Friday, November 12, 2004

Backtracking to earlier in the week

So my Wednesday post must have gotten eaten when the connection died. Dammit, I'm sure it was a good one, because Wednesday sucked ass. I always rant on particularly bad days.

I had a horrible day that day. Because of the bulletin board hullaballoo, I did an extended writing workshop with my two double period classes. That means an hour and a half of just writing, doing the same thing. It did not go very well. Class A wasn't too bad at first, because Ms F came up and helped regulate and circulate. With us looming, vulturelike, the students actually did quite well. My biggest behavior problem student made a visible effort to stay on task, and my second worst problem student did his work really quickly, with all the pieces. That was awesome. However, then Ms F took eight or nine of the best writers down to her room on the first floor, and I was left with the rest, and it quickly turned to bedlam. Sigh.

Class B was a lot of bedlam. The same six or seven students remained patiently and quietly on task--thank god for them. Three of them actually finished their papers and got them ready for display. Hurrah for the A students! The rest of them pretended to be on task, or were on task one minute out of every ten, and talking, playing around, throwing things the other nine. Grr.

Class C was only a single period on Wednesday and so it just was quick and not completely productive.

I had a big old headache going before day's end. I kept about six boys in Class B after school, because they would not shut up in class. Most of them denied any issues from class, diverting it onto other students. (Apparently a group of girls broke some ballpoint pens and threw the ink all over the room and other students. Good lord.) One of the boys broke down; he's a very motivated student. Not the smartest in class, but always works really hard and loves to participate. He raises his hand all the time and answers using full and run-on sentences. He's a sweet kid. And he was really upset that I had his name on the board for talking. Before I let them all go, he sort of burst into tears, wailing "I don't want to be an A student; it's not worth it. Whatever I do isn't good enough for my parents!" Oh goodness, the poor thing.

So I let the others go and talked to him one on one. He said that he's under a lot of pressure to succeed and he works hard but his parents just want more. God, he's eleven, for pete's sake, should any sixth grader need to feel that? But he agreed with my assessment that he likes working hard and doing well. I suggested that he have someone to talk to, to sort out his thoughts and stuff. Also that he take an extra notebook and keep a journal, to help work off the stress. I told him to do things that make him feel better, so that he'll stay happy.

In passing this morning, when that class was entering my room, he came back to me for a sec and said that that talk the other day really helped him, to take some of the stress off.

I think that's the most profound "teacher moment" I've had, possibly, in fact, the only one. I've been feeling like I haven't taught any of the students anything, because the lower-level students are lost and unmotivated, and the higher-level students are bored and impatient. I've mentioned this, and both the literacy coach and Ms F have pointed out that some of the kids, at least, have a really good grasp of the four square writing method, and that I have single handedly taught them alliteration. It's strange to think that I should really be responsible for teaching brand new things; I never really articulated that before. ELA in particular should pretty much build on previous material, right? Hm, well, I guess there are a lot of strategies and specialized skills involved in good writing, so those have to be specifically taught. Not that I know how to do that.

Anyway, at the end of the year, I suppose we'll see how successful I've been in guiding them learning all this stuff. God, I hope they don't all fail everything.

Just one more thing, and then I'll shut up. Today it hit me like a ton of bricks that my kids have no basic knowledge of grammar and spelling. I have some fairly good spellers, but no great ones. Even the intelligent, good students misspell easy words on a regular basis. They don't know anything about grammar. They wouldn't know an indirect object if it hit them on the head. They don't know what 'tense' means! Good lord, how can anyone be expected to be a good writer without the most basic building blocks of writing? No one learns to write words before learning letters and their sounds, right? You can't write a good sentence, let alone a good essay, without knowing how to use different parts of speech. Balanced literacy is missing an awfully huge foundation chunk to be called "balanced." That is truly depressing and more daunting than I can tell you.

No comments: