Saturday, January 25, 2014

Their Turn to Share

Many times students think the course is over once they finish their final exam. However, with 15 minutes of time remaining until dismissal, Mr. D had one last assignment for his freshmen students. This idea is one that I latched on to during my time at UW-Stevens Point, and I vowed to use it once I found my comfort zone in the classroom. After providing them all with a clean piece of line paper, I asked them to write a personal letter to the next class of incoming students. "You have my permission to be brutally honest with them, and I will not initiate recourse against anyone for what you may say or imply in your note. But I do want you to share some insight on what they need to be aware of when they come into my classroom."   The next 10-12 minutes found absolute silence as pencils hit the papers and stories were shared. Each of them offered up irreplaceable tidbits and their insight is priceless. Here's a small sampling of their letters.....

"Mr. Duesterbeck is a really helpful teacher. He stays after school almost everyday to help with U.S. History, homework, go over tests, or just to offer his room for a quiet study area. You should always do your homework, it will be really helpful in the long run. Most of the questions on your homework are usually on the test. Taking notes can be very beneficial, especially for studying for tests."

"Be prepared for the best class of all time. You will take a decent amount of notes but nothing too crazy. If you pay attention and do your homework, you should be able to succeed in this class. Mr. D will teach you many new things and in doing so, he'll make it fun."

"Pay attention and take notes. Then when you have a test, study. Also, do the homework and you will get a good grade in the class. There's not a ton of notes. The teacher is awesome and will do anything to help the students have success. If you're having trouble just ask for help."

"Enjoy Mr. D. He is awesome and makes learning super fun. Make sure you keep up with the pink sheets so you know what's going on. Also, make sure to not let all the time you have on your history project get to you. Make sure you start it right away! Just enjoy the class and Mr. D & you will be fine."

"Mr. D is a cool teacher and likes to have fun, but you need to stay focused on your homework. Take good notes for quizzes and tests. Make sure you aren't talkative or you'll get him on his bad side."

"For your History Day project, choose a partner who you know will do work and choose a topic that interests you. Also, save all the unit tests for finals because they're helpful and he makes sure you have them. Another thing, if you actually pay attention, you'll pretty much get an A in the class."

"If you're in Mr. D's class then you're a beast. So, I'm going to give you some advice. First of all, write good notes! Only write what you need to and leave the little details out. Second, don't take your second/third/fourth/52nd chance for granted. In this class you're not allowed to fail, but you can succeed. Mr. Duesterbeck lets some things slide, but if you continue with your bad habits...well. Overall, just be good!"

"It is important to have the max amount of swag in this class. I was Mr. D's favorite student so beat that! On a serious note, be respectful and don't make eye contact with Mr. D or he WILL call on you. Be ready to take notes and listen because it will help you later on in tests."

"As soon as you get assignments, start on them- next thing you know they'll be due if you put them off. Pay attention or you'll get lost and behind. Mr. D's class is fun, but you have to work with him and do your best. No lackin'. It's not the easiest class, but it doesn't have to be hard."

"The thing you have to know about U.S. History is Mr. D is not only a teacher but a friend. He can tell when you're having a bad day and he pushes you to do your best. He's a fun loving guy and he makes every day exciting. A few rules to follow are: don't sleep, don't get behind in work, and use class time to get things done."

"Mr. D's History class is a great class, but listen to what I have to say. Studying is very important. Mr. D does show a slide of notes, but he does not show everything that is on the tests and quizzes. Make sure to take notes from the book because it will help you overall. Make sure to keep in mind both of these things because they are crucial to surviving Mr. D's class."

"U.S. History is a great time and Mr. Duesterbeck is a fantastic teacher. Just make sure you show him respect and he will respect you. Make sure you take notes! It will burn them in your mind. Make sure you keep up with homework. You will really enjoy everything about the class and Mr. D if you follow these easy and simple rules."

"Get ready to have fun in this class. Mr. D is the greatest and he makes learning fun. Mr. D is the best teacher ever! He makes history come to life."

These are only thirteen of the 58 (maybe even more) reasons as to why I enjoyed teaching so much over the last five months. Their willingness to share gives me great hope for what may lay ahead.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Success is Near

Aside from a couple of days for review and another for semester exams, my time with two classes of freshmen in U.S. History is drawing to a rapid close. These groups have been a enjoyable experience, and they have grown in their learning and understanding of history overall. I sense a savvy sort of self-confidence in their ability to grasp concepts for the who, what, where, when and why of American history. This doesn't mean that they will fully engage in an ongoing study of our heritage, but many will be able to take their new-found knowledge to a higher level. The seeds of learning have been planted and I, as nurturer of developing minds, now take a step back and watch what unfolds in the years to come.

From the first day of school it became obvious that some students were ill-prepared for writing assignments, either by personal dislike for reflecting on their life or unfamiliarity of the total impact literacy will play in their future. Over the past five months they've become better listeners, higher thinkers and improved writers in their approach to least in my classroom. They acknowledge this in their attitude towards me as well as their fellow students. Time after time they've responded to my challenges, knowing that I was carefully examining their progress.

But just as the student grows, so does the teacher. By spending time in personal reflection, I have a better understanding of how a young mind develops. I always remind my classes of how I, a young man of sixty years, am still learning in life. Their input, be it positive or negative, inspires me to improve upon my performance with both lesson planning and the development of assessments. What did you like about this class? How could you have been more engaged? What topic was most interesting to you? Which topic was most boring or hard to understand? If you could change 1-2 things about this class, what would they be? What new skills have you learned over the past five months? What did you learn about yourself? This feedback will allow further improvement in my performance in years to come, making learning all the more it with my students in the classroom or in my ongoing pursuit of higher education.