Monday, December 5, 2011

HELP! Ideas? My last class is unruly. Day #4

Today…we had progress.  We worked for close to 15 minutes on our class and what it should behave like.  Tomorrow, I plan on getting into what it should look like. I am planning prodding to find all of the motivation I can.  Hopefully the last few days will make the minds of my students malleable enough to draw out true motivation.

I look forward to what the class has to share and how we can be engaged in learning from all participants.  This battle will be daily, but I hope that the groundwork that has been laid will provide a solid base for engaged and active learning.

I will keep you posted on the progress.

Friday, December 2, 2011

HELP! Ideas? My last class is unruly. Day #3

Day 3 saw more classroom participation by 200%.  I would be excited about that statistic if it was doubling 20 or 30 minutes, but it is doubling 3 and a half minutes.  The students are simply defiant.  There were many times that I saw hope and thought we were getting somewhere but it didn't happen.

During the class I was sent three students from another class because they were being disruptive in their class and were being given a “team time out.”  Even those students were vocal about the fact that my class was being “stupid” and didn’t recognize how they were supposed to act.

I gave in today and wrote “Sit in the circle and do not get up.  After we are quiet we will begin. We are a class and everyone must follow along.”  This sparked good discussion, but it did not grow into fruition.  I want to be careful not to place too much emphasis on being quiet, but if we can’t master this basic skill, we can’t move on to trust and productive noise.

The same situation occurred today as did yesterday: after fifteen minutes, the class quieted down and we discussed which “reasons for being in class” they could control.  The discussion was going well and then a couple of students began a side conversation that was overly distracting.  Therefore, I waited for the class to get quiet again and it never happened.  One student bit his pen and filled his mouth with ink (accidentally); I didn’t expect that.

As I have voiced what I am doing to other teachers at the school, I hear more and more teachers validating the process and they are curious to its affect on the students’ class behavior.  A student (one that is middle of the road in terms of behavior) came to me after class and informed me that I was allowed to send out the half of the disruptive class so that we can get started.  Well, thank you for giving me permission.  If it were only that easy to get rid of the kids that are disruptive, I would have already.

Our job is to mold students to be productive citizens and to teach them to cooperate and collaborate. Sending them out of class is telling the student that they are not able to control themselves so they should not be part of the general population.  We have places like that in society, but let’s not get them accustomed to correctional institutes quite yet.  Some of them already know that life by seeing their mother or father in and out of it. Let’s not give them any more reason to follow suit.

While I’m sharing my day, in another class I had three students threaten to send their dads and uncles up to talk to me.  They were reprimanded for being out of place and did not understand why I would not “just understand.”  I called one mother today because her daughter walked out of class without permission for the third time this year, and she began to tell me how I was not doing my job.  She informed me that she was going to the school board to get me fired.  Is this how every school is?  Am I simply humoring myself on the idea that students can be productive community citizens and can improve the world around them?

Where do I go from here?  How do I bounce back next week?  There is only one way to find out, so I will jump in with both feet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

HELP! Ideas? My last class is unruly. Day #2

Day 2 of the quiet game did a little better than day 1, but it was nothing to write home about.  I started today like yesterday with the students in a circle and asking the students to get quiet with my posture and demeanor.  They knew what I was expecting and did not comply until about 15 minutes into class.

Once the class was quiet, I asked them, “Why are you here?”  There were many responses and I had a recorder write down the answers.  During these 200 seconds, they could not stay focused and began with their side conversations (very typical of this class).  Here is a picture of their list.

The students did not calm down for the next 50 minutes.  My heart dropped when they would not calm down.  I told the teachers in my hall that I would have cried if I was an outwardly emotional guy.  They have no clue!  There is no desire to cooperate or even to speak civilized with one another.  After talking to my wife, she said that they might not have the capacity to care about their learning.  I do not want to believe that.

I did break my silence a few times because their conversation moved to making fun of people and to the fight that I broke up on Wednesday.  Some students were still trying to get everyone quiet.  One boy kept asking people to quiet down, but he was timid and would not assert himself.  Another girl said, “Guys, we can’t even be quiet enough to do anything,” and “Mr. Porter, can’t you just send out the ones that are talking or give them all detentions.”  I wanted to respond with, “I would love for your desire to rub off on them instead of putting a Band-Aid on the problem.”

