Three Quarters Down

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We managed to hit the end of the third quarter on Thursday, and suddenly, it feels as if the 2023-24 is flying by. Normally, the third quarter feels like a slog, but not this year. I love that the administration gives us the day after each quarter for grading, so this was a welcome three-day weekend.

My freshmen continue to be a delight, mostly prepared and engaged in the content. However, I will admit that they seemed more preoccupied with their work for other classes last week. There was at least one day when it felt like I was running a study hall as everyone crammed for a math test.

We finished Of Mice and Men, which continues to emotionally connect with them, so that’s a keeper. We have begun Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and here, I had to front-load a lot of history and culture, supplementing what they learned this year in World Cultures.

It was a gray, cool day, but that didn’t stop the freshmen from playing kickball.

Most of February was spent reading American Street to the sophomores, who freely admitted they wouldn’t read it if assigned out of class. They very much enjoyed the book but not so much the related work. Learning does not seem to interest the bulk of them, so it remains a daily challenge.

I tried working in some current events and critical thinking as I gave them a refresher on media bias and then had them read six stories on the same topic from across the ideological spectrum. They needed to plot its liberal/conservative bias and its reliability on a graph, and most struggled. First, they said they didn’t know the difference between liberals and conservatives, despite their American history teacher assuring me he’s taught it. We did it twice, and few enjoyed it, so I may need to try something else to get them thinking.

I also helped judge the Shakespeare Monologue Competition and thought it was great to see freshmen join in the fun.

A number of companies have sprouted up with AI-assisted tools to make classes more engaging or my life easier. I’ve been trying out SchoolAI and MagicSchoolAI, which have their plusses and minuses. I don’t love either quite yet, but they’re also rapidly evolving, so we’ll see. I’m also trying to get the administration to write a more comprehensive AI policy since I increasingly find students using it for everything.

Beyond the classroom, I had just two students sign up to help with the Black History Month doorway competition, but they were diligent, and the results were solid. The freshmen class also had a fun afternoon of kickball on a brisk Friday afternoon. As moderator, I am delighted to see the leadership plan and execute these events. We have two more planned for the year, which would total four, more than usual.

Writer/artist Thom Zahler addressed my MICA student for an informative talk.

Over the last few weeks, our attention has increasingly turned to planning for next year. Students have to complete their course registration this week, the incoming class of 2028 has to make their commitments, and faculty are deciding whether to return and what new roles they may want. It’s an interesting time as the seniors anxiously countdown to their final day of classes and impending graduation.

Over at MICA, the students had their Spring Break this week, and I could sense they needed it as exhaustion reigned and their output slowed. Almost to a student, I was promised they’d catch up during this week, but we’ll see next Wednesday.

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