Saturday, February 28, 2009

i've been putting in the grades for my students' first school wide progress reports this evening. i'm passing more than ever, and giving more A's than I have ever given. i know this won't last til June, but i'm glad to see worlds of progress from my kids.

on wednesday my principal said i was as good as a veteran teacher. i'm thinking ok maybe not a *good* veteran. but i can definitely see how in 5 years or so i have the potential to be pretty awesome if i don't get burned out before then!

in other news this week, i let a group of three students teach my class for one period. i had them learn a topic ahead of everyone else and teach in exchange for extra credit, participation points, and homework exemption. it was really something. they couldn't control the class for the first 25 minutes, but eventually they got most of them to quiet down. and the majority learned something. i did have to do a 20 minute recap and review with the the next day but by then everyone understood the topic.

at first these students said they would never teach the class again. but the next day we discussed it as a class. the feedback was mixed. half the class said they liked having their friends up there, that it made them feel more comfortable. the other half said they were horrible teachers and begged me to reteach the topic! the "teachers" said that the class was rude and disrespectful and they didn't know how I dealt with it every day. but by the end of the discussion, the entire class agreed that this was something they'd like to try again. about 10 people said they would like to try teaching, and even the original "teachers" said they would like to try it again. so we're going to attempt this twice a month as long as we're on track and they're being well behaved.

i find that the more i experiment with my classes, the more fun we all have and the easier it is on me!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

nyctf mantra: no excuses

the nyctf guidebook, as well as our adviser, touted the no excuses classroom environment. your class should be set up so the students have no excuse not to do their work. always have extra supplies available and all the resources they need to succeed.

using my own common sense (having forgotten about the no excuses mantra) i set up a homework chart in my room. all the assignments with final due dates are posted, as well as a folder with any make up work and handouts. i was sick of students telling me "i was absent, i didn't know i had to do the work!" of course i penalized them anyway, but i didn't want them using that as a crutch anymore.

i just instituted it this week and i've gotten at least 30% more homework than usual. the makeup sheets are going like hotcakes. anyhow, one student came into my room after school today asking about an assignment that he was absent for. i directed him to the HW chart and folder, the first he'd ever seen of them. he stared at it for a minute, took what he needed and then said "no excuses!"

i flashed back to my summer training and knew that i had unintentionally acheived what they drilled into our heads. not only did i know my students had no excuses, but they're starting to realize it too. this job is really tough, but i'm starting to see good things happening.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

teaching these kids is such a struggle. i'm constantly battling for control of my classroom. all they want to do is TALK. even when they're so into what we're learning, they just talk and talk. the group work can be pretty dysfunctional too. i have them agree upon and sign up for roles before they begin every project. but they just can't figure out how to work together! i supposed they'll get better with time, but my god, every group complains about each other.

i do have to say though that when it came down to presentation time, all the groups pulled it together nicely and did a great job. almost everyone had an understanding of the work. so i guess it's not too bad.

what is a problem though is that i'm way behind on my pacing. i anticipate skipping an entire chapter, plus i skipped half of our current chapter. i'd rather not bore and confuse the kids with stuff that they might see one question on. but we are about a month behind my colleagues teaching the same course. i do way too many projects and fun activities that take up a lot of time. but somehow i'm thinking that i will have just as many, if not more kids passing the regents.

honestly, i have maybe 5 level 3s's and the rest of my kids came in as level 1's and 2's. if other teachers have a similar demographic, i can't possibly see how they could go through the material so fast and leave the kids with a good understanding of it. if they can, power to them. but i know we will cover about 90% of the material and most of my students will know it well.

in other news i picked up another hour of per session per week. so now i'm up to an extra $120/week. sweeeeeet.

Friday, February 6, 2009

a day of opposites.

tough kid was great today, good class was bad today. bizzarro world here we come.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

i made the tough kid cry!

my students drove me up the wall yesterday. today i spent an entire hour with one class giving a pop quiz to piss them off, then discussing their behavior and grading policy.

i explained that behavior was now worth 45% of their final grade, test and quizzes 45%, and hw 10%. they were really shocked. their jaws dropped when i told them that if they routinely misbehave in my class, the best they could hope for is a 55. I told them i'll give them a bunch of 20s and 30s if i have to. They were in disbelief.

One student said he isn't a good test taker so how can he pass my class. We went through the math and saw that even if you average a 50 on my test, if you give 100% of everything else, it's still possible to get around an 80. The kids loved that and decided they could live with my grading policy.

Then we did the math and saw that even if you get a 90 average in my class, if you can't control your behavior, and miss homework, you will get a 55 from me. They were shocked yet again.

After this, they wanted to know what their averages were so far. I went through the entire class list out loud (they all love to share their grades except for one girl!) Everyone was passing since the semester started on Tuesday except for the biggest bully/tough guy/obnoxious kid in the school. He was averaging about a 40. He was very mad and nearly walked out of the room.


The second class I decided to discuss grades with were much more receptive. They accepted it as is and in addition, they asked for weekly progress reports with their daily behavior grades and notes for improvement. This is a lot of work for me, but if it can help keep a few kids on track, it's worth it. We decided that every friday we'll spend 10-15 minutes discussing their progress. If it works with this class, I might try it with my other classes. I'm actually very proud that they came up with the idea on their own. This class happens to be very motivated, but they can easily get out of control, so I think this might work.

Fast forward to after school, and the guidance councelor came in to talk to me about the failing kid. The boy was very upset and didn't understand how he could be failing after only 2 days and asked me to speak with him about his options. Well we couldn't find him and when we finally did, he was hiding out in the classroom next door to mine. He came to talk to me and his eyes were damp with tears! I told him what I needed from him tomorrow and what he needs to do from now on. I ran a couple of computer simulations for him to show him that since it's so early, he could be passing by tomorrow already. and by next week he could be in the 80s. but he was choking back tears the entire time. i couldn't believe it. i didn't feel bad for him at all; call me an insensitive bitch, but the kid has been doing the same thing since september. but this time i think it really hit home for once. and i'm glad it did. we'll see if he makes any changes now.

Monday, February 2, 2009

new semester

I actually have 2 lesson plans done in advance! And I stocked up for the new semester with new markers and mini whiteboards for the kids. I'm smarter this time though, and only bought mini markers. The kids leave the caps off the markers, or just plain steal them, so they would not last long anyhow. Might as well save half the cost...