Sunday, October 3, 2010

Well, that's September gone, then.

This has been a REALLY good start to the year, I think.  I hope my students would agree.  I actually spent the first two weeks on community building, and have an outline for continuing it through.  I have enforced my rules consistently, and when I noticed a big upsurge in students pushing the boundaries, I responded in what I think is the appropriate way.  The students had seen the consequences for consistent disruptive behavior already, so the students who were testing the rules were unsurprised by their consequences.  After a few minutes, I found an excuse do to a re-focusing activity, like Braingym.  The next day, we re-covered our expectations, a la Randy Sprick, and rehearsed the routine where the students fell apart.  This was in my 8th grade Spanish class.  In almost none of my other classes have I had any difficulty that I couldn't pin on "the teacher kept us in the chair too long."  In fact, in my honors English 12 class, I have asked the students to re-write the rules--none of my original rules are a problem. 

All of this almost certainly has more to do with the school climate and the students themselves than with my opening sequence.  This school is something of an anomaly.  There's no school-wide positive behavior support system, the school expectations are not posted on banners all over the walls.  And yet the students know.  And even more amazing, they follow them.  I am frankly stunned at the internal level of communication between faculty, staff and administration that must be going on to make this happen.

What will be REALLY interesting is to see what happens in December.  Our football season ends in September, and the football coach is evidently a key part of keeping this whole system running.  We're a "Friday Night Lights" kind of school, except instead of the football players expecting special privileges because of who they are, they're held to a higher standard of comportment and academics. It's awesome. 

I'm clearly well-liked by the students.  My Spanish students tell their parents they like my class, and their parents tell my principal, and my principal tells me.  In return, I call students' homes as often as I can to gush about the wonderful things they're doing.  If it keeps up like this, the positive behavior stuff will just end up running everything.  And wouldn't that be nice? 

My Spanish 7 and 8 classes are what I expected them to be--start with social niceties, and go on from there.  (I expected my 8th graders to have had Spanish 7, and evidently this isn't universally true.  So that was a surprise.)  My Spanish I class is a little different.   They all claimed some familiarity with Spanish from middle school, but none of them could tell me what they knew, and nothing I've taught them so far

As for my actual performance in delivering content, I give myself a B in my Spanish classes, and a pretty generous C in English class.  In my early Spanish classes, I teach students the geography of the Spanish-speaking world.  (It's one of the content expectations.  I didn't write them.)  It's part of my Schmoozing 101 unit (hat tip to Annette from the County ISD for the name); students have to know where their Spanish-speaking friends are from without running to Google Earth.  (Although that is precisely what I do.)  But it's the sort of thing I hate--it's basically memorizing, it takes FOREVER to do right, and apart from some commands, I have a hard time doing it in Spanish.  So the students aren't speaking as much Spanish as I want them to.  (I've finally got the "draw your own map" project doing what I want it to do, though...yay!)  So they're learning what I'm teaching, I'm teaching it in the right way, but it doesn't feel like the right thing to teach.  I'll be working on that for future classes.

My Spanish II has thrown me a complete curve ball, because they're grammarians at the fourth-year level, but have the communication skills of people who have never spoken Spanish.  Because they haven't.  They have surprisingly strong packets of vocabulary, but there's no reliable way to predict what they have.  I've spent most of the last month selling Spanish as a vehicle for communication, and met with a few days of wide-eyed terror-stricken stares when I refused to translate directions.  They're starting to catch on, though, and I think they love it.  We started a unit in which we'll review everything that happens in a day, with a focus on them speaking Spanish every single day. After that, it will be my standard Spanish II curriculum, with a de-emphasis on grammatical concepts that they already know extremely well, and with plenty of time for back-filling.

Unsurprisingly, my English classes are a little meh.  I have a clear learning goal, and a good vision of what steps we need to take to get there.  I think my day-do-day practice is good instruction, because a lot of my students are doing good learning, some of them actually against their will.  (That was kind of a joke.)  I can clean up some of my routines, particularly the beginning of class.  But there's a gap, and I keep feeling like there's something missing.  I look around and wonder what I'm not teaching.  I may ask Annette from the ISD if she has time to observe me teach someday soon, and give me some pointers.

1 comment:

Ray said...

It is amazing what school culture and climate has to do with learning. We have our CHAMPS rules posted but doesn't seem to be necessary since almost every student follows the expectations. I am so happy the students are enjoying you and your classes. You have a very full toolbox of instructional strategies and when given the opportunity in the correct environment you are getting the opportunity to showcase them. I hope October goes as well for you as September did.