Mississippi Teacher Corps

Sunday, July 02, 2006

School's out for sum-mer (June self-selected blog #2)

Friday was the last day of summer school. I have mixed feelings about summer school ending. On one hand, I was struggling with classroom management; I was too lenient toward unattentive students when I came in, and I paid the price the last few weeks. I experienced just how difficult it is to come into school and try to gain control of a class after letting them go initially, and it wasn't fun; I felt like I was battling the class at times. On the other hand, I really enjoyed teaching, and I really liked my students, even the ones who caused me grief sometimes. It's hard for me to comprehend the fact that I won't see any of them again, and probably will never hear any news about their lives.
On the last day, I had to give the class an open-note group test for the first 2 periods. Some students just whipped right through the test, and almost all the groups did well on it, but one pair of girls failed the test (both still passed the class). They were the only group to use the entirety of the two periods allotted to the test, and it was obvious to me that they weren't focusing very well. I repeatedly stopped by their desks to check if they had questions, and to remind them to keep working on the test (they would start chatting to each other or keeping beat), but it got to a point where I felt that they had to take some responsibility. I'd given them the opportunity to use all of their notes and homework, and to talk to each other, but they were the ones who had to decide how to use those resources. They did finish the test by the end of second period, and answered every question, but had enough wrong answers that they failed. I'm still wondering whether they legitimately didn't understand the material well enough to pass the test, or whether they just couldn't apply themselves; I have a sneaking suspicion that the latter issue was at least part of the problem. I'm sure that I'll face similar situations next year, and I still don't know how to help at that point. In other sad news, my students took a post-test at the end of the day, and the highest score was 16/24. I'm not trying to make excuses for myself or for my students, but I sincerely believe that these scores were not reflective of the knowledge they gained during summer school. For one thing, they came to school that day, took a 2 period long test, had a period of review, and then took the post-test during 4th period. I sure as heck can't blame anyone who felt burned out and unfocused by the time they hit the post-test.
Other than those incidents, the last day of school was a really positive experience. During lunch period, my co-teachers and I ordered pizza for all the kids, who voluntarily stayed through lunch to eat pizza in the classroom and hang out with the class. My biggest reward for teaching summer school was hearing all the things that our class said on the last day. One girl wrote a thank-you note on the board for all the teachers and signed it, along with the other students. A number of our students thanked each of the teachers personally, and gave us hugs. One girl brought little candy baskets for all the teachers, and another girl commented that she was sorry that she hadn't brought us presents, too, "because I wanted to, but my mom was going crazy last night!" This same girl commented in front of the whole class that, "I just don't get it, how can I go to summer school for one month, learn so much about math, know everything, but last year I spent nine months in school and didn't learn a thing! That's just embarrassing!"
Over the past few weeks, I've had some issues with one of my students, "Picasso," who is frequently disruptive in class and was very angry at me for a few days when I dealt out the appropriate consequences. On Friday, Picasso, like many of our other students, gave a "speech," where she thanked each of the teachers in our classroom, but skipped over me when doing so. This did not escape the notice of the other students, who said, "Picasso, what about Ms. Long Skirt Blue Jacket?" Picasso looked at me and said, "Ms. Long Skirt Blue Jacket, I know I've had the most problems with you, and I apologize for being disrespectful." Later, when the kids all filed out for dismissal, she gave me a hug along with all the other teachers.
The other teachers and I did a little awards ceremony for the class where we announced the winners of each certificate (we made one for each of the students). The awards included "Most charming," "Most attentive," "Most improved," and "Star of the month." Everyone seemed really proud of their awards, even the students that got the really random ones. And of course, how could the last day of school pass without a musical interlude? After the awards ceremony, about half of the class started keeping beat together, grovin' in their chairs, and doing a little singing for all of us. Hunter took a short video of it on his digital camera, and I think I'll be watching it from time to time when I need a little pick-me-up.

Now playing: Jefferson Airplane (or Starship?): We Built This City on Rock and Roll


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