Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What am I doing right?

at 7:05 PM
I took on a new prep this year. I teach a class called CR3 as well as my ELA 8 Mainstream. CR stands for Core Replacement, and it's a Language Learner (ELL) class at the highest level for middle school. It's also two periods long.

Taking on this prep actually added on about 3 more meetings per biweekly basis. There are also more trainings involved. Joining the AVID team, a new computer AI grading program, and BTSA on top of all that, and I feel like I'm barely staying afloat.

Trainings mean taking time out and having a sub. Subs mean having sub plans, prepping your students in all procedures, as well as prepping them mentally, and dealing with the aftermath when the sub ultimately fails (with at least one student) no matter how hard you prepped. Oh, and the guilt of leaving your brand new babies the second week of school.

So that's why I haven't been posting.

First progress reports went out Friday. Surprisingly, my CR3 class is doing better than my other classes. The class has more of a normal bell curve in grades (which is considered to be expected in grades).

So what am I doing right?

These are the students who are academically behind due to low reading levels. Being taught all of your subjects in a language you are only partially familiar with hinders student learning in even the best of students. The majority are good students, who do all their work and keep their head down and don't make any noise. They'll get A's in their content area classes because the other teachers let them get by with work completion, but never make them talk or read aloud.

Using CM strategies helps, and with the new CCSS, it'll be required across the content areas to address language acquisition in all students. But right now, it's mainly their English teacher who requires them to perform in English.

Then there are the "lifers." These students have been marked ELL since kindergartner. They talk like any normal teenager, and you'd never know how low their English skills are in a normal classroom. Making them read or write is the problem. When you ask them to, they do everything and anything to get out of it. They act out, they call out, they get the class off task, and when that doesn't work, they throw a fit to get kicked out so they can sit in the office doing nothing for the rest of class.

My quiet students can't think or speak or shine when the loud ones are in the room. But I'd be failing my loud ones if I continue to kick them out. So I don't. I find ways to get them to write and work without letting them get out of work. It's a struggle, like today, but I do it for them. Today I even had a talk with one of them about how I knew he was trying to get us off task. I reminded him that all he has to do is improve his writing score on the CELDT and he'll have an awesome elective next year. Like woodshop. He worked quietly today. Two others didn't.

But that's not why I wrote this post.

What I am I doing in this class that gives me such good results? Is it because I enter with no preconceived notions of what they should be able to do? Is it because I give them more structure and support? Because I explain in more detail? Is it because I go slower? Because I allow late work and re-dos? Because we use notebooks instead of binders?

I don't believe an 8th grader should need all that support, so I treat them the way I expect an 8th grader to act, so that I can train them to be prepared for high school.

Is this wrong? I don't know. We'll see how this year goes. Maybe next year I'll switch back to notebooks.

For now, I'll be content that something is working right.


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