After the class, I walked outside to monitor and make sure a repeat of Wednesday did not happen.  I have morning duty, so I am not accustomed to being outside of the building when school is let out.  To my amazement, I counted six teachers leaving before the all of the students had even exited the building.  They were out of the doors like the building was on fire.  I can understand one teacher that was rushing out to get to a doctor’s appointment (or something similar) but six teachers flooding out of the building?  Do they not need to wrap up their day?  Is there not a sense of responsibility to make sure all of the students get out safely?  It was confusing to me.

Again, I am hopeful.  If you have any suggestions, please comment, email, mention, or DM me.  Otherwise, I am going to continue this method.  I will say one thing though; This experiment is not as stressful as trying to teach through the defiance.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HELP! Ideas? My last class is unruly.

“HELP! Ideas? My last class is unruly. I am having difficulties w/8of24 students-theyRreturning 7th graders who don't care (it seems) #edchat” was my tweet on Monday after a stressful day in the classroom.  I am having trouble getting 100%, or even 80%, class participation because of talking, sleeping, acting up, fighting, arguing, defiance, acting incapable, etc.  Jonathan (@jelkimantis on twitter) replied back to me and asked a few more questions.  Eventually that night, he wrote a blog and told me to give his idea a shot.  After reading the blog, I was excited and commented:

Great post! I think this has some potential. My students come from families that struggle daily for food. Most of them are either under their parent(s) thumb or let out to roam the streets. I think this will be good, and I am going to do this with one of my classes to see how it works. I am out of good options so this comes at a great time. Thank you for your honesty and help.

I tried to implement the experiment on Tuesday but another teacher was out, so I had to have extra students in class.  I gave it a shot today (Wednesday).

The students entered my room at 2:15pm.  I had the chairs circled and I was sitting in a one of the chairs looking as if I had something to say.  I had a paper in my hands and had already asked one of the students to write for me on a whiteboard.  As the students sat and got comfortable, they talked and wondered what was going on.  We have sat in a circle before so it was not completely new.  Some students asked me to use the restroom or get water and I simply put my hand up and put my finger to my mouth to suggest being quiet.

At this point, they understood that I wanted them quiet, in order to tell them something.  Over the next 15-20 minutes they slowly got quieter, but never was there a time that less than four students were talking.  My compassion began to kick in when I saw the faces of the three students that do what they are asked and try to improve.  They were wondering what they were going to do.  Some students tried to hush others, but most of those students were the loud ones when they were not trying to calm the rest.  A third group of students did not care.  I heard on boy say, “I’m sorry, but it is impossible for me to be quiet.”

There was a definite ebb and flow of noise for the next 30 minutes as students started to become restless.  They wanted someone to tell them what to do.  They wanted someone to try and calm the unruly students.  I simply sat and motioned students to be quiet when they asked a question.  Some of the things I heard were: “Everyone is getting a detention tomorrow.” “Mr. Porter lost his voice.”  “Be quiet and we will do the activity.”  “Mr. Porter, are you okay?” “We are going to pay for this tomorrow.”  “What is the catch here?”  “How long are we going to sit here?”  “Did the other classes take this long to get quiet?”

I only planned on being quiet for about 15-20 minutes (until everyone was quiet) but that never came.  So, I was silent the entire 75 minutes.  Announcements came on and I was silent.  The dismissal bell rang, and I was silent.  After everyone left, I walked to the door and noticed a crowd of students.  One student was being beaten up by two others, so I broke up the fight and had to break my silence.

What is wrong?  I want them to want to be quiet and listen to the speaker (whoever that may be).  I want them to do something as a class unit.  I want them to determine that they are better off cooperating than not.  I want them to see value in the class.  I want them to feel and take OWNERSHIP in their own learning.

I will continue the silence tomorrow, but I expect them to be quiet in about 5-10 minutes.  Tomorrow, they will see that it is not going to change until they decide to change it.  I want to get to a discussion of why they are there and what their responsibilities are, but they must want it too.

After contemplating the day, I realized that at least four students could not be quiet (the four shifted through the class).  That is 17% of my students in the class.  So, during class and silent reading, the best situation is 83% participation.  However, the norm is usually 25% participation, just because they are quiet does not mean they are working/reading.

