Monday, September 01, 2008

Classroom ready

It took the better part of the entire day on Friday, but my classroom is now student ready. In-service days are never productive for me. Part of the reason is the screwed up order of most days. For example, on Monday we might have individual work time for two hours. Then we might have a staff meeting for another two. Then lunch. Then we might have individual department meetings for another couple hours before finishing with some more individual work time. That structure never allows me to get into a productive groove. As soon as I settle into my room and begin cleaning or organizing, I have to stop and head to the staff meeting. Then that goes on into lunch and another meeting. By the time all of that is over with and I have individual time again, it's late in the afternoon, and I have lost my momentum.

Personally, I think teachers would get far more out of inservice days if our administration were to devote the first two days entirely to meetings. Then give the teachers the final two days to work completely on their own. Now that would make sense.

Another thing that slows me down is simply getting to see all my co-workers again. On Monday by the time I was done catching up with everyone, I had squandered an hour of individual work time. But that is well worth it because this will be one of the few times I can really visit in depth with my colleagues. Once classes start, we tend to get wrapped up in our classrooms and unless I see them at lunch, there isn't much time to talk.

I have always liked what Deborah Meier had to say about how most education systems are set up - she argues that most summer camp programs are not set up as stupidly as most public education systems. Most summer camp programs, after all, have their counselors and staff arrive several weeks to a month early to begin planning and organizing. Teachers get four days. After the day is over, the camp staff get together and meet and discuss. When the school day is ended, teachers scatter every which way.

We would be far more productive if we could meet regularly and learn from each other.

However, to get my room in order - and I was behind because I missed a day and a half because of Allen's prayer service and funeral - I spent six hours there on Friday. Again, most of my efforts were centered on house cleaning issues. I had to file away stacks of student work and stories into my filing cabinet. I had to clean our drawers and organize books. I had to print out my syllabus for Lit and Language 11 (I have second block prep so I can take care of my other classes then).

It doesn't sound like a lot, but it is. All of this and I still don't know exactly what I'm going to do on my first day in terms of readings and writings!

Actually, after letting it brew in my mind for some time now, I think we'll go over the syllabus and visit some. I may work in an introductory speech type activity to get one of the speech requirements out of the way. I shouldn't say that, but if I don't get on them early, I tend to let them slide and the kids need them - regardless of whether I like to do them or not.

After that, I think we'll discuss - keep your fingers crossed here - but I'll be using some of the strategies I learned over the summer - what they consider "The American Dream." This is one of the main themes of the class. I can tie this into nearly everything we read, from "Of Plymouth Plantation" to "The Jungle" to "To Kill a Mockingbird" to "Like a Winding Sheet."

Then I think I'll have them sift through some magazines to see what our popular culture wants us to believe is the American dream. Then I'll leave them some time to write an essay detailing their own American dreams. I'll also set them up for our first readings.

As for Tuesday . . .

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