My journey to shoot for the moon.

Today was my second day teaching at Douglas County High School. I only taught one class today and it is my biggest class – I had 13 students. Two were girls and 11 were boys. It was a loud and rambunctious class. There were lots of side conversations and random comments. The kids were good-natured, but it took a lot of management skills for me to get them to pay attention. In fact, one of my teammates looked in my classroom (I think to see if I needed a hand), saw everything was under control and left. I think that had I looked stressed, she would have come in and yelled at the kids (she did this one day I was subbing and had a difficult time getting the kids to settle down).

But, things were under control. First, I told the kids that, “I could wait.” As someone who is hearing impaired, I sometimes have a very difficult time hearing one person when a bunch of people are talking. Add to that, the acoustics of my classroom (with the high ceiling and skylights), it doesn’t take much background noise to cause me to have difficulties.

When the students settled down I told them my opinion about homework – I think that it is unnecessary. Busy work is just that and if it is important work, then I should be able to teach it during class. BUT, if they choose to goof around, waste time, and make it difficult to teach, we wouldn’t be able to cover as much material as I planned. And if it was their fault because of bad behavior, I had no problem requiring them to complete the work at home. Beyond that, they probably wouldn’t have much homework.

I didn’t really have any issues after that. They listened as I was talking and then got to work. I don’t think that it is going to take more than once of them having to take stuff home for them to decide that they will do what they are supposed to do in class.

This class had a lot of questions about the All About Me Project. Questions I never thought of. For example, “I don’t want to talk about my dad – can I leave him out?”  Of Course.  “I have pictures on my FaceBook page.  Can I use the computer to access my page and use the pictures?” Yes.  “What about getting pictures off our phones?”  Please do.  “Can I do a poster and then write out the answer to the questions about my life after high school?”  If that is the way you want to do it.

The best question, though, was “Why can’t I work on it at home?”  Duh.  If I’m giving you class time to work on it, and you want to do it at home, what are you going to do during class?  You need to be working in class.  You can work on your slides and insert the pictures next class period after you bring them from home.  This student then told me that he would .to work on it at home.  I told him I’d prefer that he worked on it in class.  He told me that he wanted to have the pictures as he worked on his project, I said that he could leave spaces for them.  I also told him that I didn’t want him to do it at home.  I wanted his work without input from his parents.  I wanted his ideas, not influenced by anyone else.  That I wanted to see what he could do on his own.

This student is going to be a challenge.  He seems to need to be moving and he seems to have difficulty concentrating for very long.  He didn’t really get started on his project and I’m curious what he will bring in on Friday.  I’m going to introduce my class to the “fidgets” that I have and see if I can get him to use one while he is in my classroom.  For those of you who don’t know, a “fidget” is essentially something to play with while doing other work.  Some people like to squeeze a ball, or work with putty.  Some people concentrate better when sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair.  I have some putty and a bunch of different squeeze toys.  I have bean bags and Floam too.  Maybe this will help his concentration.  Maybe not.  But I did learn one thing about this student – he loves puzzles/riddles – so I may just have to provide incentives for him to be on task.  He already found the riddle calendar on my desk.  I have several lateral thinking books, maybe these will work . . .

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Comments on: "Day Two as a High School English Teacher" (8)

  1. You’re doing a great job Robin. Love the way handled the chaos in the classroom and … I’m with ya on homework assignments.

    Blessings – Maxi

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    • I’m glad that someone agrees with me on homework. The kids will have to study for tests, but not have homework assignments (unless they don’t do their work in class). Most of my students don’t do homework anyway, so I refuse to shoot myself in the foot with it! Thursday was another great day – my ELL student worked on some reading with me (his project is essentially finished), smiled a lot and laughed at me. So, all I need to do is keep it up and slowly challenge him so he doesn’t ditch my class. But I’m glad it is Friday – I’m tired.

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  2. I’ve never been one for daily homework but I did assign some. Most of my homework consisted of projects, reading to be prepared for class discussions or other types of assignments that would help prepare students for college. I also gave my students a syllabus and assignment schedule for the entire 6 weeks. The purpose was to help students learn to complete assignments in a timely manner and get used to the idea of planning ahead. Not being held accountable for any homework or just having busy work can make it hard to transition to college.

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    • I agree that some homework can prepare kids for college. Many of my students won’t go to college, academically they wouldn’t be able to manage it. I teach kids with Mild/Moderate Special Needs. Some of them are highly impacted, and some aren’t. Surprisingly enough, one of my classes (this was the first week back and I saw them twice) WANTED to take their projects home to work on them. My students will be required to study for tests (as homework), but many of them don’t bother with homework (as was evident when I looked at their grades in all their classes, many of them are failing more than one class). Therefore, I think that assigning it and being frustrated that they didn’t complete it, isn’t something that I need to deal with. I’m trying to create an environment where they can be successful, light the spark for learning that has been dormant in these kids (or stamped out), and help them learn to help themselves.

      But, for regular education kids – I totally agree that having meaningful homework is important for teaching them to be successful college students. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  3. As someone who has taught far longer than 1 week. I see a problem with telling students up front you never assign homework. There may be a time that you need to assign homework and the students will remember your words. This can cause problems. It is better to state I rarely assign homework. I actually prefer to assign creative homework that extends learning. Things I have assigned: do the grocery shopping for the week and keep a log of how much is spent, read the classifieds from the past month and find out how much an apartment would cost in your area. BTW, I have over 15 yrs experience working with students with learning disabilities as well as a learning disability myself. Never underestimate what students can do.

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    • First of all, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you did mean to sound harsh and critical. You reply came across that way – and maybe I am just overly sensitive because I can’t see why you would bother responding if you meant to get my hackles up.

      Second, I didn’t tell students that I never give homework. I did tell them that they wouldn’t have much homework. There is a difference. Many of the students I work with don’t complete homework assignments (information from the teachers in my department and the teacher I replaced – all of whom have more than 9 years of teaching experience at this school). It is counter-productive to assign homework that is relevant to what we are doing in class, have only half or less of the class complete the homework and then be unable to continue the lesson. This is my opinion. The kids also have Reading Plus (an online reading program that our school is using) that they can do for homework AND get extra credit. Since I am supposed to be encouraging the kids to use this program, and they have complained loudly about it being boring (which it is), I’d rather offer them a positive incentive to improve their reading.

      Finally, while I am a brand-spanking new high school teacher – I have almost 11 years in the field of education. I have worked at a total of 8 schools (being involuntarily transferred on 6 occasions). I have worked with some amazing teachers, and I have worked with some very poor teachers. I have taught small groups (which is similar to what I’m doing now), entire classes and 1:1. I have supervised Teaching Assistants and Aides. I have Co-Taught. I have also created curriculum where there has been none. I have subbed from kindergarten to high school in regular education, Mild/Moderate Special Education and Significant Special Needs. So, while I’m new to having my own high school classroom, I have taught for a lot longer than one week.

      And I stand by my statement I don’t give much homework.

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  4. One of the homework assignments I assigned for consumer math was to use coupons and specials to see how much money could be saved for the week. Both the students and parents liked this one. In fact the students wanted to extend the challenge.

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  5. Ok I misread your paragraph about homework. I thought you said you told them you wouldn’t give any homework.

    No I didn’t mean to sound demeaning.

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