Thursday, October 21, 2010

Big Goals to Remedy Apathy

Hi y'all :) Just wanted to post a quick update. My kids are getting comfortable with me and have been pushing boundaries like crazy lately. However, my biggest concern has not been for my kids who are acting up in class (although that is a significant challenge), but with the large majority of my kids who are displaying total apathy at this point. I have so many students who come into my class, plop down in a seat near the back of the room, and immediately put their head down on their desk for a nap. Granted my class is their second math class of the day, but I still can't fathom how they think it's ok to sleep through any class and simply refuse to do their work. I've tried just about everything to get my kids excited about math and engaged in the work we are doing. I come in everyday acting almost ridiculously excited and enthusiastic about the concepts I am teaching. I've created math games and activities where they get to work in partners and groups or move around the room. All my students know that the expectation is that they will be "Stellar Scholars"- which means that they are attentive, focused, and actively participating. I've reminded them, danced for them, begged them, given consequences to them, offered them candy, and more! This same apathy has led to less than 10% of my students doing ANY of the homework I assign. Many of my students will flat-out refuse to do in-class work. When I gave out progress reports this week to my students, the ones who had a bunch of zeros and F's were surprised and upset with me! The average grade on my first unit test was a D :( I nearly cried as I graded the tests and saw all the students who simply scribbled in answers that they gave absolutely no thought. So I've decided to spend time every day this week re-visiting individual goals and marketing/selling my class big goal. We have talked a lot about the power of goal setting and we will be making action plans tomorrow- because a goal without action is just a nice thought. I shared with my 8th graders (who are my most apathetic) a little bit of my personal story about how I set goals with running and worked my way to a college scholarship. I think they understood how powerful I believe goals are, but I'm not sure if any of them have internalized the power of goal setting for themselves. I'm sure not going to give up on any of my kids, even though it is awfully tempting in light of where they are at right now. I simply can't allow myself to see the kids for their actions- I have to look deeper at the potential that they will pry out of them. I sincerely believe that once they get a glimpse of their own profound abilities that develop from hard work, they will be hooked. to facilitate that glimpse...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Three and a half weeks in

Hi y’all J Well, it’s been almost three weeks of teaching and I finally feel like I’m getting into the rhythm of what I’m doing. It’s certainly been a LOT of hard work and long days, but I really do love what I am doing. I am so blessed to get to spend forty hours a week working with children who have a whole lot of potential, and for the most part, are eager to learn. To be honest, most days I leave feeling pretty discouraged about where my kids are academically. Even though I ran a diagnostic on them and saw that many were performing at a first through third grade math level, it still blows my mind when I spend thirty minutes teaching my heart out about something simple like rounding and half the kids in the class look up at me like I just taught them how to calculate a rockets trajectory from earth to the moon. I’m still trying to figure out how to differentiate my instruction in such a way that the kids who are ready to move forward get that challenge while the others have the opportunity to get the remediation they need. In my textbooks, that seemed simple enough. Real life is a bit messier than what I had envisioned ;) I’m working crazy hard to plan lessons that are meaningful to all my students and push them to develop higher level math skills. It’s one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a teacher so far, but it also drives me to put in lots of extra hours in the evenings and on the weekends. This week alone I had six hours of professional development after school and then I spent my second Saturday in a row of three at a seven hour workshop for new teachers in my district.

Curricular frustrations aside, I am falling in love with my students already. Some of the kids have been my biggest challenges have also nestled most deeply into my heart. Many of my students are painfully desperate for someone to care about them. I had almost forgotten about what a critical age middle schoolers are at as they develop their self-identity. I have a handful of students who are rebelling and trying ridiculously hard to appear as though they don’t care about school or anyone who tries to tell them that education is important. As I’ve taken the time to listen and observe them, I’m convinced they are either terrified of failing and have put on a tough front to mask it or they feel powerless and by blowing off their school work they are exerting the only power they feel like they have. I have two specific kiddos in mind as I write this and it has become my personal challenge to break down their tough exteriors with the kind of undeserved and persevering love that Christ has shown me. The other kid that I constantly think about and try to figure out is a very timid young man. He is always looking down and mumbles everything he says as though it’s not at all worth saying but he knows he has to say something when I speak to him. I greet all my students with a hand shake at the door and his handshake is always limp and cold. He asks me to repeat directions multiple times and rarely begins his work without me coming to his desk and specifically telling him what first step he should take. I don’t think he has a learning disability, but I could be wrong. My inkling is that he has been beaten at home and told he is worthless. He has all the psychological and affective signs of an abused child but I don’t want to jump to conclusions before I’ve had much longer to get to know him and learn about his life situation. Hopefully I can help him build some confidence and love on him enough to make an impact in his life over the next six months.

Beginning this week, I am taking on a job after school for four hours per week teaching a young lady who was recently diagnosed with lupus and is home-bound. From what I know about her, she was an excellent student and began missing a lot of school at the beginning of the year for a lingering illness. She got so sick this fall that she had to take an extended leave from school and was eventually diagnosed with lupus. It sounds like she has had a rough battle with the disease and recently underwent chemotherapy to suppress her immune system. I am so excited about this opportunity! I am hoping to really bless this girl and her family and minister to her as I spend time with her in her home each week. Having battled a frustrating and, for a time, debilitating autoimmune disease myself, I hope and pray that I can give her encouragement and hope as she deals with this life changing diagnosis. I recognize that our diseases are different and the recovery trajectory may look different for her, but I do have a personal knowledge of the devastation, anger, and fear that comes with the initial sickness and diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. My first priority will of course be educational, but I am looking forward to building a relationship with my new student that helps her as she moves forward both academically and emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Your prayers for her and for myself as I seek to be a mentor to her would be so greatly appreciated!

Speaking of prayers, thank you SO MUCH to all of you who have been faithfully praying for me and supporting me over the past few weeks. I want to especially thank my mom, grandparents, and aunt and uncle for their continued prayers, packages full of goodies, and financial support. You guys mean the world to me and I am so blessed to have such an amazing family. Seriously. Thank you.

And I’ve got to give a quick shout-out to my mom! She started her first year in the nursing program two weeks ago and she has been working incredibly hard. I am so proud of her and the journey she has been on that brought her this far. She is a phenomenal example to me of hard work and perseverance. I know she is going to be a stellar nurse but the program is a tough one. Please keep her in her prayers too as she plows through hundreds of pages of reading, labs, clinicals, content-heavy lectures, and super tough tests. And for those of you who see her often, be sure and remind her that she rocks ;)

I’d better get to bed and get my beauty sleep so I can be awake and alert for my professional development that starts bright and early in the morning. Hope all of you back in Oregon are enjoying a beautiful fall. Love y’all. Hasta luego.