I had a writing prompt on the board for my sophomores, which included FDR's quote, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." When I asked one of the classes who said this, a student responded, "Dumbledore?"
And soon after that, the students saw an example of fear itself when a girl informed me that there was a gigantic spider right next to my head. I leapt off my stool, darted behind my desk, and nearly hyperventilated while a kid killed it for me. (At least he didn't eat it, like the kid I blogged about last year.....)
The last couple weeks have had some great moments, and also some struggles and frustrations. I'm tired and stressed right now (so glad I'm going to have a nice, home-cooked meal with my folks tonight), so I'm just going to bullet point to give you some of the highlights:
- My CP1 sophomores are pretty into Lord of the Flies. I feel like I'm doing a much better job of framing our discussions this year. When we started the book, I gave them our essential questions, along with the question that is guiding us for the entire year ("What drives us and makes us who we are?"). I'm really making sure to show how these questions and concepts relate to the real world, and so they generally have lots of ideas that they are eager to share. And most of them, even if they don't always answer the homework questions, are actually reading. I'm also trying to keep in mind that I don't have to talk about every single thing that happens in the book, but rather I just need to keep focused on our central themes and questions in order to avoid an information overload, as well as make our discussions more meaningful.
- My senior classes, on the other hand, have been fairly disappointing. They hate participating, they aren't good about doing their work, and they are just generally unenthusiastic. I'm sure part of it is that this course (all the senior classes are now 1/2 year electives) is new to me, and I'm still not totally comfortable with it, so that's probably coming through a bit. But there also just seems to be this laziness and apathy with a lot of them....I don't know if, because it's called an elective, that they think that it's not "real" English class, if they're uncomfortable having all of the levels mixed together, or if the senioritis is already in full swing, but already I have a lot of kids who are failing. And unlike in the past, they don't have the full year to pull themselves out of the hole. I've got to make phone calls to parents this week, and maybe start telling kids that they are required to stay after with me in the next week in order to come up with a game plan for getting their grades up.
- I have been trying a couple cool things with this elective (called "Criminal Minds in Literature"). As we've been doing Sherlock Holmes, I had them watch an episode of BBC's modern "Sherlock," which they responded quite well to, showed an example of a graphic novel version of one of the stories and had them create their own scenes, and also had them read a cool article on possible medical diagnoses for Holmes (Asperger's and bipolar disorder) in order to appeal to students who are more drawn to the sciences and psychology.
- One of my sophomores stayed after the other day for extra help. I didn't actually help him with an assignment, however. Basically, during the time he was here, he worked on organizing his binder, and the two of us talked about reading strategies he can employ, and talked about a game plan for improving his grades. Sometimes, it seems that even if you're not telling a kid something you haven't told all of them before, just talking something over step by step with them and making it all seem manageable can really help them reframe their mindset.
- And to end on a funny note: One of my former students asked me last week if I'd like to buy a wreath to help support the National Honor Society. Since I'm Jewish, I reminded him that I am not his target customer....