahs Of Sunset BEFORE Persepolis to allow students to understand the nexus between the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the flight of Iranians to the United States. As an alternative, there are sites with Ayatollah Khomeini (which, I assume, even the most limited education will be aware of) and under stand why the events in the movie took place. Part of the problem (and I have this conversation with English teachers regularly) is the books that are mandated are of limited interest becasue they don’t understand the nexus upfront. To show pictures of African-Americans being lynched and playing the song “Strange Fruit” makes To Kill A Mockingbird more powerful. Throwing the book at them cold is pointless.

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    • April 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm
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      Actually, Mike, since we had just finished The Kite Runner, I saw this as a natural continuation. We were in the same time period and roughly the same geographic region. These were seniors who already studied this from a history perspective the previous year. And frankly, there was no time for additional pre-teaching since this was filling a week between TKR and starting the next quarter. You have good ideas, but don’t forget, the film adaptation actually puts the events in a historical context.

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  • May 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm
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    Your point is valid but for:

    1. Iranians are NOT Arabs, they are Persian. They speak Farsi and not Arabic. The Arabs are a minority in Iran and not well thought of. People is Iran have a legacy going back to the Persian dynasties (which, but for Alexander, would have changed the history of the world). Cultural differences are profound (including the treatment of women since there are more female PHDs in Iran than anywhere else in the Middle East).

    2. Iranians are Shia Muslims, whereas most of the Middle East (including those in the Kite Runner) are Sunni. This has created a major cleavage in the Middle East to this day. One of the reasons that Iran is a major power-broker today is due to the fact that the United States has neutralized their primary opponents (to wit-Saddam Hussein and the Taliban). the difference in culture is noteworthy (I would go into greater detail but you would need to enroll in my course in Comparative Politics).

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