Ah, Lecture . . . This week, I did a lot of lecturing and I was observed twice (one of them was a pop-in). I try to avoid lectures for observations, but I had to lecture, we have a test coming up and I wanted make sure students had the content. (And I think this was my first whole class period lecture of the school year) Personally, I don’t like lecture:
- The lecturer is like an expert. I am certainly no expert–I don’t have all of the answers and I let students know this. I still learn everyday. Experts have spent 10,000 hours with their content. I haven’t spent 10,000 hours on specializing in Ancient Egypt. So, I am NO expert. I just enjoy history.
- I don’t want to torture my kids and make them sit still for 80 minutes while I drone on and on. I can’t even sit still that long. I get uncomfortable in church if the pastor goes longer than 45 minutes. Our attentions spans are just not that long anymore.
- Honestly, how much of a lecture to we really retain? Only the most interesting stories or gory details. If I didn’t take notes during church, I would never be able to tell you what the preacher said.
- Lecture is physically exhausting. Usually, my voice grows weak and my feet hurt from standing and pacing all day.
With that in mind, imagine how it feels to be observed by your peers and department chair while you are doing the part of teaching you hate the most (outside of grading). However, I received positive reviews from both of my evaluators. Here’s why:
- I use the Chunk, Chunk, Chew method. I give notes for two or three slides and then students must do an activity or respond in their journals or we have question and answer. For example, I was lecturing about mummification, I gave them a slide of notes with vocabulary. I played a funny mummy song from youtube, then instructed students to draw a timeline of the mummification process in their journal. Finally for this segment, I had 2-3 students come place their timelines under the document camera to share out. (all of this about 10 minutes)
- I use many of visuals in the powerpoint. Sometimes, all that is on a slide is a picture and quote. I often select a student to read the quote aloud. And I ask questions, what might it mean? What does the image tell you?
- When I lecture for an entire period, I make sure students stand up at least once during that lecture. In my lesson on Wednesday, after students took notes on Egyptian achievements. All students had to stand for a human barometer and argue which achievement was them most important contribution. Sometimes, if I need a quick transition or movement, I’ll put up a test question, use a 4 corners strategy.
- Most of the time lecture is conversational. Kids ask questions and I say, “google that!” Or, I’ll ask their opinion about the event.
The feedback I received from one of my reviewers was this, “Everything in your class moves so fast. You do so many things. What if a student didn’t finish the timeline in the 2 minutes you gave them to do it?” My response, “It was plenty of time. If they didn’t finish, it’s homework.” Administrators have said this before–that my class is fast paced and I agree. In public school, if you spent too much time on one thing, it gave children time to get off task and that led to trouble–especially for 9th graders.
To me, the measure of my teaching comes from conversations with a students at the end of class.
Me: A long lecture today, hunh?
Student: Yeah, but it was good.
The next day, when students came to class.
Me: We have one more lecture day for this unit.
Student raising his hand: Will it it be like last class?
Student Nodding: Okay!
This week was intense . . . it was not a true first week of school in that most of it was spent in orientation for Freshmen. Although I did not plan lessons for this week, I was asked to engage with students rather than busying myself with school preparations during this time. It is a challenge to be still, fellowship and not work. But this week, I was left with no choice. So while nothing was completed, mentally I feel ready to attack next week. However, physically, I’m wiped. I’m supposed to be sleeping, but my internal clock is off.
A few things I’m doing differently this year:
- Teaching classroom procedures. When the freshmen arrive, they are still 8th graders–not seniors. Last year, I didn’t teach procedures well. I have updated my classroom procedures packet. I’ll share them at some point. I’m still updating them with notetaking and FAQ info about my classroom. Their first assignment was to complete a scavenger hunt of the document (tried to avoid the traditional Q & A format). Also, I am posting classroom rules and infractions, so that their are no excuses when I start issuing consequences. I’ll probably drop the hammer to avoid having issues similar to last year.
