Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Getting Hot In Here

As with many schools, the heat and air is not controlled in each individual classroom. Either the heat is on or the air is on. You can’t control it depending on what Mother Nature throws at you during the day. In the spring it becomes particularly tricky because as students prepare for school, it is quite cold; however, as the afternoon rolls around, the mercury has soared to summer-like temperatures. As I’ve heard many times, “welcome to springtime in Kentucky!” Having grown up in the state I am very familiar with Kentucky’s spring but it has never been more obvious and clear to me than this week.

The beginning of the week posed a dilemma for me as a young teacher; more specifically in dealing with my last class of the day. By the time they enter the class, on any given day, they have each individually encountered a range of emotions that have a great impact on how the class is going to go. When we add in the exhausting heat from earlier this week, it almost became a disaster. I was trying to introduce new content to the students and I could tell I was in for a struggle. They did give an effort to pay attention but the heat was too much for them. The one small window in the corner of the room did little to circulate any air. Everyone was sweating and their faces were red.

As I’ve stated before my goal is to prepare students for life after high school. As much as I wanted to say, “Do you think your college professor will let you slack off because you’re sweating?” or “Do you think your boss will let you miss a deadline because the air conditioning wasn’t on in the office?” I had to remember, as much as I want them to learn, they are kids. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? I was in for a battle if we couldn’t get passed satisfying their physiological needs.

Instead of trying to force the new content on them, I let them know we would cover just one more point and then we would stop for a water break. After that they had to come back and begin any makeup work they had or they could review skills with the Excel Jeopardy. The next day we revisited the new content and continued where we left off. I wonder how other teachers handle similar situations. The teacher can never just stop the class, some form of relevant learning needs to take place. Yet, if the entire class is struggling, at what point is it appropriate to say let’s revisit this at another time?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

To Sir (William Haley), With Love

I came across a quote the other day, that if I were the type of person to get “inked”, as the kids call it nowadays, I would spend my spring break showing off my new scripted tattoo. Ha! Not really, but when I enter my classroom I will find a place for this quote. Similar to a business owner hanging the first dollar bill or the “champion” quotes that football players touch before they run out onto the field. This quote, the words and the philosophy behind it, will have a home in my classroom. The quote is credited to Sir William Haley, who at points during his career served as director of the BBC and editor of The Times of London as well as Encyclopedia Britannica. The quote is as follows:

“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” –Sir William Haley

Wow, that is a mouthful! Yet, it is the truth! Thank you, Sir William Haley. Why did this stick with me so much? I’m not sure who to accredit my desire for learning. More than likely it was a culmination of all the teachers I’ve had in my life; the good and the bad. This quote pretty much sums up my philosophy on education. I don’t want the learning to stop once students have left my classroom. It should only be the beginning; merely the spark that starts the flame. For that reason, it has influenced the decisions I have made as a student teacher this semester.

As I begin Task J and reflect on my effectiveness, I thought about how easy it is to be stuck in a rut. Over the course of a year or so, some teachers accumulate a set of tests, assignments, and assessments. They use them year after year, and never give a second thought to how affective it is to student knowledge and skills. It is hard for us to take an honest look and say, “this isn’t working; how can I make this better?” What I like about this MAT program, which I haven’t heard about with other schools, is the many opportunities that require me to be reflective. Being reflective, and considering the data of my student’s performance, is something I plan to continually practice, and look forward to, year after year.

To close, here is a video sent to me via Facebook. I thought it was fitting for this post.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fringe Benefits

For the past week or so two of my classes have been discussing employee benefits that companies may offer as incentive to work for them. As a way to incorporate technology I had students to do an internet search of company benefits. They were instructed to find Fortune Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Companies to Work for 2011. They also conducted a search on the Ben & Jerry’s and the Google company sites to find the benefits given to their employees. At first the students were hesitant and really didn’t want to do the research.

In all actuality the activity was twofold. I did want them to find the employee benefits but I also want them to learn how to do research; digging for the answers, discovering new questions, and then digging even deeper. As a teacher, I want my students to be prepared for college and for life after high school. The answers will not always be given to us in life. It is up to us to seek out resources and investigate the answers. However, that is for another blog post perhaps. Let’s get back to the employee benefits…

It started with a spark. “Whoa, this company offers free art classes!” Then the comments and enthusiasm for conducting the research spread like wild fire. “Well, this company gives messages and yoga classes.” “That’s nothing; at this company you get free ice-cream!” As one student found and shared a benefit, the others became excited and tried to out-do each other with finding the best benefit. The point was to get students to think about more than just the salary but the total benefits (salary/wage plus any benefits) that the company provides.

Anytime I ask students to do something, I have already done it myself. If directions or the wording is confusing to me, then chances are it will be confusing to them. So of course, I have already considered the total benefits of my job; teaching. This week, I experienced two of the greatest benefits. First, it is the overwhelming feeling of hearing a student tell you, “Ms. Hardin, sometimes I get so frustrated with life, then I come to class and you smile at me. After that, I know things will be okay.” What do you say/do after that? Priceless! Secondly, after a seemingly never-ending, cold week, you walk into class and on your desk you find this….

To me, it’s a masterpiece! As a student teacher and future classroom teacher, I’d say corporate America can’t compete with benefits like this.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

One Step to Victory

This is just an update on a previous post that described the frustrations of students that seemed to get overlooked and, as I previously put it “fall through the cracks”. It was so refreshing to see a student get the help they needed and deserved. I must say that my ST is one persistent lady. We kept discussing the situation and trying to come up with ways that we could improve the situation. The student was acting out and we had finally figured out why; with evidence. We couldn’t get help where it should have come from, so my amazing ST came up with a solution. For now the student is only receiving help for our class but perhaps when others see the improvements in grades, more steps will be taken to find an overall solution. I realize my descriptions of what is actually going on are vague and I do apologize.

After just a few days, we were seeing results. I was so excited to see that after grading one of this particular student’s activities, they had received the second highest grade in the class. Since I have been student teaching their grades have been always among one of the lowest. As I was recording grades this week, you would have thought I had won the KY lottery jackpot! My excitement was not because our suspicions were correct and not even that the solution was working.  I was excited for the student; realizing that this is just the beginning for them and their educational success.

A section of Love and Logic had so much relevance to me after this week. The authors wrote that “misbehavior has a positive purpose”. When I first read it, I understood the point but in the back of my head thinking, “if you say so”.  As a new teacher, I thought that there was nothing worse than encountering misbehavior when trying to capture/keep the attention of a class full of students. However, we can’t focus and get frustrated with the misbehavior. Just as a doctor can’t successfully treat symptoms unless they know what the underlying sickness is. As teachers we have to get to the heart of the issue, not continuously deal with the surface behavior. I get it now. So, I guess I just took a step, too!