I am out of good ideas, so I hope the students use this experiment to take ownership of their behavior and their learning. I am hopeful.  I am not a teacher that enjoys silence.  I want discussion and collaboration, but not at the expense of ignoring the need to be quiet and listen and calm down and evaluate a speaker's words.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why are People so Darn Bashful?

Why do people feel a need to follow the crowd?  I believe that the simplest answer is it that they would rather be lazy and comfortable than stand up for their individualism.  Why else would someone disregard their own thought to follow the majority?  Maybe I am even further off than I imagine, but I have a higher view of humanity than to think that men do not think for themselves.  This can be seen in the Social Media phenomenon.  It seems that, behind the mask of the internet and a computer screen, men will type what they are thinking.  People have a mind and have independent thinking, but they choose to limit the projection of that thought to the internet.

When men enter the public square they are bashful and timid; they follow the majority.  The danger here is that the majority will follow the big, flashy opinion.  What happens when the opinion that is the most attractive has been born of ignorance or deception?  Silence is the other option.  I have seen this most often lately.  No one will speak their mind.  Either they are afraid of what others will say about their opinions or they have nothing to say.  Could those options be one in the same?

I am not the most intelligent man by any means.  I fail and mess up at least as many times as I succeed.  I am quick to act and slow to think most of the time.  My opinions usually go against the norm (sometimes just because I don’t want to follow the majority).  I like to argue and be right.  I would consider myself to have more reason and less emotion.  I compartmentalize ideas and theories.  I was taught not to care what anyone thinks about me.  What do I do with myself?  Do I continue to argue and debate my opinions?  Do I sit back like the majority?  John Adams said that if the wise don’t lead, someone else will.  I guess I will lead and pray that God will give me the wisdom.  Maybe I am being arrogant.

Sorry for the rant, but I needed to get that out.

"May the odds be ever in your favor!"

Katniss and Peeta outwitted the Gamemakers in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, but will they get away with it?  Students get a thrill out of following Katniss from District 12 to the Capital in order to battle in the Hunger Games.  There is no shortage of drama and suspense as she travels with Peeta (the showmance) and Haymitch (the drunken coach) leaving Gale (the best “friend”) behind.  The Capital is looking forward to a great slaughter that involves betrayal and brutal killings, but will they get everything they want?  Read the book with the students and help them find out.  They will be begging to check out the rest of the trilogy one you have finished reading.

Citizen schools gives the students the chance to live out the book by allowing them to work on their presentation skills.  They can create commercials for the tributes or act out love scenes between Katniss and Peeta or Katniss and Gale.  Maybe the students could create a facebook chat between the three of them.  Why not challenge the students to create a scale model of the arena?  The possibilities are endless but the goal is the same: teach the students to respect humanity and to challenge authority when it is abusive.

With the premier of the book on March 23, 2012, the reading of the book would be a great lead-in to taking the class to the movie and noticing the differences between the two.  A great discussion could be had about why the movie is different and why they would change the book.  Whatever the activities and follow up to the book, the students are sure to have a great time reading and dreaming of what they would do if they were Katniss.


Citizen Schools Fellowship teachers have the opportunity to impact low-income, deserving students.  These students need your guidance and support.  They need someone to invest in their lives and in the future of America.  If you are a teacher already and need financial support to do what you want to in your classroom, try making a request for supplies at  I have had success in the past from DonorsChoose and plan on using them in the future to allow people to invest in the lives of my students.

Zane Porter (HendersonNC)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Signs Everywhere! They Know Who I Am!

I went into this market today on my way home from school.  I was greeted by many signs warning, asking, and threatening me.  Besides the punctuation mistakes, I was disheartened that they have to put these signs up.  Not only are we struggling with the students, but the private sector is struggling with the adults.  We have a cultural issue that needs a reboot.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Band of Brothers and Assessments

I watched Band of Brothers again this weekend.  As I was watching "Bastone," I heard Doc's prayer as he sunk into his foxhole.  He repeated a few lines that sparked my curiosity so I searched for them on Google and came up with Saint Francis' prayer.  Here it is (copied from wikipedia)...

Why can't we all be this selfless? I want to be this selfless for the glory of the "Divine Master."  Even in the 13th century, men were trying to convince themselves of the holiness of thinking of others above yourself.

