06 September 2007

Youthful Exhuberance and the Old Fart

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. :)


Clix said...

I got home around 4:30 and got back out of bed at 7:15. ;)

And I'm not THAT old.

(Am I?!)

Mimi said...

Good for you!! Don't succumb to the laziness of videos and worksheets! Those kids are lucky to have you and you definitely deserve that beer (or two...)

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Never fear. You'll whip yourself into shape in a couple of weeks.

I am way excited to see such active lesson plans, and especially plans that exploit the potential of "block." (So many teachers waste sooo much instructional time.) You might be tired, but the day doesn't drag for you, either, does it?

One of the greatest compliments a student could give me was, "Holy cow, Mr. Repairman, we just got started!" On a Monday. :-)

The Science Goddess said...

Clix, I think I'm one of the older (but not more mature!) edubloggers around. Seems like most of you are young bucks. (I'm 37 going on 75.)

And Mimi---I think two beers is a good idea. If they're going straight to my hips anyway, I don't want to be lopsided. So, I can't just have one. :)

The Science Goddess said...

If idleness is the root of mischief, then neither my students nor I are in any danger of being led astray. :)

My plans are ambitious for a 55-minute class period, but so far, we're right on track.

I used some of the "downtime" today to talk with kids about how the brain learns and why we were chunking up their time. One kid asked "How come other teachers don't do this?" I hope she asks them.

Anonymous said...

That lesson plan is so helpful! I structure my classes very similarly, but I never thought to make my lesson plans with possible strategies already listed for each point. I have a feeling this will be printed and used quite often :)

Hugh O'Donnell said...

"One kid asked "How come other teachers don't do this?" I hope she asks them."

I almost fell out of my chair when I read that. I'm still smiling.

If you tack into the wind, you make progress where it doesn't seem that you should. A comment like that from a kid is a good sign that you're on the right track (tack?).

When my students would ask me questions like that, whether it was about my grading policy or the way we conducted class, I always wanted to say, "Beats the **** out of me, kid."

But I could only be honest and tell them, "I don't know."

You just can't tell a child that your colleague is a troglodyte, can you?

The Science Goddess said...

Miss---You're welcome! I've posted about my blood, sweat, tears, and other random bodily fluids in developing this tool. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that intense, but it's been a very handy beast in the last couple of years. (If you're so inclined, you can read more here and/or here.)

Repairman---"I don't know." is the most pc answer I can give. :) Even if the kids aren't the force of change in other classrooms, I hope that the things they learn about themselves while I have them in my spell will help them with their studies at home, college, or wherever life takes them. In the meantime, it just makes me sad that so many students aren't getting the kind of rich learning experience they could because some of their teachers either don't know how to give it to them or can't be bothered to.