Reflections After 17 Days

Now that we’re 17 days into the new school year, I think I have enough evidence to make a few conclusions.

Our switch to block scheduling has been pretty smooth and I have to say I like it a lot. Although I have to keep my eye on the clock, the lessons are flowing smoothly and there’s enough time to really let an issue hang in the air and see what the kids do with it. Our work is a little more focused and targeted which is a good thing and it also means that we’re moving through material at a pace that means we’re not belaboring any one thing for too long.

For example, after some introductory work, my 10th graders spent five classes on international Cinderella stories to find cultural differences and story themes. This week they wrote the final analytical essay and now we’re moving on to good old Oedipus. There won’t be time for them to get overly bored with any one thing and if they don’t like one topic, another is coming soon enough.

I have come to love working with the honors students since they come ready to work, don’t fight me on assignments, and are not afraid to ask questions and offer opinions. This past week, my 11th graders spent two days in the library doing work in preparation for our reading The Crucible and it was really gratifying seeing them use the technology and actually “get” the content and make the necessary connections between when Arthur Miller wrote the play and the era the story is set in.

On the other hand, both grades have demonstrated a distinct lack of comfort working with tech beyond their cellphones. Some couldn’t use PowerPoint while others asked me to define words despite sitting at a laptop connected to the internet and inside our library where there are these things called books. While the world sees them as the digital generation, I see them as the selfie generation so we have some work to do.

They also all need additional work on their writing. I passed back essays to my 10th graders, all who freaked out at the low scores. I asked them to match my score and comments against the rubric and if they could make a case for a higher number they should challenge me. None did and are at work revising their introductions. I expect the same with the juniors this week.

Additionally, I now have enough classes under my belt to see that I need to do more differentiation than originally anticipated. My standard 11 is almost equally divided in thirds between ESOL, Special Ed inclusion, and standard students. I switched up one Native American lesson on them which worked out well. I have been learning a lot from the Special Ed teacher coteaching the class with me. Thankfully we share the same high level of energy.

Year two is really off to  vastly different start than last year for which I am highly grateful.

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