I find it hard to believe that we are more than halfway through the first quarter. Our classes began August 26 and the quarter ends on Oct. 21, so it’s barreling along.
I am relieved to see everyone from freshmen to seniors are happy to be back in the building. They mostly do not complain about having to wear masks or sit in assigned seats. We’ve had one confirmed case and the seating charts let us quickly do contact tracing and all turned out negative. Considering we got through last year without a single case, we were due for something and it’s minor.
Our principal reports he’s heard nothing but good things from the parents and my talks with them at Back to School night echo that. The email correspondence has also been productive as we work together to help the students readjust to school life.
My freshmen, for the most part, haven’t been in school since seventh grade, so I see they have gaps we need to fill in, especially with grammar and literary devices. As a class, they are polite and well-behaved, a nice start.
There is a more marked difference between the College Prep classes and the Honors classes but in both cases, I have to do more chunking of the work to ensure they know what’s expected. I am trying to teach them about note-taking, email etiquette, and annotating works.
This week I finally began to differentiate the two groups now that everyone has settled into the routines and has some common ground under their feet. In poetry, my honors kids are beginning to explore spoken word/slam poetry and I can see many eager eyes, ready to try it.
For the first time, I have two classes of honors juniors who I previously taught as freshmen. We were together as the quarantine separated us. Between the two, there are six I haven’t taught before so they’re comfortable classes. What I notice, though, is that they’ve grown mentally lazy.
This week they were to complete long-term assignments about Beowulf which were assigned at the beginning of the unit. Despite my reminding them the due date was approaching; it was clear none of them had really absorbed the work nor allocated time for it. Instead of simply failing them, I rearranged the schedule to give them two days to complete (or in most cases, start) the work. What I received was not at all at the level of the same assignments from previous classes. The deep comprehension of the story and culture was reduced to rushed surface thinking. I called them out on it, hoping they got the message as we move ahead.
For me, it’s nice that I am mostly adjusting lessons from the past, freshening as needed, and not rebuilding the work as I have had to do the last few years. It leaves me a little more time for professional development, grading, or a wee bit more personal time on the weekends.