As much as I looked forward to my first day in the classroom, the end of the first week requires a moment or two for personal reflection. Since my classroom assignments involved two very distinct groups of students, freshmen and seniors, there is a natural tendency to examine the status of rookie versus veteran. The differential of three years can be huge when it comes to maturity, self-esteem, appearance, and attitude. Freshmen are slow to judgement, while seniors tend to rush to judgement. Regardless, it has been a week filled with opportunities to expand upon everything college prepared me for, whether it's working in front of the classroom, roaming the room during a presentation, or evaluating the work being done by small groups of 3-4 students.
My students are diverse in so many ways and their learning styles vary considerably. On that first day I addressed the concept of respect, not only for myself, but for all students in and out of my classroom. I let it be known that no one agrees with another person 100% of the time, and it was important to stop and listen to what others have to offer. Ltieracy is more than the ability to read; it also involves speaking, writing and listening. That is one reason why each of my classes begins the period with a 5-minute writing prompt, and I emphasized that no student would have their work evaluated on proper use of grammar, punctation, or English langauge. I simply wanted them to THINK....and WRITE.
Day One: What is the most impactful event (so far) in your lifetime? And how would a Historian view it? (My Economics class wrote about how an Economist would view it)
Day Two: If you lived in Wisconsin 1,500 years ago, which would be the best to own: a horse or a cow or a dozen chickens? And why?
Day Three: You are an archaeologist thousands of years in the future. Try to imagine what it would be like to know absolutely nothing about these random objects that were recently unearthed in an archaeological dig. Pick a few objects to describe, and speculate about how they were used.
Day Four: If you had an unlimited plane ticket for a month, what would you do with it?
This first week I asked for volunteers who were willing to share their their ponderings, and I was pleasantly surprised how some students have already evolved. The core concept of literacy is being witnessed in my classroom, and the long-term effect will enhace student ability to construct good responses on future essay questions. While many Social Studies teachers are focusing on the teaching of history, I am infusing literacy so my students can actually see, hear and contemplate other perspectives. This is NOT easy work; but then, I never anticipated that it would be. It requires considerable thought and perseverance on my part. I know there will be days when students will struggle with my lessons, and I'll most likely be frustrated with their efforts...but this is what good teaching is all about.
When I gave each student a 3x5 lined card in the final minutes of class yesterday, I told them it was "Feedback Friday" and I needed their input on my first week. No names were to be put on the cards and it was completely optional on their part. I assured them that no one would be penalized for their comments, and I needed to know whether I was going too fast, too slow, too boring, too high-strung, what they wanted more or less of, what they liked the most/least, and anything else on their minds. Their comments, as simple or complex as they were, tugged at my heart in a good way...and I could see that this first week was everything I wanted it to be. Game changing and very real!