Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teacher Guilt

During the workshop I attended today on incorporating more non-fiction, I had a huge aha! Usually ahas are positive revelations, but today’s was definitely on the negative side.

During our last unit (Do you believe?) we assigned the students a persuasive essay on whether or not they believed in alien life or not. This was an unusual assignment for us because most writing pieces we assign are open-ended. We thought it would be a good idea though because when we taught this unit last year we asked the students the same question in a warm up and it sparked so much discussion that we told ourselves we would make it a full-blown assignment for this year.

After writing the assignment and creating the rubric, we realized we had no class time to devote to the writing of the assignment. Rather than trash the whole thing, we decided to make it a take-home essay. Before we assigned it, I thought, maybe I can work in a couple of tips a day, you know, persuasive techniques. I wish I had gone with this gut instinct and maybe I wouldn’t feel so guilty now. I briefly looked for some techniques and when I couldn’t find some quickly on the internet, I gave up.

I still haven’t graded them because of the usual foreboding feeling the precedes grading one hundred essays, but also because I just feel like a lousy teacher. I’m still going to grade them; I would feel even worse if I had the kids do all that work and then I just handed it back to them with no feedback. At least there is a light at the end of the tunnel because of what I learned at the workshop today (see other post).

Workshop Highlights: Beyond Fiction - Using Nonfiction in Language Arts

Today I attended Sunny and Heidi’s workshop called “Beyond Fiction: Using Nonfiction in Language Arts”. It was full of aha moments, stimulating conversation and great materials. Here are some of the best parts:

- Valuing and giving time for student (academic) conversation
o Turn and Talk (rec’ed every 15 minutes)
o Observing and being aware of when students need and want to discuss
o Accepting that sometimes students will get off topic – it’s okay! They’re human too.

- Realize that for every student that prefers fiction, there is one that prefers nonfiction.
o Just because I LOVE literature doesn’t make it okay to teach it more than nonfiction. There needs to be an equal balance.

- Teach a skill with non-print media first and then transfer it to text.
o Sunny and Heidi referenced Golden’s Reading in the Reel World and Campbell’s Less is More. This was a good reinforcement for me because one of our goals this year was to incorporate more film/media into the classroom. I think we made a valiant effort, but I definitely lacked on the last step: transfer it to text. And seeing it applied to nonfiction was eye-opening.

The First

Welcome to my teaching blog and to my first post. I have kept a personal blog for a few years and after deep consideration, have decided to start a blog about my life as a teacher.

My goals for this blog, so far, include:
- bettering my teaching practice through writing and inquiry
- coming clean about some of my less admirable teaching practices (in the hopes that I can improve)
- avoiding ranting posts whenever possible