Sunday, August 27, 2006

Block Scheduling

I'm finding that the only thing I don't have a handle on is keeping the attention of 26 ninth graders for an hour and a half. The one thing I had going for me last year was classroom control (well, even if I didn't have it, I thought I did, and sometimes that’s what counts). I could be interesting and fun for 50 minutes, but not for 90 minutes (or when the bell schedule is off, even more). As I understand it, block scheduling was created to provide time for more activities in the class. It's hard because there is so much material to cover in Algebra, that I feel like I'm just instructing for the entire time. On one day I had to cover 13 properties of real numbers (commutative, associative ...). How boring.

Schedules are still changing, which is a struggle. We have to test these kids that we only just got in our classrooms.

Some students have a bad attitude about being in a Transitions to Algebra class. They aren't getting a Carnegie unit for one, so they argue that there isn't a point to taking the class. Some of them also have the "This is so easy" attitude, but every time I ask them a question they get it wrong.

Some things I do have a handle on: I'm spending a lot less time on school (yea). I don't feel the need to plan out every moment of every day. If I know what I need to cover, I trust that I will cover it during the class and make it work.

Also, I am now awesome at parent contact. I've made about 100 calls so far (I certainly haven't talked to all of them but I try). The parents have been almost completely supportive of me, and very appreciative.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

First days of school

I can't believe school has already started. I've seen each of my classes once since we are on block scheduling.

There are a couple of noteworthy differences between this school and my last school. Mostly, organization. I saw all of my classes on the first two days of school. Last year, I didn't see a single student on my first day of school, because the students did not change classes all day. Second, my asst. principal handed me about 100 office referrals today. Last year, I had to beg for two referrals at a time because the office could not handle me sending them my discipline problems. I am very impressed with my new asst. principal. He suspended two of my students for not tucking in their shirts today. I already gave him two cell phones and an mp3 player as well. Lunch is a breeze. The ROTC teachers keep everyone in line. Also, I have a great math coach and some wonderful other math teachers to plan with. We have a common planning period so we can work together at school. It's great.

Jake and Dave have been amazing as well. They put together a guide for all the new teachers that is just incredible. It covers everything that anyone could ever want to know.

I only had 35 students my first day, and I've already attempted to call every parent once. One of my phone calls made it all worthwhile-- I spoke to one mother who has a child with a learning disability in my class. She is very supportive of him, and she was so happy that I wanted to learn how I could help him.

I have been thinking about the issue of social promotion. In Jackson, students that are 16 years old are moved to the high school whether or not they pass their classes. If they do not earn 5 credits by the time they turn 17, they are put in a GED program. I had a number of 16 and 17 year olds last year in 8th grade. I personally don't believe in social promotion because it takes away the motivation (making the grade) to perform in class in middle school. But, then again, what is the motivation for a 17 year old to pass 8th grade, since students can only stay in school until they are 21.