I have been reminded during the past two days about how long it's been since I was 15 years old. I have effectively navigated the sea of energy generated by the ~125 of them I've worked with and lived to smile at the end of the day. But damn, I feel old. :)
Part of this is my own fault---not Mother Nature's and Father Time's doing. I can't be the kind of teacher who asks kids to just read the book and answer questions on a worksheet while I read the newspaper or surf the internet. I don't have the five-day plan I see so many teachers implement: Monday for notes, Tuesday for worksheets, Wednesday for films, Thursday for answering questions out of the book, and tests on Fridays. I understand that I get paid the same either way...but it doesn't feel like teaching and learning if I'm not in the thick of it all with the kids. So, I have no one to blame but myself if I'm tired because I didn't sit on my fanny all day.
I do practice what I preach. I use my Holy Grail Lesson Plan. The great thing about it is that it makes the class period manageable for teenage attention spans. There is no time to be bored. While not everyone's learning needs are addressed every day, within a few days I've managed to have time for kids to work individually, in pairs, in groups, and participate in whole class discussion. We write, we draw, we read, we do. (If you're curious, here's my outline for the first eight days of class. Should any specific activities pique your interest, e-mail me for a copy.) The bad thing about using this kind of plan is that it sometimes feel like you're planning twice as many classes.
Discussions about grades have been minimal so far. I have started kids thinking about equal vs. fair and formative vs. summative assessment. We'll get knee deep into my grading policy soon. I think the sophomores will cotton rather well to the ideas. (Juniors and seniors are another story for another day.) I am anxious to put the lesson plan, assessment ideas, and the grading policy into simultaneous practice. My hunch is that it will be very motivating for kids and will help generate a lot more energy in the classroom.
For now, this old fart is off to grab a beer and camp out on the sofa. :)