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.