Home Brew: Day 7
[This week I’m working with 3 different classes of 6th graders, about 70 students total.]
It’s another week and another school, and though it seems logical that my lessons could only improve after repeating them to hundreds of students, the fact is, every classroom is different. Additionally, I’ve been asked to pare my activities down from 90 minutes to just one hour, so I’ve been pushing the 6th graders a little more and I’m not entirely clear if it’s working.
It’s easy to tell which students I’m reaching—the ones who are quick auditory processors, the ones with strong fine motor skills, the ones who do not get jumbled between their brains and their fingertips. That’s all well and good. But it’s the students who I’m not reaching that concern me the most—the ones who get two incomplete sentences in five minutes, the ones who are clearly mentally engaged but cannot filter a sentence from all the neurons firing in their brains, the ones who lose three minutes to the proper spelling of a word and then another five minutes to sharpening a pencil.
With so little time and a cast on my foot, I can’t take them outdoors for a more kinesthetic experience and I can’t move around dynamically while I teach. Likewise, with students I don’t know at all, by the time I formulate where their strengths and weaknesses are, it’s time for me to move on. I’m afraid to say I’ve resorted to giving them a firm but positive experience with writing. If they can get 4-6 poems or stories started over the course of our time together, I’m pleased. If they can remember the meaning of simile, onomatopoeia, the 5 senses, fiction, and nonfiction, I’m even happier. And if they complete something from start to finish, including going back and adding details and corrections, then they’re off the charts relatively speaking.
The truth is, perhaps only ½ of them will get that much. The others, I’ll never know. I’m trying my best, but as each day progresses my respect for full-time teachers grows (it was already immeasurable). Once upon a time I was a full-time teacher, too. I taught in public and private schools, a sampling of almost all grades—though mostly teenagers. Now, when I walk into a classroom I’m the one who’s outdated. Today I had to use a “21st Century Whiteboard” that was entirely electronic. It felt like when you sign your name on an electronic screen for a package from UPS. I was totally unfamiliar with the device—the battery charged pen, the touch screen, the LED projector. At least the kids and I got a kick out of how sloppily my handwriting translated onto the screen.
To end on a lighter note, here are some choice lines from today’s 6th grade creative writers:
1. The colorful flowers looked like dancing ballerinas.
2. I feel as though I’m a stranger to myself.
3. I miss my old home. It smelled damp and warm, like my grandmother and my dog.