Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sorry folks

I know I didn't update yesterday, and I know today isn't going to be what I promised. I have a hugeass research grant request to get in by the 14th though and I'm still working on my fucking budget, so bear with me. Plus I spent all weekend drunk or hungover. This next weekend looks very similar. I will super seriously try to have the schedule typed out and up tomorrow (though tomorrow's update is going to be late at night, sorry, that's just the way it is). If not, it WILL be up over the weekend (maybe).

Made a student cry today. Poor ol' Shauna. We were talking about them essays and I had given them some rough drafting to do over the weekend. She came up to me during class free time to look at each others' essays (yes, the motivated students actually will do this) and started asking about the essays, clarifying. She was stressed as all hell, looking at me through that sort of cracking veneer of smiling psychosis that people get. Yknow how someone's sorta smiling just a little too much and their eyes are just a little too glisten-ey? She started asking if they all had to be as long as I'd said, what kinda sources they'd need, basic shit. I told her yes and she started talking about how much trouble she'd had formulating any ideas and how she'd basically gotten nothing but a bunch of crap scribbled hastily down. At this point, I could tell she was gonna crack, so obviously I started to try to console her. "It's gonna be okay, don't worry, you'll see that everything's gonna work out alright. You're gonna come out a stronger writer than you think. Etc." She smiled and sucked it up, but not before letting a few tears spill. I told her she could use the restroom if she liked, which she did indeed do, and that she needed to calm down because she was going to do way better than she thought, and I'm damn sure she will. She's a fine student. This brings me to an important topic though, the overly emotional student. Whether they're crying for sorrow, fear, anger, or whatever, they need to be dealt with in a certain manner.

First, assess for danger. If a kid looks like he's damn near ready to chuck a desk or... has already chucked a desk (which is fucking fun for the teacher), you may just have to take action. Who knew. Now, clearly, if they're pissed and chuck something across the room and storm out, you wanna go out there, have them chill out, but the danger is over. What you have to worry about is if a student is going to be hurting other kids. Hate to say it, but you won't know what's happening until halfway through. If a kid is pissed, you're not gonna see it welling up in a room of 20 of the fuckers. They'll just snap and you'll see a book sailing across the room. Get authoritative. "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON" always works, or something like that. Watch your swears, but they'll be an effective tool at this crucial time. Now. Taking down a student. If it's a typical fight, go get another teacher or have the kids break it up, don't dirty your hands with grabbing a student, of course try to get in the way a little bit, but don't go throwing kids around. That's inviting a lawsuit. If a kid is going fucking nuts though, take em down. If they have a weapon, you take that fucker the shit fucking shit out. So, that's how you handle a violent problem in the middle of violence. Sometimes you will see it welling up, the kid'll walk in late beet red and breathing through clenched teeth (which incidentally is the funniest fucking thing ever, especially since you know they think they look sooper serriuz guys). Take them outside and say something like "You need to talk, need me to leave you alone, need to go somewhere or just need a handshake (or any sign of affection, though if you're a male teacher, hugs are reaaaaaalllllyyyyyy dangerous)." Quick and easy and nips the problem before it gets serious. Notice how I basically did this with Shauna today, saw what she was having problems and addressed them. Even though I was the cause of the problems, I was able to set myself up as the caring loving teacher that was there for her and only her. Not only is this going to build her trust in me, but it's going to set the essays up as some foe against me and her together. Slowly she'll come around to the concept of the essays as help, but for now, it's me and her vs. the world. Pretty much the epitome of the teenage girl's mind. Any more questions on this stuff, I'd love to cover.

Also, otters are fucking awesome creatures. They use their bellies as plates. How crazy is that shit?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Useless Part Two

Well, I've legit got nothing to talk about today or tomorrow unless you guys want me to touch on anything. Go ahead and leave some comments on what you might want me to talk about and I can try to do a post about it this evening or tomorrow during school.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Useless update

I think that we're going to sorta just watch “The Crucible” and point out some stuff until Friday and Monday I'll go ahead and start pushing forward. Granted, I'm going to be basically going by the seat of my pants (because I have no idea what they've done so far and what they'll need), I should still be able to give you guys an outline of what I'm gonna be doing. I think I might have to work out a way to do grammar Tuesdays or something as well. I figure I'll also try to give personal anecdotes and how I handle them with each post. This week's suck, and for this I apologize, it's a long and hard thing though and I'm basically planning an entire semester of classes (or half at least) and applying for a research grant and taking midterms and writing essays and all kinds of shit. So, come Monday, expect more personal anecdotes, more great stories and tips, and a more solid lesson plan. For reals.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not too much today...

Whoo boy. Been kind of a long day and I'm not sure how much I want to write (seeing as I've still got like two lesson plans to make for college and a friggin midterm tomorrow). I reckon I'll talk a little bit about two things, one stereotyping, and two, setting long term goals.

