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.