Second, I was reading this blog and enjoyed the three questions of whether a students is successful or not. Here they are:
1.)  Are you improving?
2.)  Are you feeling confident in yourself and your ability to learn?
3.)  Can you take your mistakes and turn it into an opportunity to learn something from them?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Evaluative Essays

My classes started writing their evaluative essays today.  We have spent two days learning the concept of evaluation, brainstorming, prewriting, and outlining our essay. I had hopes of getting most of our first drafts written, but quickly realized that the students were not ready to begin writing; after modeling and giving detailed instructions I let them start and was greeted with 20 hands for help.

 Contemplating the reason for this has left me with four thoughts…
1. I didn't prepare them well enough.
2. The students lack confidence in their own writing.
3. The students want to be hand fed the essay.
4. I do not let them work independently enough and they are scared to "fly out of the nest."

Do you ever feel this way? My classroom cannot be all that different.  Maybe it's that I have forgotten how hard writing used to be for me and how much of a chore it felt like.

How can I inspire them to write on their own?  I am tired of hand holding (especially when a student doesn't know the assignment after the directions were broken down and modeled).  How do I hold the students accountable for listening and following directions when they see no value in the work being done, but there is great value in the lesson?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Whoo Hoo!

Pulling into Sam's Club today, Bryson asked me what I learned in Church. I told him that one day those whom belong to Jesus will have new bodies and will be in Heaven with Jesus.  He yelled, "Whoo Hoo! That is so awesome.  Can I come too?" I told him that he could after I yelled Whoo Hoo to match his excitement.

Walking up to the store I told Bryson and Ashlyn that God will give us new bodies and that we will still know each other.

How exciting to hear a child's response to the Good News of the resurrection.  May we all be so blown away instead of thinking that it is just 'old hat.'

By the way, the passage from this morning was the end of 1 Corinthians 15.

Democratic, Constitutional Republic

So…I was struck when reading Liberty Defined by Ron Paul.  I read his chapter on Democracy and learned more than I did in both High School Civics/Free Enterprise and College Political Science.  I have always known that America is a Constitutional Republic (Constitution-based federal republic with a strong democratic tradition), but I didn’t know what that really was until now.  I will blame my ignorance and lacking political motivation for this one though.  The information was probably lectured to me or in the readings, but I didn’t really care to know.  Now I care.  Funny how that happens huh?

Democracy – Law is up for grabs based on political maneuvering and majority rule.
Republic – Appointment of leaders and the administration of laws.

We elect our representatives to advance the will of the people (Democracy) and we have officials in place to uphold the law and ensure the compliance of those laws with the constitution (Republic).  I think this is a fair definition.  The majority can be wrong and the officials are there to ensure liberty for all (not just for the majority – slavery for example).  However, if the majority wants something that would not infringe upon the rights of the other citizens, then majority rule is not a bad thing.

Ron Paul stated that, “governments have nothing to pass out, since they produce nothing.”  Therefore, when the majority wants to steal from the rich to support the poor, it is infringing upon the rights of the rich.  These sorts of policies are not part of a republic because the leaders are not protecting all of the people, just the majority.

Just a thought.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Imaginary Games, Frosties, and Swinging

The kids and I decided to go to the baseball field today.  We played on the field by hitting, throwing, and trying to tag each other out.  After a while of playing and working up an appetite, we went and ate lunch.  Then we took some Frosties back to the field for a little more fun.

You can kind of see Bryson in the third base dugout eating his Frosty.  He decided that he wanted to eat his alone in the dugout.  He is just like his daddy (wanting to be alone).  Ashlyn sat with me and we enjoyed our Frosties together.

After completing our dessert, Bryson played some imaginary baseball.  Do you remember doing that?  I do!  I used to stand on the mound and throw "strikes" to the imaginary batters.  The crowd would go wild and I would be the hero.  Or, I would come to bat in the bottom of the 9th and hit a walk off homerun.  It is neat to see him play the same games.  Today, he said he was the Texas Rangers and he was playing the St. Louis Cardinals.  I wonder where he got that idea?

Ashlyn just wanted to swing.  She loves to swing.  We have a swing set in the backyard (from her Mimi and Papi) that she swings on, but these swings were much bigger.  I was swinging next to her and watching Bryson play.  I forgot how peaceful it is to swing and just let the gravitational energy take you along.