Someone mentioned in a comment on my last post that it was interesting to see how I stereotyped students and based my approaches to them on the stereotypes. It's funny, but it's also absolutely true. Kids are all relatively the same in that they are completely different in being the same, if that makes sense. Every kid at that age has one thing on the mind, fitting in. Everything they do is a variation of this single theme, so you've got to play to that. You have to give them love and acceptance (FUCK YEAH KID LOVIN) and help to foster a sense of self-worth in them. In order to do this, you gotta understand what the best way to reach a kid will be. Granted, sometimes the best way is to just fuck off and let em do their own thing. But for the most part, there are in fact certain tactics to getting a kid to open up. The smart loser who is integrating into the popular crowd knows what it's like to be alienated, so he's going to try to specifically not apply himself in school work. The popular girl that's popular for how wide her legs spread knows that she is in fact only used for sex, so if you approve of the things she can do in classes, she's going to seek that positive attention. Etc.

Now when I say I'm talking about long term goals, I mean the actual setting of the goals. Make explicitly clear to the kids what is happening. I did this today, and I started them off (besides beginning watching “The Crucible”) with a little writing assignment. Essentially, this is their final exam for my portion of the class. They will turn in four essays, 3 2-3 page essays and 1 4-5 page essay arguing a point about any of the literature we discuss. One will be based on Romanticism, one on Puritanism, one on Neo-Classicism (or Transcendentalism if they're feeling rowdy), and one on poetry of any type (the 4-5 pager). They will have two chances to turn in each paper for teacher review before their final submission. After two revisions, I will only accept the final copy. If they would like to schedule meetings with me though, I will be open for that. This gives them a deadline and allows them to achieve it before it is necessarily time to hit it hard. The earlier they turn the work in, the better I will grade it (providing of course they have actually turned in good work). Setting clear goals like this (and sending them home in hard copy) lets the kids and the parents know what they are doing right off the bat. I've asked them to write for me a one-page paper on what they know about Puritan logic is like as far as they know. This is due tomorrow, and I've explicitly stated that it will probably be one of the things they turn into a real paper. I guarantee most of them will suck, but only through suck... can they grow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Let the games begin.

So, had my first three periods for the first time today. I reckon I can talk about some of the students in em a little bit first, then we'll talk about implementing that ever so important writing I was talking about. I'll also try to give you guys a little bit of a plan of what I'm doing here. My ultimate goal is to be brushing the ass-end of Romanticism and metaphysical poetry and whatnot right before Xmas break. I figure I'll wrap up with Walt Whitman and leave the buggers able to tool with him again after the Civil War.

Period 1:

Tina. She's gonna be one of the most fun students I have I think. She's really energetic and really knows how to take a joke (which can be a huge problem with female students, as I believe I've mentioned, if not lemme know). She's very bright as well, and she seems eager to learn.

Adam. Adam's a pretty cool seeming dude. Seems very much like one of those emo kids you remember, but he also seems like he's going to apply himself and work to impress me, both good qualities.

Triana. She's a super suckup, and you can tell that the other students hate her from the very first. These ones are the toughest ones to teach sometimes, especially if they start having trouble with stuff. They don't take failure well and they're very prone to social isolation (and they have a superiority complex the size of Texas, which doesn't help things). We will be covering her type more as we go on, I'm sure.

Whole class. It's a pretty good class. Small. Mostly smart. It's good stuff, really. I think the hardest thing I'll have to overcome in reaching this class is getting them school oriented first thing in the morning. It's gonna be tough, but I loves em already.

Period 2:

Alysia. Bubbly white girl. Smart. Annoying. Talks a lot, but still tries to be good. She's going to be breaking little rules all the time (no eating in class, no hats, that sort of gay shit). The problem with these students is that it's nearly impossible to set a middle ground for both of you, she will be constantly forcing you to take ridiculous measures of action against her.

Keisha. Cohort to Alysia. There's really not much more to say, they're both the exact goddamn same.

Shauna. This one's a good student. She's one of those picture perfect innocent girls that haven't been spoiled yet. This can be good and bad. She's going to be super endearing and her naivety will be both refreshing and a great tool (she'll ask questions that nobody else wants to broach). She's smart, but also a bit ditzy. She's going to be very emotional though, and very prone to stress, which is bad. I will guarantee that she will be one of the worst offenders of grade grubbing (I say that not in a necessarily pejorative sense, but moreso in the sense that she will just try her damnedest, including emailing me every five minutes asking if 'this is right' and if 'this needs work.')

Rex. Rex basically doesn't give a fuck while simultaneously giving a fuck. He's a smart guy, but he'd rather smoke and show up halfway through class than apply himself. I'll get to talking with him later about more in depth stuff and I'm sure he'll respond some, but it's gonna be a tricky thing.

Whole class. The whole class, in general, is very slacker friendly. These seem to be primarily the kids who are in the gifted program because mommy and daddy said so. They'll be a super pain in the ass, but at the same time, the social interactions between students will facilitate some issues rather well. Getting into debates and whatnot will be pretty fun with a lot of vocal students.

