Wednesday, September 01, 2004

First Few Days

Well, it's only been three days, and I'm already delinquent about posting to the blog. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up with it from now on. I figure if I post at least three times a week, I'm in pretty good shape.

So, the school year is starting to take shape itself. The first two days were relatively unremarkable, other than the exhaustion I faced at the end of them! All of my classes and my students seemed to be promising, and I was pleased. I only had two students 'challenge' me on the second day (one of which I was expecting), and I think I handled it well. Today, however, I began to see some true colors.

Of the two World Lit classes, I had thought that one was more promising than the others, but it seems that they both have certain strengths that in the end leaves them evenly matched. One class seems more motivated, though with poorer skills, while the other is less motivated, but with greater skills. Since motivation is really half the battle, I'd say they're in a dead heat. The students in both classes are generally average for juniors, and I feel like I'm building a good rapport with them. I'm anxious to really get into the material and see where they take it next week.

The three Intro Lit classes are generally similiar, though the sixth hour section is extremely squirrelly. Even with the assigned seats, they are very talkative and restless, which might be to be expected for the last hour of the day, but it's already driving me nuts that I can't seem to control it. I might try changing seats tomorrow, and spreading them out. Considering they're my smallest class, they're certainly the loudest.

Academically, the ability levels didn't concern me until today. Their reading skills are pretty average, and with Post-It use, will probably improve greatly. As far as writing goes, I think they're fine on mechanics and organization (at least they know what they're *supposed* to do), but thinking critically and interpreting are going to be major problems. I gave them a quotation to write on today (simply respond - what do you think this means, what does it mean to you, etc.), "Stories happen to those who tell them" from Thucydides, and while it was certainly not a simple quotation, I didn't think I was asking too much. They did.

Nearly every student had such *incredible* difficulty understanding the concepts behind it that even when I compared it to the "When a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" bit, they couldn't pull it together. In two of the three sections, we talked about it as a class before writing on it, and I essentially gave them the key to the response, but they still didn't understand it, or know where to go with it. I'm guessing that they've been spoon-fed essay topics or writing prompts, or that they were usually able to free-write if they didn't understand, because their inability to take a general statement and interpret it is very marked.

Granted, it is a difficult topic to write on, but they seemed very unwilling to work through the problem. They seemed to want the answer handed to them on a silver platter. They are unable to break down the question/prompt into vital and understandable parts. They are unable to ask themselves questions to figure out the prompt to begin with. It is very frustrating, to be sure. I think we're going to have to work the hardest on asking questions, and learning to think critically about things. I definitely need to talk to Laurie and maybe Amy about the group of students they've got, and see if they're seeing similar problems... not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of critical thinking abilities, abilities to draw conclusions from given information. This will be my struggle with them over the course of this year, and I'm interested to see how it turns out. This blog will serve as a record of that struggle, and its potential solutions.

So, I'm going home tonight to simply read what some of them managed to scrawl down, not to grade them, and maybe I'll give them an easy prompt tomorrow to see how they can compose an essay, and see how they do organizationally. Ah,
drama drama drama!

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