It has been a fun day.  Tara is at a Women's Day at the church so we got to have a little daddy/kid fun.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ron Paul's "Liberty Defined"

Lately, I have been listening to many of Lew Rockwell's Podcasts. I love listening to his show.

I started reading Ron Paul's Liberty Defined this afternoon.  It is such a wisp of fresh air to read this book.  I do not agree with everything he has to say but I do agree with the majority of it.  Ron Paul is able to break complicated ideas down so that it makes sense to me.  Liberty is the name of the game in his book and he walks through "50 essential issues that affect our freedom."  The issues are in alphabetical order and I am only to the CIA, but I am enjoying it immensely.

A couple of takeaways...
  1. Ron Paul is Pro-Life.  He says that life begins at conception.  I agree.  It is hard to disagree.  The only thing that can make a human is the zygote formed at conception, so by default, it is human
  2. Ron Paul say life begins at conception, but later in the same chapter says that the day-after pill is an acceptable form of birth control.  That seems to be a contradiction to me.
  3. Assassinations and the Death Penalty are used for evil by our government.  There are too many variables, the accuracy is almost never 100%, and it is difficult to trust anyone in politics.
  4. Death penalty and Abortion are both items to be addressed at the state level, NOT by the federal government.

I look forward to having my mind stretched by reading about these issues.  Thank you Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell for teaching me about our freedoms and liberty.

Reading Levels

While sitting in a reading program conference, I realized how behind our students are.  It is no wonder our kids are not performing at grade level.  They can't read and we don't know how to teach them to read. There needs to be a better intervention and Lexia looks like a good program to use.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Odds & Ends

1. I love my son and his imagination.  However, he likes to have his toys, “hoods” (imaginary kids), or imaginary friends do things that he would get in trouble for.  Bryson has a great imagination, but it can get tiring when we have to continue to talk to him about how what his imaginary friends do is what he is doing.
 2. It has been at least three years since I have looked for clothes for myself somewhere other than Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club.  I looked for corduroy pants at the mall, Ross, and Old Navy today.  Here are a few observations: clothes are expensive, no one sells much corduroy, and I have to shop in the big&tall section.
 3. I would love to coach and teach at the high school level as quickly as possible (preferably close to my house).

4. I have a great wife and mother of my children.

5. I want to want to exercise more and to eat better.  I just don’t want it enough right now.

6. Trying to motivate students to want to read is one of the hardest things I have ever done.

7. I don’t like programs.  Whether they are church programs or school initiatives, I hate programs and the meetings that come with them.

8.  I want to get a masters to improve my teaching career, but I don’t quite know what to study.

9. I am short with Ashlyn sometimes and I don’t like it.

10.  I have been having many (I don’t want to say regrets because I don’t really regret them but) thoughts about how I could have done things differently in my life up to this point.  My thoughts have been really selfish and I don’t want to focus on the past without striving to navigate the present well.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I Failed This Week!

The curriculum for my class this past week was about 20% vocabulary words (word stems), 40% Hatchet (our novel), and 40% author’s purpose.  To teach author’s purpose, I used a Prezi with videos and student interaction.  We watched videos, listened to podcasts, read passages, looked at real-world brochures, and examined the author’s purpose in each.  After observing and working with the students for the week, I thought they had it down (there are only three options).

I assessed the students with a four passage and four question formative quiz.  After running the numbers, the students averaged a 38% (A THIRTY-EIGHT PERCENT)!  Oh, I tell you it makes me feel like a failure.  I know that I need to re-teach author’s purpose now because I can’t do irony and predicting (this week’s lessons) without it.  Unfortunately, if I take more time to re-teach, something in my last unit will suffer by not having enough time.

What do other teachers do?  Do they continue with their pacing guide?  I will re-teach, but I’m not sure how to make it more attractive to the learners.  Student motivation is lacking and I feel like I have used all of my motivational influence.  They should have mastered the concept in forth grade but they still struggle with it in seventh.  Does it make sense to you?

Coffee with Two Creamers and a Pride

Our church has a rotation for serving the body in necessary, but thankless, ways.  It is great to be a part of a body of believers that wants the body to grow evenly, both in spiritual awareness of scripture/theology and in service to the body.  For the past six months, Tara and I have been in a class that explored “Tough Questions” that come with following Christ.  Last week we began serving the body of Christ by keeping the coffee supplies stocked, washing all of the coffee hardware, cleaning the coffee area, taking out all of the coffee trash, and setting up/breaking down the communion tables.

