I know it sounds trite, but it’s amazing to me how quickly the school year has gone. We have ten school days left, and half of those are only “half-days.”
I thought I would share a few highlights and lessons I’ve learned over the past ten months — both as a self-reflective activity and as one that perhaps others might find interesting/useful.
Please feel free to share your own year-end reflections in the comments sections — particularly focusing on lessons you’ve learned, new questions that you’re pondering, and/or a short vignette of an experience you’ve had. Try to keep them relatively short — shorter than mine — and I’ll compile them all in a piece that I’ll post on the last day of our school, which is June 11th.
If you have your own blog, and you’ve already posted some of your own year-end reflections or are planning to do so prior to June 11th, leave a link to it in the comment section and I’ll share them in the same post.
It’s been a challenging, but very good, year for “honing” my classroom management skills and strategies.
I’ve written a lot about these challenges — which are certainly not unusual ones facing students and teachers at inner-city schools. Here are links to the posts where I’ve written more in-depth about this issue recently:
“Why Do You Let Others Control You?”
Have You Ever Taught A Class That “Got Out Of Control”?
What Do Pit Bulls & Cockroaches Have To Do With Learning & Teaching?
What Do You Do When You’re Having A Bad Day At School?
What Do You Do To Keep Students (And You!) Focused Near The End Of The Year?
Writing Letters To Students
“I’ll Work If You Give Me Candy”
I’ve had a few more even more recent experiences and experiments I’ve tried.
There’s one student who has had huge problems maintaining self-control in my class and in all his other ones, too. Nothing anyone tried had any affect. Finally, I asked him to go outside and read for a few minutes (if the weather was good) or go to the bathroom at the beginning of each class. While he was out, I asked him to close his eyes for a couple of minutes and visualize himself not reacting to provocations from other students and acting like what, in his eyes, a good student would act.
It really has had a positive impact on his behavior, and he likes doing it — a lot. He says he feels like it’s a big help.
That’s one more tool in my classroom management “toolbox.”
I’ve also begun thinking more about the concept of “self-regulation.” You might this blog post from Kevin Washburn interesting called Self-Regulation Supports Student Learning and Achievement.
(Speaking of class management, one student who is facing a particularly large number of challenges decided that he wanted to learn about Romeo and Juliet. Since he hasn’t really wanted to learn anything all year, I jumped at the chance to make a mini-unit for him to study on the computer. He’s a very high-Intermediate English Language Learner. If you’re interested in seeing some of the links I have him working with, you can find them on my website under Romeo and Juliet)
Field trips are fun and extraordinary learning opportunities, but they seem to be taking more and more “out of me.”
We went on several field trips this year, including ones to San Francisco and Yosemite. You can see a slideshow of them here.
Students love ’em. I just have to figure out a way to make them more sane for me. Any ideas out there?
I’m more and more worried about how California’s $24 billion deficit is going to affect schools.
Already, all summer school enrichment/accelerated classes — at least in our district — have been canceled. The only students who can attend are those who have failed a class, or students in our English Language Development (our name for ESL) program. This leaves out several hundred of our students who ordinarily attend our huge summer school program. One student even told me he is trying to deliberately fail a class so he can go to summer school because he “doesn’t have anything else to do.”
What I’m doing with that student and a small number of others like him is arranging for them to be peer tutors in my Beginning English Language Learners summer school class so they can get elective credit. But that’s just a drop-in-the-bucket when you think of schools all across California.
You can read more about our state’s fiscal crisis at this Sacramento Bee article — Will schools cut workers’ pay, or their jobs?
It will be interesting to see the results of my year-long “experiment” with technology — I’ll have them in a week or two.
As some readers might remember, I’ve (along with my student teacher) taught two United States History classes with English Language Learners this year — one entirely in the computer lab, and the other — for all practical purposes — entirely out of the computer lab (but using what –in my mind at least — is a very engaging curriculum).
We did assessments and evaluations at the beginning of the year, at mid-year and, next week, at the end of the year. You can read more about this — and see the actual assessments — at my post Mid-Year Results Of My “Experiment”.
At that point the results showed that student achievement gains were about equal, though students in the technology-oriented class seemed more engaged and interested in U.S. History. I obviously don’t know, but wouldn’t be surprised if the same holds true in the final evaluations.
In retrospect, however, I believe I made one mistake. We should have also done a simple assessment to measure English literacy, too. Since I believe that technology holds a particular benefit for language-development (and our home computer family literacy project bears that out), my hypothesis is that though U.S. History competency might be equal, the students in the computer lab class would have made greater gains in English literacy. I could still get a general gauge of that by comparing English results in the state standardized tests, but I just don’t think I have it in me to do that work.
I’ll post about the final assessment results in a week or two.
That’s all I have — for now, at least. I’ll be interested in hearing yours…