I teased this weekend's #flipblogs contribution with this tweet on Thursday:
Still, I can say that this was the toughest teaching week so far in 2018-19, even though the weather has been appropriately seasonable (unlike those brutally hot first days in September). My 8th graders crumbled and I do not completely understand why. They had their first science test today, and perhaps that caused some apprehension. This week's Need2Know quiz was a bit more challenging than usual, but their average score was close to the average. Maybe something social and off-campus is going on that I haven't yet found out about.... We've had school years when exactly zero 8th graders were in a "relationship"* as boyfriend/girlfriend, but already there are several such pairings. That could be a factor.
* I used air-quotes because these tend to be very shallow interactions at the middle-school level.
Overall, the stress level was noticeably elevated throughout the week. You can tell by the higher frequency of class signouts ... more blurt-outs when I'm giving directions ... increased ignoring of instructions (whether verbal or visual or both!) Remember: this was the week when our local baseball team was destroying yet another American League rival. You might think that everybody would be in a great mood, but hello this is New England and we always prepare for failure.
Oh yeah, failure! That brings me to the topics mentioned in the title.
In 2013, I spent six months campaigning to become the first teacher elected to my town's school committee. The picture above was the design of my lawn signs. I got 1,367 votes, but fell short by about 250 from gaining one of the three open seats. Since we are in the Elections Unit of my new curriculum, I decided to share the story of my campaign for about 15 minutes in each class on Tuesday.
It was exhausting.
Maybe I should have flipped that presentation, like I have done for other physically draining and challenging performances. But I didn't for various reasons. The story benefits a bit from audience participation and interaction, like when I tell the story of a debate where another candidate had a 10-second silence before answering the moderator's question. Then a few minutes later I show that the same guy defeated me. (Also, his name was on top of the ballot. Coincidence? Hmmmmm)
I had a nice idea for a jigsaw, then I ditched it.
I'm an infamous tinkerer. Perfectionist. Perfastinator*. Sometimes this seems like a character flaw. Instead of planning ahead like I should do, I often get stuck tweaking the details of today's and/or tomorrow's lesson plans ... even though I should have been focused on next week's big plan.
Yesterday, I had students listen to a single episode of Civics101, from New Hampshire Public Radio. Then they would collaborate with others who had heard the same episode, quality-check each other's understanding with a couple guided questions, and create a very simple visual aid to help others to get the main ideas. Today, we would have completed the 'jigsaw' in groups with students who had all heard different episodes.
But I chickened out. Yesterday's listening session was shorter than I expected, because it took some kids nearly 10 minutes to find a decent pair of headphones/earbuds. This 8th grade group has the worst executive-functioning skills I have seen since I taught SIXTH grade almost 20 years ago! Not my fault but it is my problem....
So, very early this morning, I made a GoogleForm to guide them through my expected process of listening to multiple podcast episodes. That seemed like a better way to end the week than barking or snipping at students to 'work with your group!' ... 'check the directions again!' ... or correcting their notes/understanding for so long that I rush the random-group "teaching session" of the jigsaw.
Instead this morning's GoogleForm prompted them with specific ways to take brief notes and listen to one of the other episode options. This was a decent way to end the week. Not spectacular, but I don't this will be a spectacular year. It may still be a very good one, though....
* credit: Joy McCourt (@flippingwithjoy)