I have noticed a few things about humans throughout the service these last two weeks.  Coffee seems to be a tacked on luxury that North Wake Church supplies for itself.  Money is taken from the budget to supply cups, lids, coffee, creamers, sugar, alternative sweeteners, napkins, stir straws, etc.  So, in effect, the supplies being used belong to the body because the body pays for it through giving.  There are those that seem to think that the coffee area in the foyer is the one place that 1 Corinthians 14 does not apply.  We are called to be selfless and to build up the body.

When you are getting your coffee, be considerate of the others around you.  Once you have gotten your coffee, be considerate of those around you.  If you are not getting coffee, be considerate of those around you.  It seems that people do not care about anyone but themselves when it comes to coffee.  My wife said, “It’s probably because they haven’t had their fix yet.”  I tend to agree with her, but we are not coffee drinkers, so we don’t know.
Pride simply comes out easier when we are not being intentional about humbling ourselves and our cravings.  When there is no creamer, donate some.  If the cups are running low, do something about it.  If the little creamer cups are gone, instead of rolling your eyes and pouting, be content and show love by compromising a little.  There is no little situation when it comes to building up the body.  Boast in the cross and humble yourself to service, not selfish pride.

I don’t want to finish this post without writing that I have seen a handful of people humble themselves and serve, but the bad taste that the selfish pride leaves in my mouth seems too pungent to ignore.  I can only write this because I tend to be boastful in other areas of my life; I am slowly becoming aware of those selfish areas where I need to petition God to change my heart.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Simply Find What Motivates Them!

This week, my class worked on context clues.  We discussed and looked at four different types of context clues, we worked in groups to find context clues in our novel, we found context clues in infographics, and we took a short test to see how they progressed.  For the first time this year (in four weeks) we met our class goal in at least one class and were 1% from our goal in another.  It feels good to reach those goals, but it also feels shallow because as teachers, we can manipulate the numbers to reflect anything we want.

I realize that I could make the questions easier, or make the answer choices less tricky, or grade on a slightly favorable scale.  I can manipulate the data and then it becomes poor data.  The students who don't put forth their best effort manipulate the numbers too.  One or two students not trying or not motivated to put in the effort to gain a proper outcome spoil the class average and their own individual data.

So how beneficial is the sort of quiz that sets a goal for a class.  Does it really do anything other than motivate the already motivated and ignore the motivation of the unmotivated?  That's unfair to say (I guess); all of my students are motivated.  It just seems that more are motivated by peer pressure and trying to get away with breaking a policy/procedure.  They are motivated to make fun of other students so that their flaws are not highlighted.  They are motivated to get revenge on the girl that posted "all that junk" on Facebook.  They are motivated to do as little as possible and see who really gives a flying flip.  They are motivated to see if whining and crying about the simplest things will distract the teacher so much that he will forget about their inability to read.  They are motivated to write everything in “text speak” so that no one will really see that they can't write and don't know how to spell.  They are motivated to get back at their parents (or nowhere-to-be-found family members). 

My job is simple.  Teach the kids to read and write.  Teach them to love to learn for learning’s sake because if they are bribed to learn, their learning will prove fruitless.  Motivate the boy who only cares about getting high and the girl that only wants a boy to love her and will do anything for it.

It's easy...find what motivates them and use it.

Sorry for the rambling, but my frustration comes out in a jumbled mess.  I think about teaching other grades and about teaching in other counties, but would it really be different? And even if it was different, is God going to send these students anyone else that will put up with their bull? 

The grass looks greener on the other side; it even smells better and is cut in neat designs.  However, is that the place of greatest impact?  Is that the place that I will have the greatest impact?  Will these students eventually understand that they need to work harder than the privileged children to overcome their station in life? I guess only time will tell.

Monday, September 12, 2011

So Little Time for Everything

Literacy is the name of the game in Vance County, NC this year.  Before the year began, there was a great push with a day long professional development.  I read Readicide over the summer and was planning on implementing a great deal of reading into the curriculum this year (which isn't hard because I teach Language Arts).  I came into the year with two major goals.  One, to give each student the opportunity to get to a point where they lose themselves in a book.  Two, to cultivate that deep reading into a foundation for academic reading.  To do this, I have implemented three ideas into my class.

