Tuesday, August 16, 2005

the babies

I am scheduled to teach 9th graders this coming year. Not three, but four English teachers quit, two of whom taught freshmen, and since I'm at the bottom in regard to seniority, well, there it is. At first I fought it in my mind, thinking I have the most to give to students closer to graduating, especially about writing. But a little something in me said trust it. Yesterday I went to a workshop to teach 9th grade teachers how to implement a program called Strategic Reading, developed by Johns-Hopkins University. I didn't hate it. The program teaches that each day is divided into four parts: 20 minutes of modeling reading by reading out loud to the students and showing them how one reader(me) thinks through a piece. I already do that all the time anyway. The next 20 minutes is a focus lesson which can be but doesn't have to be tied to the reading. Just a little 20 minute chunk of time where the teacher teaches one something. Like affixes I'm thinking. The next 30 minutes is a bit vague to me, but I think it's a time students read on their own, aloud in pairs, and do some kind of question answering using a booklet provided by the program. The last 20 minutes is supposed to be "centers," which is an opportunity for students to engage in one of four tasks: information gathering, writing, and two others I cannot remember just now. It's extremely structured, and I usually balk at that, but I have a feeling it must be good for freshmen to be so structured. Nothing in the program is the least bit abhorrent to me. And I'm thinking maybe I could be of more use to the students if I started earlier with them, like 9th grade. And I'm thinking, if I could possibly do it, that it might be wonderful to go through four years with a class and then retire with 20 years of service under my belt. And yesterday, at the workshop, I saw a former student of mine, the one I met again after 10 years at the teaching fellows meetings last summer, and that felt like a sign to me that I was where I'm supposed to be. My friend at school who has like 25 years of teaching and has the most seniority in the Douglass English department offered to even trade schedules with me, to give me her 10th 11th and 12th graders (because she likes the structure of the the grade plan). But the little voice in the back of my mind that says teach the 9th graders is getting louder and I told her thank you but no.
I can't figure out if I'm losing my mind or gaining my mind.
The Douglass faculty is warmer than ever and I'm glad to be back with them.



Blogger Marsha said...

Oh, Melanie, I am so excited for you! When I first came to Pine, the principal asked what I wanted to teach, and when I told him "Freshmen," he looked at me like I had lost my marbles. But they're wonderful! So fresh, so creative, so unafraid and brash. They keep me energized and loving teaching. This year, for the first time, I am actually scheduled to teach ALL the English I classes, and I couldn't be happier--not because every class is the same, but because every class is DIFFERENT. And you're right, starting with them earlier may be the trick to teaching them that an essay is NOT only 3 points, 5 paragraphs. Oh, the thoughts that you'll think (to paraphrase Dr. Seuss)! Go with it! :)

10:19 AM  
Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

I totally agree with Marsha. It will be great for these kids to see early in their high school careers what writing can be.

The program you describe doesn't sound bad. And you will, undoubtedly, be able to make it your own after you have a little experience with it.

You are going to have a great year!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Mateo said...

You know, I never knew what a blog was really until today... guess who this is? Probably one of your silliest students you have ever had, but then again, thats probably one hell of a title to live up to considering some of your creative writing classes... hehe

I'm glad to know you are doing well, and reading your blogs actually gives me a sense of...well being I suppose. I really miss going to your class five days a week, twice a day haha...

Afterall, I was in your 2003-2004 creative writing and english III class...

I'd love for you to send me an e-mail sometime, i really miss talking to you, gosh I hope you are alright, and if you ever need a place to stay in Baton Rogue, let me know, im at LSU in a house with my brother daniel and my sister rachel... I LOVE YOU :)

yours dearly,

Matthew D. Redondo

PS. Do you remember my music videos I showed in class? The Kissed from a Rose one? I posted it on the internet if you want to see it again :-p

10:26 PM  
Blogger TexasDude said...

Very nice blog, hard to come by these days,

If you have a chance, can you visit my friends Sign Language for Babies site


1:36 PM  
Blogger Jkimbo said...

Enjoyed your blog! I have bookmarked it.

12:20 AM  

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