- Outside of quizzes, I am not grading daily work or homework. I will take it up and pretend to grade, but they’ll report as completion grades on my chart. Sometimes, I will have students self grade or highlight phrases or answers.
- Much of the daily work/Q & A type stuff will be written into their journals which I only grade 2-3 times per quarter. I found this great idea on pinterest (making Q strips to paste into journals instead of wasting pages & pages of copy paper) that I will use this year with journals. It is perfect for activities like speed dating or mid-lesson checks. I wish there was a way to do journals online, but it would only encourage plagiarism and I often have students draw charts and graphics in their journals.
- Reducing the amount I print by uploading documents and study guides to our school website.
- My notes will only be available a few days before a test. I am hoping this will force student to take their own notes and be more responsible for their own learning. Last year students were so reliant on my notes, it caused a panic anytime notes were not available.
- Adding checkpoints (for a daily grade) for projects and essays. Many of my students waited until the last minute to begin working. I’m hoping that the checkpoints will get them started early. In the spring, when students are doing more research work, I plan to have them make annotated bibliographies to prevent plagiarism and encourage students start their work early.
Most everyone knows I am Christian and I love church and often look forward to Sunday morning. As a matter of fact, the Mary Mary song, “Sunday Morning” absolutely captures how I feel about my faith and the Church. Side note: Yes, I am religious and proud of it. . . being “spiritual” is just a bunch of malarkey and lack of commitment. I’m sure to offend people on this blog.
Despite my passion for Christianity and the church, the last year has been the most inconsistent for me religiously. I don’t belong to a church. I attend a different church every Sunday and sporadically. And I haven’t felt called to any one church. It makes me uncomfortable that I have no church community. I have been thinking for sometime about why I have yet to find the perfect community in Houston. This lead me to broader issues in the American church. In my opinion, here are a few things we need to improve:
- Eliminating Segregation and Favoritism–Sunday morning is STILL, even in 2013, the most segregated time of the week–not just racially, but socially, too. Everyone likes to say there are cultural and worship style differences. CHILD, PLEASE! (In my best grandma voice) Segregation goes far beyond race. American churches are not welcoming to different people on the whole–think about it. Can you walk into a church an be openly gay or a drug addict or stinky or just plain weird. James 2 abhors favoritism. Yet the American church as a whole plays favorites. When people with difference walk in, we don’t speak to them or we beat them over the head with their sin and mistakes. Jesus was compassionate and loving. He said “go and sin no more.” The Bible has called to love others. I strongly believe that this love will cause personal conviction and repentance. As a person studies the Bible more and more, the scriptures will speak and CALL them to repentance. But the first step is love and stop playing favorites. If you are judging other’s sin, are you loving them unconditionally? The church should intentionally welcome difference! Think about sinners Jesus ministered to and hung out with. My challenge to you, my brothers and sisters: Reach out and welcome folks, don’t just stare. Walk up and invite that visitor or church newbie to lunch. Get to know them and hear their story.
- Including Singles–Point #1 feeds into this. When I attend church, everything is about family and marriage. Yet, the numbers of older singles is increasing in this country. However, the American church excludes, devalues or minimizes the impact of the unmarried. Some churches go as far to advocate that singles should be praying heartedly for marriage, as if singleness is a sin and completely discounting Paul’s words valuing work of unmarried. Everything has become about saving the family to the detriment of helping singles grow in faith. Sunday morning can be a lonely time for a single Christian. Imagine walking into a church and sitting alone and then leaving alone. American church, we singles have great things to offer, too: free time, adventurous spirits and disposable income.
- Stop Pushing Political Agendas–Pastors are now advocating political parties and candidates. Some attempt to mask this behavior by saying they are promoting Biblical values. However, many review and offer rebuttal to American political matters during worship service or even allow political candidates to speak in church services. They are blurring the lines. And my goodness, some pastors have TOLD congregants who the “best” candidate is. Jesus said that we should render to God what is His. Sermons are His, not polarizing American politics.
This was a challenging post to write because I am hesitant to criticize the church. But the following has been on my mind for some time and if no one acknowledges there is a problem, it will never be fixed–although I doubt that national leaders and preachers are reading my blog. However, it is my prayer that readers will be challenged as they walk into their own church Sunday mornings. They will begin having discussions with their brothers and sisters in Christ, talking to their ministers and elders and planting seeds of change.
Interesting commentary on the American church, that I’ve read in the last year:
My world right now is SCHOOL . . . it is an obsession. Seriously, it is all I have thought about nonstop for the past couple of weeks–school starts Monday. I want to be a phenomenal teacher this year. Much of my time for the past few weeks has been spent rethinking my systems and planning. Here are my goals for this school year:
- No planning/working at home, especially, on the weekend. I suspect I am not being be realistic. But one can try. . . yes, I’ll probably have many late days at school, but I think this is a trade-off for peace of mind at home. Many of my colleagues say that I need to go home . . .but I prefer to make home sacred ground and if I go home I would be working at home.
- Better classroom management and organization. I am updating my classroom management plan and have bought some tools from vistaprint (had a $15 for $70 groupon) I bought a customized date stamp for work submission and some personalized stationary. Unfortunately, my lack of classroom management last year resulted in ugly meetings and bitterness and resentment. So, I will go home EVERY NIGHT with my desk clean and prepped for the next day. Even if it means that I stay at school until 9.
- Attempt to blog at least once a week. I was a better teacher when I blogged. Even when I vented or talked about personal stuff. Blogging is the release. And it is PD. It was the best collaboration I have ever had. I have made life long friends from my blogging adventures.
- Restore my life-work balance. I’m planning to do 3 non-school related things each week–whether its with church or my boardgame group or BSF or volunteer.
I love pinterest and am loving using it as my PLN. I’m getting so many great ideas from it. This morning, as I was browsing through my pins I ran into this one:
Click on picture to make larger
I struggled this past year in encouraging my students to complete text reading. I will admit reading for my class was challenging; we were using the Spodek book. It is a college level book focusing on themes and periodizations in World History. The language was difficult for my freshmen and sometimes it presumed knowledge that my students did not have. I usually assigned 10-15 pages each night and did not assign much else for homework–with a few exceptions. Nevertheless, my students complained about the reading. It was “too hard, they didn’t get it. . . .” The list goes on. Ultimately, by mid-year, 90% students were not reading the text. I could tell by the reading quiz scores and discussions in class. My suspicions were confirmed by my summer school group saying, “Miss, no one did the reading last year.”
I knew I needed to rethink reading quizzes, but my summer school students confirmed it. Here were rules for reading quizzes last year:
- Timed–10 minutes
- Students could use any resources you brought to class–an annotated book, notes, study guide. Most students simply brought their book to class and skimmed for answers to the reading quiz. This is why they hated the time limit and whined about it so much.
What I am considering for next year:
- Continuing reading quizzes; however, students will only be permitted to use their own HANDWRITTEN notes. They will turn in their HANDWRITTEN notes with the quiz. Additionally, I am considering moving the quizzes online.
- Alternating reading quizzes with some of the activities from the list above.
- Giving students a study guide for each chapter. I haven’t determined whether I’ll require students to turn this in on test day. What I like about study guides is that students will have something to focus their reading, but if I require submission of it–lets be real, here–students will simply copy others work.
Side Note: We selected the Duiker & Spielvogel book for next year. It is organized better for high school freshmen, yet still challenging reading. I sent the book for review to the freshman guidance counselor and “SPED” teacher. Here were their comments:
“The text is a lot easier – much more straight forward in it’s organization and instruction. I think it will be great.”
“The text looks like a great pick. . . I love the summary timelines at the end of each chapter. I see an opportunity for cross curricular instruction. . .while the chapters are fairly long, each presents an organization that would be easy for students to form a note template to prepare for lectures or summarize topics in the margins . . .Great selection ladies.”