1. At least 10 minutes of silent reading everyday in my class. - This has proved a daunting task. 40% of the students hate reading and refuse to give any literature a chance. There isn't enough time in the class period for the class novel, writing, vocabulary, and silent reading.  Students don't understand reading for pleasure.  Without a reading guide to fake their way through or a worksheet to hunt for answers in, they are lost.  "You mean you just want us to read Mr. Porter?" Yes, your heart out. 

2. Articles of the Week (AoW) - This is the only homework assignment that I give.  The students are given a current events article to read to create prior knowledge that is lacking.  After they read, there is a reading strategy to practice and a question to think about and answer.  The students were excited about the little amount of homework required and they are talking about the subject matter to each other. So far so good. 

3. Read aloud novel and presenting one essay question to discuss throughout the novel (which will be their essay question at the end of the book). I like this approach so far. We have looked at specific paragraphs and discussed the importance of Brian's changes in the wilderness (Hatchet).

I feel rushed to do what the county wants with reading, to have a meaningful silent reading program, to teach writing, to teach the content that cannot be wrapped into the novel, and to teach the novel. How do teachers do it all and do it well?

It seems that something is going to have to give. I refuse to teach through the content just to get through it. Maybe we just won't get through it all, and I think I'm okay with that.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Year Three, The First Full Week

Wow... The first week of school has certainly been a full one.  Getting used to a new required lesson plan format, leading a team of teachers for the first time, having 15 students back in the same grade as last year, and my son starting kindergarten for the second time (he transfered schools) has been a hectic and full week.

It is tough to teach a whole week on vocabulary and elements of plot then see the scores of my assessment.  The accelerated class averaged a 61% on the quiz and my other 3 classes fared in the 30%-40% range. I'm not sure how to reteach the material though.  I thought I was getting through and the in class formative assessments were mostly positive.  If I re-teach the material, then I have to sacrifice other material.  I feel handcuffed.

The vocabulary scores were not as bad as the plot scores, but they were still not passing.

I need this shirt.
Basic American Apparel T-Shirt

Classroom management still seems to have a negative impact on the learning for 2 of my 4 classes.  I am always behind with them because I have to spend so much time correcting behavior and not coaching student work.  The problems are the students that are in 7th grade for a second year.   Why are those kids allowed to ruin the education of the others, or am I to blame for not "reaching" the at-risk students?

I do not want to play the victim because I am not trying to get rid of accountability.  I simply need help from someone who has been successful with these kids.  I do not know of anyone who has at the school.  Any success has been in other disciplines or fabricated by weeding out the trouble students.  The PDs on classroom management simply suggest ideas that I have tried and have failed at with my students.  There is no substitute for internal student motivation, but how does one help them achieve that when it is their 4th year in middle school and they are in 7th grade?

I will continue to try and motivate. I will teach the course, but is that enough? I don't think it is.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bryson's Kindergarten Open House

            Tonight was Bryson’s first open house for kindergarten.  Tara and I were both excited about this meeting (he has been in class for five days).  Bryson was excited to show us his classroom, teachers, and friends.
            On the way into the school, a boy told his mother,
            “That’s Bryson.  He’s funny.”  The boy talked to Bryson and played with him the entire time.  He asked Bryson questions and was social with him.  The boy also stood up for him.  Another child told Bryson to scream in the room, and of course, he did.  The teacher reprimanded Bryson and the boy told Mrs. Green that Franklin told him to do it.  The teacher’s response was,
            “Now, we know we are all supposed to help Bryson.”
This is the the boy in the green shirt that played with Bryson.
            “That’s Bryson.  He’s the different one.” Another girl told her mom.
            We know that Bryson is different and we are not surprised by the reactions/comments, so that didn’t faze us too much.  However, after speaking to the Teacher’s Aide, Tara and I wanted a change for Bryson.  Apparently, Bryson has run away (without his teachers' knowing), licked the windows, licked the playground equipment, does not stay in line, has trouble at bathroom time, etc.  The Aide was in the middle of telling Tara all of this when I entered the conversation and I could tell that the Aide thought Bryson would do better somewhere else.
            Tonight, I wrote a letter to his teacher and hope that we can work out Bryson’s education plan.  If a change doesn’t help, I guess Tara will home school Bryson.  Here is the letter that I wrote…


 Ashlyn played here while Mrs. Green was presenting.

