Thursday, October 30, 2008

Walking on broken glass . . .

It's that time of semester when everything feels like too much: classes, grading, committees, advising. I'm sure students feel the same way.  I'm sitting here, listening to Annie Lennox and wondering if what I do makes any difference at all. 

I was reading the wiki postings of students from one of the sections of content area reading that I teach. For the entire semester I have pushed the idea of a Learning Cycle - a three-part way to plan lessons that is congruent with workshop-style classes, inquiry and discovery lessons, and direct instruction. Every lesson I have taught has been organized according to this three-part pattern. A requirement of my course is that my students review and comment on lesson plans created by students from another university and posted on a shared Wiki. One of my students posted a comment about another students' lesson, one that was crafted according to this three part learning cycle [although it was described using the terminology from Laura Robb's book, before-during-after, terminology I have used as well]. My student was impressed by the lesson because she claimed never to have seen this three-part way to plan a lesson. How can this be? I felt like screaming. 

What scares me is that if pre-service teachers cannot make connections between what they have experienced, been taught, and read about and the same concept couched in other terms, how are they going to make connections between student responses to what they are doing instructionally and their own teaching decisions made on the fly when data from 20-30 students is coming at them at the speed of light?

Well, I've whined enough - maybe after fall break things will look up. So many of these students show such potential - I know that they will go out and truly change their students' lives. Their analyses of student responses to their strategic content area literacy assessment were thoughtful - and many were at a level I would have expected only from practicing teachers with several years of experience. Their assessments were so well done, I should probably think about those students who are already showing insight beyond their own experience and realize that what I've told my own students is true: you won't ever stop trying to reach all your students, but you can't beat yourself up if you don't reach all of them.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The deer in the headlights is me!

Well, I'm probably officially about to go 'round the bend. On Thursday, I set off the the office with hopes of putting the final touches on the power point for class and making sure I had the power point for the Ordeal lesson for our CEALL workshop read [the workshop is this weekend]. Enter chaos. I needed to take one all purpose power point and produce two very different ones, eliminating all references to any content area other than math for the math section, and making sure the links worked for the science/social studies section [which they did not] and eliminate some of the content because students are finding it difficult to keep up in the class. Between questions from staff that needed to be handled, urgent family queries about Thanksgiving plans that necessitated several phone calls, no time for lunch, not enough caffeine, and time that moves at the speed of light when you most need it to move at the speed of molasses, I arrived at my 2 PM class just a bit unfocused. And that's all it took . . . because when I looked at my watch and saw a quarter till the hour, I panicked in my confusion and fast-forwarded my mind to my 3:30 class [wishful thinking?], which does end at quarter till the hour. The 2PM class ends at quarter past the hour, however, and I would have dismissed the first section 30 minutes early were it not for one brave [and probably hated, now] soul who corrected me.

Student body language was loud and clear -- it would have been better for my student evaluations had I just let them go. But no, I had to regroup and forge ahead -- and with most of them now fully tuned out. Good thing that this group of students does not have the power to commit me to an institution, because I'd be packing right now!

Well, Tuesday's class has to be better - as they create their own vocabulary activities I hope that students will see how relevant the vocabulary strategies really are. If it isn't, maybe I should just look for a job at Wal Mart.