Monday, April 03, 2006

on teaching

Despite the fact that it is Sunday night, with the week of spring break looming up before me, I am thinking about teaching. But this is good, because I am thinking about how much I love it. And I am so excited about having this break from the regular day in the classroom, because time away is revitalizing me, and reminding me of how much I love what I do.

Last week was a good week. Two main reasons:

One, I gave a math test. I planned to give it on Tuesday, but I moved it back to Wednesday, and I decided I always should have 2 days for review because they did SO well! The test was on percent of change--discount, sales tax, interest...hard stuff! And I gave 11 A+ grades (total: 26). It was so thrilling, but mostly because of two grades. One student struggles in math and usually does poorly and has pretty low confidence in math. Her mother worked with her, and she studied a lot, and we reviewed together in the morning before school started. She got a 98!! I was so excited for her. That means she only got 1/2 off a question for a computation error. She got ALL the concepts. And another student who has great struggles in math and who sees a tutor several times a week took the test after reviewing for 3 days, and she got a ONE-HUNDRED. I wish you all could have seen her face when I told her that. Her jaw dropped to the ground and I think I had to pick it up. But I was smiling so big I didn't mind. And when I got to tell Noel her tutor, it was so wonderful being thrilled about it together.

I think this was my first real big feeling of excitement about teaching math and helping sixth graders. And the irony is that when I was in sixth and seventh grade I did NOT understand percent of change and I disTinctly remember hating it and failing that test and feeling like I was just a bad math student. And I really don't feel I taught it that well because it's just plain hard to understand. You have to have clear reading comprehension to see what the problem is saying and asking and then you have to do careful computation, usually involving decimals.

Two, we published a newspaper in the eighth grade. This was a wonderful feeling. First of all, I'd like to thank Ken, for coming to talk to our eighth graders about writing articles. I'd also like to thank Ruth and Radu for being generous hosts so that we could have such a good trip. I'd also like to thank Robyn for asking Ken to come in. And thanks to Phil who stayed an extra hour at work turning pages upside down and inside out so that it would print properly. You'll all be receiving your complementary copy shortly.
Actually, I should really thank Evay(husband of Obergina), because Obergina (3rd grade teacher) told me he was berating her, "Did you see the paper? You didn't get one? We've got to get one." like it was the daily news and they better not leave for spring break without it. He doesn't even know most of the eighth graders. A few minutes later he enthusiastically came down with his 75cents to get a copy. That felt awesome.
Seriously though, I want to tell how the germ of an idea got off the ground (for posterity's sake). This year I feel like I planned and was prepared for the Washington trip so much better than last year. I knew that I wanted to have the kids research before hand and that we should spend time after the trip digesting it. (Added to this desire, I also was actually on schedule in the curriculum, so we had time for this.) I came up with the idea of having the class put out a newspaper because it is always good when kids can get their writing in print, plus having them learn to write an article seemed a good thing. So, after DC we spent the two remaining days of the week talking about our paper: Ken gave a talk about how to write an article, we talked about what papers have, and what ours could have, and what articles should be included.
(And this was a Very lively entertaining discussion. Our paper nearly got called: In*own Out of Town and Monumental News. And we brainstormed a "Sports" section including the lively game of Four of a Couch at the Zuba's, keeping balance on the metro, frisbee on the Mall...)

I assigned them each an article and first they brainstormed what they remembered from the trip, and had each other help them remember things. Then they wrote and revised and edited (and quoted each other extensively). I used microsoft publisher to compile our paper: Capital News. That took about Forever. I don't think it would have gotten done before SB (spring break) if it wasn't for the 6th grade trip which gave me three days with extra planning time. Anyway, we included pictures, and we printed it out in color on the church copier (which is why we have to charge for it). and it is Bea-U-t-i-ful. They persuaded me to write the lead article. But their stuff is funnier. I can get you a copy if you want.

Most posts to follow. All this time to think gives me a lot to say to my blog. and I'm reading and learning such interesting stuff that I want to share.


angie said...

i want one! i might even give you a dollar.:)

Ken said...

thanks for the kind words. it was a lot of fun to visit, and entirely my pleasure.

can't wait to read my copy of the C.T.

Anonymous said...

Kate, your blog misses you...