Dear Mrs. Green:

Thank you for having the open house for the parents tonight.  Bryson seems to love being in your class and he comes home with nothing but good things to say.  However, after tonight, I feel that Bryson would be better served in a self-contained classroom.  We, my wife and I, believe that his transition IEP may have been a little ambitious.

I would like to call an IEP meeting to discuss the appropriate education program for Bryson as soon as possible.  Ms. McClaugherty expressed some concerns about Bryson’s atypical behavior in class, in the halls, and on the playground.  We agree that he needs special direction and instruction to be a successful student at this point in his education.  His Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Apraxia of Speech hinder his ability to integrate well.

We would like your opinion on this situation and Bryson’s integration, but we would also like a change to happen as soon as possible.  A quick switch would be best for his SPD and emotional response to the situation.  My opinion of the least restrictive environment for Bryson would entail a self-contained setting that includes all core subjects, art, gym, technology, and media center.

I will call around 3:15pm on Friday if I do not get a response back before then.

Thank you,
Zane Porter

… Pray that we will be bold for Bryson, strong parents, and good citizens of Wake Forest, North Carolina for the glory of God.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Results from my End of the Year Survey

It is interesting to see that many of the things that we value the students value too.  Many students that were not engaged and did not like participating realized that a good classroom involves those things.  So, here is a compiled list from 90 7th grade students in a high poverty North Carolina school.

What was your favorite part of Language Arts this year?
These are the most common answers in no particular order
1.                  Blogging
2.                  Reading and discussing poetry
3.                  When it was over
4.                  Working in groups
5.                  Grammar and writing
6.                  The Novels (reading aloud and discussing the book as we went)
7.                  Glogster
8.                  Taking pictures and doing activities with the pictures
9.                  Students teaching the class
10.              The projects where we proved that we knew the objectives
11.              Hamlet
12.              Watching the movie after reading the book
13.              Learning new vocabulary
14.              The Shakespeare interactive activity
15.              Making websites

What makes a GREAT teacher?
These are the most common answers in no particular order
1.                  They help you with a good attitude.
2.                  They have exciting Hands on activities
3.                  The are excited when they teach.
4.                  They pay attention to you.
5.                  They are willing to help.
6.                  They teach stuff that the students don’t know for life and not just in school.
7.                  They are nice and have a sense of humor but know when to get serious.
8.                  The include everyone in whole class discussions.
9.                  They ask if people need help and listen.
10.              They do projects.
11.              They respect students.
12.              A teacher that works on your level and explains things on our level.
13.              They help after school.
14.              They teach at a slow pace and gives us enough time to understand.
15.              They don’t try to be perfect.
16.              Caring about the students self-esteem

What makes a GREAT Classroom?
These are the most common answers in no particular order
1.                  Good students that behave
2.                  Fun colors and posters on the walls with notes to help
3.                  Few distractions on the walls
4.                  Team work
5.                  Being able to talk and work
6.                  Being able to work quietly and work without distractions
7.                  Everyone participates, ask questions, and helps others
8.                  When students think that the class is interesting
9.                  Fun yet serious
10.              Being able to hear when the teacher is teaching
11.              A home feeling
12.              Organized classroom and work
13.              Minimal interruptions
14.              Calm

What makes a BAD teacher?
These are the most common answers in no particular order
1.                  Doesn’t help you
2.                  Cusses and yells
3.                  Bad attitude
4.                  Stays on the computer/cell phone and makes the students learn on their own
5.                  Being strict without reason
6.                  homework on the weekends
7.                  Does not teach
8.                  Doesn’t give enough time to complete assignments
9.                  Doing nothing but giving lots of tests
10.              Teachers that don’t know what they teach
11.              Letting students do what they want to
12.              Someone that doesn’t care if the students do the work
13.              Bad listener
14.              Not explaining ideas
15.              Being off topic

What makes a BAD classroom?
These are the most common answers in no particular order
1.                  Bad students
2.                  Messy and out of order
3.                  Loud
4.                  No respect
5.                  Nothing on the walls
6.                  No consequences
7.                  does not involve the whole class
8.                  Interruptions
9.                  Mean kids
10.              Clutter