This past weekend, I went home and visited with family, mentors as well as former colleagues and students. It was a good visit–it revitalized and energized me. I needed those hugs and laughter with family and friends. Each hug, smile and giggle reassured me of my decision to move to Texas and to teach here. I know that this is the place where God has sent me.
While home, I had coffee with one of the teachers I mentored a few years ago. She is an amazing teacher. What I love about our relationship is that we can have frank conversations that she does not shy from–such is the case this past Saturday afternoon. We chatted about the differences in public and private. . . noise level, parental involvement and behaviors. The more we talked, I realized that a lot of the challenges teachers face at my previous school were the cultural.
As my friend and I talked, she helped me discover that I was experiencing the insecurity that comes with being a minority while assimilating to the culture of the new school . I asked her, “Is this what you felt like, working as a White woman in a Black school?” She laughed, “Sometimes things were uncomfortable. I didn’t get all of the cultural behaviors. Not knowing the culture does make you feel insecure.” We laughed about how in my previous school, my students went through hand sanitizer like water, refused to sit on the floor and black female students absolutely REFUSE to put their purses or bags on the floor.
Although I have been a minority all of my life, I never felt like a minority. I have never felt “different.” I lived in a city with a large African American population. I have lived overseas with a lot of different people–difference was celebrated. I am an “all people” person (That is what my mentor called it–the fact that I can get along with everyone and I don’t think about race much. Humph, most often I don’t even recognize racism). Nevertheless, I’ve never felt like a minority and have never used race as an excuse.
After accepting this position, for the first time, I felt different. I felt like a minority–there was literally no one like me on campus. This is not to say I feel unwelcome or not valued on my campus. It is exactly the opposite–New School has taken FANTASTIC care of me. I just felt different and it made me insecure. Subconsciously, this made me want to be perfect in everything and I overanalyzed and worried about everything (another post to come about this). Balance has been restored . . . I will be celebrating and enjoying my difference.
I am not perfect. I want to be. A couple of days ago, this really hit home for me. I remember an ex telling me, “you want everything to be perfect and in a neat little box and its just not.” I am not perfect. If I were perfect, I’d be thin and have profound witty things to say all the time. I’d be tall and an expert in everything. Alas, I am not perfect! I fail. And, I failed this week.
The last month has been tough emotionally for me. I did not think I would get homesick when I made the move. I miss my community and I don’t know how to build a new one. I miss the people I could confide in and those who knew me. I miss being silly and not worrying about etiquette. I had built a community of people that were my family (even though we were not related by blood) and somehow in the move my community has been come distant. Phone conversations have not been enough and there are too few of them. I miss their hugs and dinners and lunches and chats about ugly cats and stupid, senseless inside jokes. I miss myself, I miss being strong and funny. In this last week, I have crumbled into a hot stupid, mess. I cried in front of a kid for goodness sake–it was a mixture of anger and sadness and frustration. And that makes me mad at myself. I betrayed myself and my authority.
In all of my calculations and planning and moving, I did not account for being homesick. I love teaching, I love studying, I love planning and I love the new school. I do not love being alone. It sucks. My ex and I stopped talking on Valentines. That was the last conversation I had with him. Somedays, I want to call only because I am alone and I miss being real. I have to pray for strength to not to call. Literally, I ask God for strength and to trust him with his plans.
So that’s where I am. I’m homesick. And it sucks.
****Addendum: this post doesn’t mean that I am unhappy with the move or my work. Quite the contrary, I love Houston, my school and my colleagues. I just haven’t found community and for me that’s important.
This evening, I was so tired when I got home, I ate leftover Chinese and fell asleep while watching my new favorite show, “The Neighbors.” Less than 30 minutes of sitting and I was out! Now, its 4 am and I am wide awake and congested. The weather here is so unpredictable, especially, since I don’t watch the news for the weather report.
