Saturday, January 31, 2009

If a picture is worth a 1000 words....

Then this video will tell you all you need to know about how my week went. I got observed this week and I didn't tell the students I was going to have a visitor so my professor got to see my students as they really are. My cooperating teacher was out for three days and didn't give me any lesson plans so I was making up as I went along, which got me into more trouble with the professor.
It was so bad that I really started to wonder why the **** I became a teacher in the first place and I said as much to my principal who promptly scheduled a meeting with me to help me out. He wants me to spend some time observing other classrooms to see how they handle things and he is going to sit in a couple of my math classes (I teach math and English) to send a message about how they should behave. He also gave me some ideas to make the classes more fun. We'll see how this week goes...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Due to the short week, I have not finished the poetry unit with my students yet. That'll happen next week. In the meantime we've been working with the students on their writing and I've been working on a new unit dealing with Dr. King's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail", which I think is his most impressive work, including his speeches. Despite the fact that most of my students are black, very few know that he wrote a letter from jail, much less the content or even what prompted him to write it in the first place. I plan on fixing that lack of knowledge with this lesson. Now the letter is a long one, nine pages to be exact and it's a complex piece of literature, full of Biblical references and other imagery that take time to process properly.

At first this was going to be a four day lesson. The first day we were going to read the public statement written by Birmingham Clergy telling Dr. King that his activities were well intentioned but the wrong answer for the question of racial equality in Birmingham. It was this statement that prompted Dr. King to write his famous letter. The next three days we were going to go over the letter in three page chunks, answering questions and creating posters or power points about the letter and what it meant to them personally.

So I had finished the statement and the activities for the first 2/3 of the letter, and I wanted to get a second opinion on my questions that the students would answer so I gave it to my co-teacher to get her opinion. She was impressed with the questions which made my day and the pointed out that I was going waaaaaay to fast and that there was no way I could cover the material in just 4 days, now that didn't ruin my day but it did bring me back to earth.

Armed with this reality check I started to redo the lesson and my short unit is now two full weeks long. Now my plan is to do a page a day and mix in some group work along with answering questions and writing essays. The nice thing is that I don't have to start over, just slow the heck down. My goal for the unit is to give the students a real (as opposed to "I have a dream") insight into how Dr. King thought and why he took the actions he did, as well as give them real insight into the multitude of opposition that he faced from both blacks and whites.

Of course having a good lesson plan only goes so far. It'll be interesting to see how they react to the lesson and the work that is going to go along with truly understanding the letter and the author.

Wish me luck, I think I'm going to need it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Slow Start

I apologize for the light blogging. To be honest I have had a hard time getting back into the groove of teaching and everything that goes along with it. I didn't even feel like I was doing anything worthwhile until Wednesday even though the poetry units are going better than I had hoped. I have kids participating who never participate in a good way. The unit plan is not going as smoothly as I want but since this is my first go round with teaching poetry I'm pretty satisfied.

We had an interesting assembly Friday at the school. The principal had been hearing our students call each other nigger (or is it nigga?) while in the halls, at practice or in class and decided that something needed to be said. Keep in mind that the student population is 98 or 99% black so this is not an unusual occurrence. I've heard it myself a time or two and have let the students know how much I despise that word. So the principal starts talking about the use of the word and then says it himself, oh did I mention that he's white? Now he said it to show how ugly the word is and why it's not acceptable to use it on campus. Then three teachers, all of whom are black, all tell about how ugly that word is. One of our teachers was at the University of Alabama when the Governor made his famous segregation now and forever speech. The other who teaches history, told the students the real history of the word and how the meaning of that word can never be changed. He was so passionate that he had students and teachers misty eyed.

I of course had to throw in my two cents after the assembly and explained how the choices that they make impact their community. I tried to explain to them the damage that 'gansta' rap does to their community and that every time they buy that CD or see that video or go to that concert they are reinforcing all the stereotypes about blacks as thugs etc. I made a point of showing how women are treated in lyrics and videos and asked them if they wanted their mom's sister's cousin's etc called bitches, whores and sluts. I asked them if they wanted the ladies in their lives to be treated as an object to be used and discarded. I don't know if I changed any minds, but I do know that I made them think.

Finally, my student teaching 'starts' this semester. So I suppose all last semester was just 16 weeks of batting practice? The good thing is this is my last semester of school at Nevada State College. I plan on taking a couple of years off before I start working on my masters. I've been in school every semester (spring, summer and fall) since 2003 and I really need a break.

Monday, January 05, 2009


They ended all right! Today was the first day of school after a badly needed two week break. For myself and Karlana it never seemed like it would get here because we were not only teaching full time but we were also full time college students. I had 4 classes and she had 5. To say we were badly in need of a break would be an under statment of gigantic proportions.

I was able to not only relax and recharge, but to do some serious reading as well. I finished three books over the break. Ike, What's so Great About Christianity, and The Haunted Mesa. And I started American Lion, a biography on Andrew Jackson. I also picked up several books at the used bookstore, many of them were for my students, but I did get a collection of poems by Emily Dickinson as well as a couple of Ray Bradbury books.

I didn't even crack my laptop until Sunday night when I finished my poetry unit for the 7th graders, so I stretched out my vacation as long as possible. I don't start my final semester until the end of the month so I still have a couple more college free weeks, which will be nice.