Looking Back at the First Quarter

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Time is flying.Our second quarter began October 25 and I have been meaning to reflect back on it ever since but here we are a week later and I’m finally getting to it.Given religious and national holidays, the first quarter felt long. The prolonged summer heat didn’t help, keeping kids longing to be back outdoors. Having six classes also took its toll on my time as I came to miss the planning period I sacrificed so we could offer Journalism. There were some days I blitzed grading and other times checked for completion and spot-checked for comprehension.Our sophomore service day was early this year, but it was a rewarding day, watching the students volunteer with the United Way’s Project Homeless Connect, helping the homeless at the Armory in Washington, D.C.A bit of a surprise was how much of a struggle it has been differentiating Honors British Literature from standard British Literature. The pacing has to be different, fitting in an extra work this semester for the honors kids, but so does the work. I’d done this back at Owings Mills and don’t recall it being so challenging.I’m attacking Macbeth two different ways and we’ll see which works best. I admit to using some of these classes to try out different things. (My department chair and I took the Junior class to the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company for their version of the Scottish Play with most staying awake and we only managed to leave one student behind.)The students are mostly fine and I am making some nice connections. For the most part, they buy what I have to sell and appreciate the energy I bring into the room. The three sophomore American Literature classes have lingered in the Puritan times a little longer than I would like but I do appreciate I have structured things.We went from discussing Jim Crow and the Great Depression, as seen in To Kill a Mockingbird, to the changing race dynamics at the birth of the Civil Rights Era coupled with the rise of the Cold War, influencing the women in Hidden Figures. That allowed me to take the Cold War themes and introduce Allegory and The Crucible. With that firm foundation, we’ll circle back in May to John Lewis’ graphic novel memoir March Vol. 3 so I’ll be activating prior knowledge all along.I’ve also been making the kids read. During the first quarter, I had them each select a work by an American or British author and have them read on their own. Just before the quarter ended, I had them share about their books through a Socratic Seminar and they spent more time talking to me and not one another so I consider that a bit of a bust. I’ll be trying something different for the second quarter, but I am determined to have them read.Journalism has been a mixed bag since I thought having just nine kids would be great. Instead, six of them are seniors who thought the elective would be an easy A and are taking umbrage at having to work. The other three are sophomores so I have a core on which to build for next year.Report cards went out last week and no outraged emails or calls from parents so I’ll take that as a positive sign.As Junior Class Moderator, I have watched our relatively apathetic class become incredibly competitive during the quarterly Class COmpetition which i also take as a good sign of the year ahead.

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