Period 3:

Shakina. Fat black bitch. She's the ringleader of the class. I will absolutely need to break her (or win her heart) to get control of this class. She's very vocal about everything, has had a tough time, and I can already see that she's gonna try to fake melt for me (that sappy shit you see in movies where the students' hearts are melted by a loving teacher). She's gonna act like we've reached some meaningful thing so I won't be hard on her. This will be fun, I'm quite certain.

Davis. Gang member. He's in the Bloods, I can tell already. That's going to be fun dealing with. We will certainly be talking about meddling in students' lives way more because of him. I'm not going to say how I know (I'm not going to endanger anyone), but there are signs and he's showing a lot of em. Talk to the local cop station, or just ask around at the school for gang awareness stuff. You will be fucking surprised. It's insane.

Pat. Pat's got a pretty big disability. It's essentially a speech impediment that I suspect to be compounded with cognitive problems. He could be a fetal alcohol baby? He comes from a pretty rednecky seeming background, which kind of supports the theory. Half of the stuff he says comes out garbled and nearly impossible to translate, the other half is hardly a thought at all. He's going to be an interesting case.

Whole period. Overall, this will be, by far, my worst worst worst period. There are like 10 kids in it, and they're all ghetto fucking assholes. I'm gonna really have to work to relate stuff to them.

As far as my plans and my day. Here's what I've done. I've decided that we're going to do a historical reactive sorta concept. I'll spend the week or two ahead finishing Puritanism (the less we spend the better, and we may just watch “The Crucible”) and making sure they understand it. Then move on to N-C, then some transcendentalism, then finally Romanticism (make sure to spend only a little time on this, and for god's sake, don't make em read a novel. Short stories and poetry are where the Romantics shine, don't ruin that). I've not worked out what I'll use, but keep in mind, I'm strictly bound by what has been approved. It can be a real cock-stain trying to get something taught only to find halfway through that you're no longer allowed to be teaching it. So that's my plan for that. As far as (final) assessment goes, I'll probably have a small, easy, multiple choice quiz for the final with like 4 supplemental papers. If they get the papers to the point of 'perfection,' I'll take em in early and give em credit. First come first serve on my editing, and I will only edit any given paper two times before taking it in. They get one pre-write, then turn it in. I'll point out major flaws and shit. They revise the ENTIRE fucking thing, and get it back to me, assuming it's structurally and organizationally sound, I work on grammar/style/conventions/etc. They turn it in and I give em a grade. Done. I'm certain we will need to have a writing workshop though. I'm thinking we will be doing at least one research aspect too (for any one of the papers). I'm going to be laying this on them soon, probably Wednesday.

As far as today goes, I went through and basically worked out what the year was going to be with them. Give them a chance to explore their destiny some, let them know some stuff they might be interested in. Make sure that they're assessing themselves as well. So, where did you guys leave off with Ms. Last-Teacher? What all can you tell me about Puritans? Did you know this? Why were they fleeing? What's Henry VIII have to do with it? That kinda stuff. It's helping me know what they know, helping them understand that they know stuff, and giving us all a sense of camaraderie as we assault the toughie that is Puritan writing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

How to get em interested

One of the toughest things about teaching is getting kids interested. To this end, I've got only really one major suggestion. Make them proud about what they're doing. That doesn't mean be retarded and ridiculous and give them a prize or a cookie for a good test grade, they know that you're faking it then. Really, what you should be doing is pitting them against each other. "Were the Puritans right in their treatment of the Indians?" "FUCK NO" "YES HUH" It's debate time, fuckers. Final destination. Five minutes to prepare. No logical fallacies. Then pick a winner and tell them why. You're going to teach them logic, public speaking, and make them want to earn your appreciation like hell. Not much, but I'll be able to describe it in action later I'm sure.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Figuring out where you are

I feel like we're going to have a lot of time to learn more about the students as we go on, there are quite a few characters in my classes. Lovable bunch, really. So, I was wondering what I might write about today, and I figured I'd talk a little about how to design a lit class.

Here's what I've picked up in doing it: kids gotta write. Follow the history and explain to them what's happening at the time the writings are taking place whilst teaching them the lit. Put it in context. Then start getting them writing about it. Memorizing facts is hardly helpful, unless they can apply them to the literature they're reading. They will push themselves until they can get it. I've seen a class this age begin to grasp and discuss Modernism for fuck's sake. These kids know what they're doing. Furthermore, tests suck. Make them do essays, and write with a purpose too. Teach them about proper formal writing. They will love you for it the more they go on in school.

Other than that lil nugget, everything's rather slow, once Monday rolls around and I have my kids back full time, we'll have way more to talk about. Also, tomorrow is a half day, so don't expect much about tomorrow, unless anybody has any questions or anything.