Sunday, June 19, 2005

It is over. Now, some perspective.

Well, now I'm officially done with my 4th year as a teacher and I have to say, it was excellent! It culminated on Saturday with me in a black robe watching my students graduate on a rainy football field. Yes, I said rainy. Never have I seen Ukiah (or California for that matter) be this late in the year and not have hit 100 degrees. Instead, I was on the football field watching graduation under an umbrella!
Back to the students. The classes were outstanding, the days of feeling miserable were few and far between, and the worst of it was because I was buying the damn house. That made life a little more stressful. However, I had to fill out less than 10 referrals all year, 6 of which were due to attendance problems. The flow was much better and.....well how about a little review:

What worked:
-Total student participation. Mock Congress, Apple Cart and Economics Expo were all very large successes. I highly recommend these types of simulations with this word of warning, be prepared.
-Using Jeopardy as a review. I made it a competitive review and forced students to repeat answers if they were not in the form of a question. Students that were not totally academic became involved quickly and did well.
-Personal relationships. I got to know the students on a deeper level this year more than last. This allowed me to get a better handle on who could manage my sense of humor, and who I should be sweet to.
-The news. I show the news summary from the Newshour (check my links) every day. I lasts from 4-10 minutes long. It might be the best teaching tool for government that I have. College Prep students watched important political events unfold and become aware of economic terminology in practice (FED, GDP, Stock verbiage, Price Indexes). Intro students were very interested about events around the world, especially in Iraq. Many of them are joining the military, and the news was a constant reminder of what might be coming for them.
-Repetition. At the time, students don't like it when you repeat subject matter or slow down to force understanding. In the end, the students figure out why you do it. I also would assign text work, then have the kids take notes on similar material. Students would hate it to start, but understand in the end.
-Student opinions. I did responses every 10 days that gauged opinions on certain subjects from students. They were very effective at reinforcing writing skills, critical thinking, citing sources, and establishing a relationship with students. I refused to mention my opinion, which worked because all students felt like they could speak up in class.
-Sense of Humor. My teacher evaluations had 4 students that thought that my sense of humor was a little too mean. That is way down from last year, where half the students thought I didn't have a sense of humor and that I really was being mean. I think that taking the time to get to know kids allows you to open up much more with them. Some students had a problem with me and student A engaging in playful banter because it was thought that Student A would be offended. This year, I didn't step over the line. Why? Because students will tell me if I do. By the way, and this is very, very important. If you engage in this type of sarcastic banter with students, they will slip up on occasion and go over the line. It isn't fair if it doesn't go both ways so be careful, and be willing to poke fun at yourself.

What Didn't Work:
-My voice, again. I have a loud and booming voice. For people in the front row, that means class every day involves a man in the front sounding like he's yelling. The kids in front did appreciate that very much, and I'm trying to work on it. I don't hear myself yelling, I just boom!
-Spanish. So what, my high school German classes are worthless now????? Actually, yes. The greatest mistake I ever made in my life was starting college late. The second greatest mistake was not taking Spanish. Now, 25% of my students know the language that I'm totally unfamiliar with. So, learn a new language, I must!
-Bringing in outside problems. "Wow, I'm sure glad you finally moved in to your house Mr. Brown, because for the last 3 weeks, you've been a jerk." I love the student that said this. She was dead on correct as well. My mood darkened and I lost energy when the move occurred. Can I really change the situation in the classroom? I really tried, but it is hard to totally split off your life into the "work" section and the "home" section, especially if both are teachers!
-Listen to country music. Seriously, I can't stand country music and it becomes the source of many jokes in my classroom. "I can't wait for Kenny Chesney to go the way of Tupac." To all those yee-haws from my class, I can safely say that I will not be working on listening to more country this summer ;)
-Economics flow. I still don't have it down like I do with Government. This could be for a variety of reasons. First, senioritis kicks in and creates problems with attendance, and the flow of the class. Second, basketball ends at the end of February, which becomes a small letdown. Three, the constant weeks of testing. Finally, I'm not as strong with Econ as I am with Government. Next year I'm really going to work on flow.

So that is a little retrospective on my teaching for the year. More stuff will come out during the summer. Two other things happened this weekend;

-Sonoma State Team Camp: Ukiah came in third behind Rancho Cotati (Cotati) and champion Drake High School (San Anselmo). Our final tally? Wins against Tamelpias (Marin), Head-Royce (Oakland), Novato, Justin-Siena (Napa) and El Molino (Forestville). Losses against Drake twice, Justin-Siena, Rancho Cotati and St. Bernards (Eureka). Not a bad camp overall. More later.

-My wife is working summer school and Algebra Academy this summer. Think I'm sitting on my butt? Actually, yes. I'm taking 30 units of professional development to move over on the pay scale, so I'll be in front of this computer plenty. 12 units of CLAD work, 4 units of Economics, 3 units of classroom prep, 2 units of web design, 3 units of web based Social Science curriculum, 3 units of California history in relation to the Standards, and 3 units on active citizenship for students. Let me know if you are interested and I can direct you to some nice professional development sites. If you know of any, let me know for the future!
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