Thursday, August 31, 2006

growing pains

Yesterday was our first day of school. I have to tell you, I didn't have a good day. Why, you ask? Because I did to myself what I've been warning everyone else not to do to me: I didn't allow for growth. Let me back up and explain.

Last year, I accepted my position as Alternative Ed teacher. (It's a regular ed program that tries to catch the kids not attending school, not because they're not capable, but because home-life gets in the way. Regular truancy is a major indicator for us.) The program had run the same way for about 15 years, with 3 location changes. It was time for an update, and why not take advantage of new staff, right? So a committe of school administrators and the teaching staff (myself and 2 eddie techs) formed, met, plan, and were ready to go live this fall. All through the process I reiterated that change takes time, and we need to allow for growth and change. Exactally what I'd learned in "Dynamics of Change", a course I had to take for my Masters' degree. Perfect.

But on the first day of this new incarnation, I found myself disappointed with my plans. I wasn't tapping into any intelligences except linguistic. All the students wanted to know was "Which question is that? What do I write down?" I left school saddened and overwhelmed. How could I, one person, be responsible for 8 different classes with only 1 hour of prep time a week? I must be nuts for instigating this change.

After dinner, I tried to search online for curriculum. I'll fill you in on my woefully inadequate searching capabilites later, but suffice it to say after 45 minutes I was much worse off than when I'd started. Somehow, in something my husband said, it hit me what was really wrong: I was expecting myself to provide highly interactive and engaging courses for these kids who despise school and all it stands for. And I was expecting to do it for all 8 different classes. "Well," I thought, "Silly girl-- that's impossible!" It took some think time, and some random introspection, to land upon the problem-- and then the solution. I needed permission to just take a step towards improvement, like I'd been saying all year. This year we'll all do the same classes and add some hands on time. Next year, after another budget cycle allows us to get some resources, we'll take another big step. In 5 years, when I can finally re-teach a class, then I can be disappointed in book and lecture based teaching. Until then, go with what you got. And when you dont' got much, well, go with it anyway.


hoyden said...

This is what I'm learning about! ha-ha!

If you need any advice on books/resources for building a constructivist classroom, let me know, and I can provide you with what they're giving me. In general, Wiggins and McTighe's Learning by Design is an excellent resource on backward design and Newmann's (et. al.) A Guide to Authentic Instruction and Assessment: Vision, Standards and Scoring is a concise view of authentic learning and assessment.

But for now, when in doubt, use verbs from Bloom's taxonomy in your lesson objectives, let your students talk to you and each other in depth about the stuff you teach them, and relate everything you teach to the real world and how it's used by real people.

Easier said than done, huh? I'm trying to write a lesson from a historical perspective... what is it that historians do anyway?

The Renegaducator said...

BTW, I have Wiggins & McTighe, I think (if you don't already).

I guess I forgot, in all the hubbub of the start of the school year, that you were blogging. Just like me, you need to get back at it! I'm trying to get back on the horse, too. I'll try to attach the link...

Ta-dah! There is no new post there yet; I somehow got two blogs going and posted to the old one yesterday. I think I'll try to merge the two and make it all really confusing.