Saturday, November 12, 2011

First Trimester Ends, Basketball Begins, Negative News

It's another Saturday night. I'm chillin' at home thinking about things and watching some college football. Oregon and Stanford are on now and it's been good so far. I watched some college basketball earlier today as Butler squared off against Evansville in the Aces' new Ford Center Arena which looked pretty nice from the TV angles and whatnot. It felt good to watch some basketball on TV finally. I only have over-the-air channels so I'm pretty limited in my viewing of sporting events. Anyway, I liked seeing some good defense played today. I'm usually an offensively wired guy, but this year I've been more focused on defense and having players in the correct position. (While I'm on this - note to self - teach kids how to defend off-ball screens.) First game of the season on Monday.

On to classroom education related news, the student that I mentioned in my last post about being unmotivated has moved to a different school. Hopefully, the attitude changes at his new school and he can get back on the learnin' train because I feel he will be slipping lower and lower if something doesn't happen. I will miss his love of skateboarding. He talked to me almost daily about it. Speaking of moving schools, a different student had his last day in my class on Thursday. He is a very well-loved kid among all the students and teachers. I will miss him. A couple of students and their parents brought in a couple of gifts for him on his last day which was so nice of them. He absolutely loved all the attention he received. Sometimes, I wonder if everyone had his point of view how the world would be? He was always so happy. I hope I get a chance to run into him again one day.

The first trimester has ended and I gave all my students the grade that they have earned. Some students need to work harder, others need to not socialize so much, and others are doing a great job. So the process starts over. I'm ready to get back at it. I hope the students are as well. I sent out a survey to all my parents and the  response has been very positive. I would like to have some more participation on the survey from the parents. I might do a little bribing :) The positive comments are what keeps me going and pushing on.

In negative news, there is a reading committee task force that is meeting and making decisions for how our school and grade levels will proceed. Some things I agree with and others I do not. What bothers me the most is that I had this expectation of what a typical day would be like for me; teaching 2 subjects, reading and social studies + language arts. I have a feeling that I will also be teaching math as well in the future. I don't necessarily have a problem with this, it's just not what I think is the best way for me to make the biggest impact with my students. Yes, I understand that it looks like I don't want to do something because it will put more on my plate, but in all honesty, that is exactly what it is and I think it will have a negative impact on myself, which will in turn have a negative impact on my students. When I was filling a maternity leave, I taught all the subjects besides science. I felt totally overwhelmed and didn't feel that any of the subjects received my best work. I always felt I was rushed and every subject was getting about 20% worth of what it should be because I was always thinking about what was coming up next. This year, I have two subjects that I teach twice a day and end the day with language arts. In all of my teaching experiences, 8 weeks student teaching 6th, 8 weeks student teaching 4th, and almost a full semester of 5th, this year, 12 weeks into 6th grade, I feel the most comfortable and the most able to meet the needs of my students. I do not feel overwhelmed...besides what I do to myself because I do procrastinate a little :) I feel that I am mostly prepared every day to teach. Being an expert on one or two things is more beneficial than knowing a little about many different things.  In almost all of my college education classes, there was always a section that instructed us soon-to-be teachers on teaching for depth, or quality, versus teaching for quantity. For a little professional comparison fun, lets look at some other careers who do some sort of a specialization. Lets check out the medical field. Doctors. You get sick you head to your family doctor. They check you out. If any additional action is needed they send you to a specialist. Hand, eye, brain, surgeon, and so on. Same with dentists. There are orthodontists, oral surgeons, etc. Let's take a peak into a career that creates something, which is kind of what I think teaching can be linked to. Construction companies. Most of the time the same construction company is not going to do every single thing that is required to building a house. That's why there are excavators, plumbers, electricians, HVAC people, flooring installers, drywall hangers, painters, carpet layers, brick layers, cabinet makers, roofers, and of course the construction company is not going to move you in, so there is also the moving company. All of these little pieces of the puzzle are specialized units which contribute to the whole entity that eventually will become a house. Conversely, I imagine if you asked the electrician to hang the drywall, roof the house, and to do the plumbing, one, it would take that person a lot longer to get all of that done, two, it probably wouldn't be totally up to par with someone who specializes in each of those jobs and only does those specific things.  I love sports, I have coached basketball for a number of years. Let's look into the professional sports arena where players and coaches are earning money to support themselves and their families. You hardly ever see athletes competing in multiple professional sports. Yes, Deion and Bo and the ones that stand out, but Jordan couldn't even pull off the baseball thing. Lets look at coaching. Typically, there is an offensive and defensive side to most sports. Are there not specialized coaches for each side at the professional level. Within those sides of the ball, there are also specialized position coaches: running backs coach in football, pitching coach in baseball, post men coach in basketball, and throwing coach in track.  I also am a photographer. When I start talking about photography, Zack Arias, is one of my huge inspirations. He has said multiple times that you have to find your niche. You can't be a jack-of-all trades because you will never fully develop all of them into something that is worthwhile to shoot and create. My wife and I specialize in seniors and weddings. Of course, we do shoot other things, but we don't do them enough to be great at them. In my opinion, 6th grade, where some of the content is pretty heavy, teachers need to specialize to some sort. In the grade above, all the teachers are fully specialized. So when thinking of the transition from  6th grade to the 7th, there must be a huge, drastic amount of difference between teaching them, correct? I don't think so. The new common core standards deem that otherwise, at least in Reading/Language Arts. If the only thing that I don't teach is science, my students will only switch classes for one period. I don't think that is setting them up for success the next year when they will have 7 or so different teachers all in one day. It's more of a disservice I believe.  I've listed my personal reasons why I'm not in favor of this. Is it research-based? Probably not. I did my own personal research through my life's experiences.

In reading, we just finished a Jerry Spinelli lit circle. I was pretty impressed with some of the students abilities to understand the books through discussions. We will be overlapping some social studies this week and doing some Greek Mythology in reading. Next up is poetry. I'm really excited about this.
In SS, we are in a unit on Greece and will soon be into the Romans.
In Language, we are currently working on prepositions.