What I am thinking about at 4 am:
- I have a classroom management problem. And I take complete responsibility for this. To be honest, at my previous place of employ, I had a rule and procedure for everything (and I followed through and I had reward system in place). I abandoned it at my New School. Freshmen, here, are extremely chatty. Nothing disrespectful, just chatty. To rectify this, I am going to have more work from bell to bell. Example, I’ll keep a list of unit vocabulary or questions on the board. While transitioning from one task to another, I will have students complete it the list for submission.
- My chair said that I do not need to have an interactive activity everyday. Sometimes, they just need to work. Additionally, it should be a “treat.” Therefore, I am going to have more “worksheets,” book work and independent practice. I hate that stuff. But I did it in public school; it was a means of survival! Here, I have been going from one activity to another in my lessons. Yes, my students are learning, but we are moving a much slower pace than I would like and it has come to be expected and is feeding into my classroom management problem.
- I don’t argue with my students, I usually just say “ok” and let it go. (I learned this as a child. I hated arguing. So, I would just say “ok” and my perspective is its over–essentially, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do!) For students, the word “ok” means yes and they have won. But that is not necessarily my meaning. Example: Earlier this week a group showed me their project, I asked “where are the subtitles?” The students said, “we planned to hand out lyrics.” I said, “but the rubric says, you needed lyrics on the screen.” Eventually, I say, “ok,” but in my head I’m thinking, “whatever.” They would be graded according to the rubric. So, they send me an email saying the were “surprised” that they would lose points for not having lyrics on the screen because I said it was okay. Lesson learned: In the future, just flatly say “No.”
- I have been too nice. Tooo nice. Here is a commonality between all teens, no matter socioeconomic status. Niceness = Weakness It is my fault. I take complete responsibility. Being firm is now my new priority. When I return from, Christmas break. I plan remind students of expectations and demand it from them.
- Group project work here was a success, but there have been some failures on my part. Next time, students will only be allowed to work with students in their class. Also, there will be no switching of groups. If you don’t like your group, you may elect to do the assignment independently within the first week of the assignment.
- Overall, I am happy. This is just a stressful time of year and I took up too much work in the last couple of weeks. I have so many things to work on and revisit over break. But the priority is rest.
Yesterday, I felt like a REALLY bad teacher for the first time this year. I am not perfect, but yesterday was the pits. Seriously, I have teacher guilt because I am backed up grading. Will spend of most of this weekend getting caught up after I attend a Freshman moms event. I have learned the error of my ways and scantron machine, you are now my friend!
I had a TERRIBLE day with my A4 class. I need to call a parent, but dreading the call. This kid does things to push my buttons. He dominates the class and makes me feel like I am in my first year of teaching again. I have not documented it well. That is why I am dreading calling his parents because I do not have exact quotes because I am actually trying to teach a lesson and he keeps interrupting me with irrelevant comments, etc. The day he was absent, we had a day of PEACE. It was amazing. Simply amazing. I’ve decided the next time it happens, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and WRITE it down. I need evidence–exact quotes.
Yesterday, I taught Zhou China. It was not a great lesson. There is not much to say about the Zhou–feudalism, they fought all the time, psychological warfare, intellectual achievements were weapons, mandate of heaven. I should have pulled out my books on East Asia and spent more time reading to find more interesting facts about the Zhou. I want to incorporate more story telling into my class. I’ve been looking for books with interesting factoids to help brighten the lesson.
I went to a school basketball game last night; it was an exhilarating time. A lot of moms reintroduced themselves to me. They are really nice and they always talk about how happy their kid is at my school. At first I was like how do these people know who I am? Shouldn’t I just be some black lady in the crowd? The guidance counselor tells me, “uhm, you’re the only black female teacher and your picture is on your emails and website.” Interestingly, very few of the Black moms speak to me. Maybe, they don’t know who I am. Very few of them showed for parent night because of a JV football game. Maybe at the next game, I’ll be more aggressive in getting to know them or maybe I shouldn’t care?
I have decided to give my students a taste of Memphis by bringing Kool-aid pies (a cheap dessert made from Kool-Aid) for our last class of the quarter. I told one class and they asked “What is a “Kool-Aid” pie????” They seem excited by the thought of it!