Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thinking About 8th Grade and Class Size.

I mentioned that I was going to be working some in an 8th grade classroom.  I did that last week and the class has been on my mind ever since.

There are 32 children in the class and they all really want to learn.  The trouble is that that it feels like they ALL need individual attention.  So you give directions, and then you walk around the classroom giving the directions again individually while they wait for you to get to them and get into mischief.

Thirty-two 8th graders in the same classroom, not to mention the 32 neediest kids in the school in the same classroom is a systemic issue and not one that I have a magic wand to solve.  Ms. K and I have decided that the thing to do is to split the class in half for drafting of their research papers so that we can give them some more individual attention.  It's a good solution but not a viable one for the real world. I'm there volunteering.  I have 10 years of classroom experience under my belt along with a PhD in Urban Literacy.  She has almost 20 years of experience, a master's degree and is a highly qualified, creative teacher with only this one class to teach.  This classroom is my wheel house. And it's still very, very hard teaching because of the sheer number of students in the class that desperately need individual attention.  There are teachers all over the state - the country - with multiple classes of students in just this same situation with no highly trained volunteer to help out.

So I'm problematized about this article I want to write.  We are managing to engage the students with some real world writing and I do believe that the pieces that come out of this work will be notable.  But it will take BOTH of us to accomplish this and that's just not something that's readily replicable.  In my head this is becoming about the dire need for smaller class size.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Making at Discovery Place

Our Writing Project is really embracing the Maker Movement.  One of our major projects is "Making STEAM" a partnership between some K-12 schools and Discovery Place - a local science museum.   A lot of the time I feel like I'm still trying to figure out what "making" is, but this field trip with some 8th graders from Kannapolis really helped move my thinking forward.  There were spaces all over the museum where the kids could "make."  Legos, blocks, duct tape, tin foil and crystalizing paint.  The students just dove in and created all sorts of things.  To me, this is the heart of making -  experimenting with materials without too many instructions as to what to do with them.  The kids were learning all sorts of things about that materials and structures as they created.  Physics, Chemistry, Art - it was all in there.  Amazing and humbling to watch.  

And they are making major connections on our Google + Community.  They took tons of pictures and notes in their daybooks and came back to school to "make" picture collages to post their reflections.  It's amazing to see that they really do "get" "maker."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Inklings of an Article

I have an article in my head that I want to write with a dear friend of mine who happens to also be an awesome teacher.

In my mind it opens like this. . .

"They were and unruly bunch, and with good reason.  They'd been bounced around from teacher to teacher all semester before they finally found themselves in the steady care of Mrs. K.  It's not surprising that it took some convincing for them to believe that she was there to stay and meant to teach them whether they liked it or not."

In my mind this is about engaging reluctant writers, but I want to tread carefully.  This is not a teacher hero narrative like Freedom Writers or Dangerous Minds.  This is about listening for the critique the resistant, reluctant student has on the system of education and capitalizing on that for learning.  That's the challenge of this piece.

I should really do something with these wonderings about help here and here as well.  Maybe all of it will work together somehow some way?  Hmmm brow crinkles.