Monday, January 22, 2007

January blues

I think everyone I know hits a teaching wall in January. It's just a rough month in which to teach-- second quarter isn't over yet, so you're trying to pick up the pieces left behind before vacation and holiday insanity took over the classroom. Kids are flipping out about grades and missing work; snow days creep in (or don't) upsetting the balance; and it's just so darned cold!

I find it ironic that the first month of the calendar year-- filled with resolutions and goals and beginnings-- is the antithesis of that in the classroom. It's just such a static month for me: not starting anything new but finishing up the last weeks of the semester; treading water until the days start to feel longer and it's not so cold and everyone has the energy to come out of hibernation. For all the talk of resolutions around me, I just can't get into it really. My new year is in late August, the week before Labor Day; this is just something to get through.

This is something I think public schools can take from the college model: set up the schedule so that when you leave for the holidays in late December, the quarter (and semester) is over. Be truly on vacation, able to relax and enjoy time with family. Get refreshed and ready to return to classes. I guess that means we'd have to start in early August, which would probably start a riot in my own household, but I think I'd make that trade for a January break. Something's gotta give, because this month is just a killer.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

January is for...

... getting back into old habits! Not that 6 posts is a habit necessarily, but I took a few months off posting while I was taking 2 online classes for my certification. Because I just don't have the energy, I'll spare you my DOE rant, but I was focused on getting these courses done and out of the way so I could really focus on my classroom. So it's over, and now I have time to think.

I'm discovering that mid December through the end of first semseter is not a good time of year for my sunshines. (Yes, I do call my high school rough-and-tumble boys that, and yes, they do hate it!) Between poverty related issues intensified around the holidays and the fear of report cards bringing another reminder of how little credit they have, school is not where they want to be right now. If it wasn't so cold, they'd skip and just hang out in front of our local store. Today they shot elastic bands across the room at each other, and all attemps of mine to end this game were thwarted. Detention doesn't work (the middle school proved that!), suspension is really what they want to happen (because then it's not their fault), and giving more work just overwelms them (and "I just won't do it anyway"). So how not to repeat this tomorrow?

Since I can't call in a snowstorm on a dime, we'll have to take a different approach. I would rather reward good behavior than punnish bad. So... tomorrow we create a reward system. It has to be personal as well as for the group. Probably will need rewards twice a day until they get used to it-- and then some typical bribery as a class. Movies and popcorn, pizzas for lunch, candy.... those are easy. Perhaps a trip to a resturaunt for lunch one day? 15 minutes to sit and do nothing? I need to find out what motivates them (besides girls, of course) and use it to my advantage.

(Wish me luck!)