I learned A LOT this week, and it was HARD! A crazy week with my work life and my personal life had me walking into the classroom Thursday afternoon tired yet hopeful. I left the classroom exhausted, deflated, and with a lot to think about. Still, that night, when I should have rightfully been getting to bed, my head was still spinning with ideas for the next class and ways to improve.
Since I had perfect attendance and a new student this week, my class is now up to 10! I had a fairly quiet peaceful group of 7 last week, but this week, they were a riled up 10—partly because they’ve been dealing with unusual schedules and odd schooldays due to (everyone’s favorite friend) the TAKS tests. There was a lot of distracting behavior, talking, gossiping, and overall off-task behavior. We should have diffused the situations sooner by breaking them up into smaller groups, and I should have been more authoritative in keeping the group on task and on time. They had excess energy, and none of my activities this week let them expel that energy in healthy ways. Keeping the distracted and loud, off-task students also stole some attention away from the quiet, on-task ones, and if we were both attending quiet students, the loud ones stayed off-task. We need to both be on the move at all times, switching around to different students and tables more.
What we were supposed to be doing
- Reading time (Too much energy to sit still, )
- Agenda and teachbacks (went okay, with some prodding and reminders of the Story Ingredients we learned last week)
- Quick Draws (draw fruit for 5 minutes straight…hard to keep them focused for even this short time!)
- Examples of sketching/editing/process in a design project from work and in personal writing (very attentive, lots of interest)
- Artist Profiles (defining the stories we take in, stories we tell, and our future stories. Like pulling teeth. They were distracted, chatty, and generally didn’t see the point in taking this seriously, I think.)
- More Character Work / Setting Work (Because characters were at different levels of completion, there wasn’t clear instruction given on my part of what they should have been doing. I should have split them into those who needed to create new characters, and those who were finished who could move onto creating settings. Very loud classroom at this point. A ruler was broken—I talked to them about respecting our supplies, much of which were donated. The student said sorry to the class, and I hope I handled it all right.)
- Close / Clean Up / Dialogue Journals (handed back the few that were brought back this week and explained the new schedule for turning in Dialogue Journals Monday so I have time to write in them outside of class time. Weak ending. I should have previewed next week’s lesson.)
First impressions: the students really respond to them and like writing in them. Ironic, however, to read an excited and generally positive letter from a student while she is at the same moment acting out or having a hard time in class this week…and then having to write a positive response to the letter while feeling stressed with the present behavior. (Need to read up on social psych and how group dynamics cause differences in behavior and attitude.)
Next week, we will introduce the themes the students will be writing their stories about, and they will team up. Students will work on their final WOW! as pairs and will have peer editing groups of 4. We/I have yet to figure out how to do this! It needs to be fair, as conflict-free as possible, and make sense. I know on the most part, I disliked random team groupings as a student, and honestly, I’m afraid of some of the pairings that could happen if we do it completely randomly. But since one of our “New Leadership Skills” we are focusing on this semester is teamwork, it is on us as a class to work through any conflicts that DO arise. I think the teams will be formed on a combination of topic interest, skill levels, and some level of chance. If you have any ideas about games or activities we can use to group students, let me know!
Deltas / Lessons Learned
- More structure in our classroom: smaller groups, assigned seats, and clear expectations & rules explained and reinforced verbally and visually. We are going to focus on RESPECT and TEAMWORK.
- More clarity: I need to give clearer instructions, clearer explanations (of reasons why we are doing this, what our end goal is), and clearer expectations (this is quiet reflection time vs. this is hands-on work time vs. this is group discussion time). Verbally and visually.
- More teachbacks, more systematic. After every activity. Are you listening? Are you learning? Popcorn-style vs. strong silent hand that gives a clear picture of what kind of answer is expected. Involve everyone (also difficult). And definitely end class with teachbacks.
- Context and results. Students aren’t seeing our semester together as time spent working toward our final presentation WOW! I need to put this end result in front of them again, and have a visual timeline to help them see why we’re doing the things we’re doing and what we have left to do. I hope that once they start working on their own stories, they can invest themselves into those projects and have something to work towards. Time to move on from the background/foundation work I’ve been trying to get them to do; they need to see results, and they need to have some personal goals related to projects they have ownership of.
The rest of the semester is going to be tough, but I hope the class ends up with projects they can be proud of. I have to keep reminding myself of the big picture: these students have important stories to tell, and we can help them tell those stories. That is why I started this journey with them, and I will keep reminding them of it. I haven’t done a good job of saying those exact words because I have been distracted as much as they have, barreling through my activities trying to get things done on time. But I need to. Say those exact words. Over and over again. Your stories are important. We are going to tell them. I think in the process, we as a class will deal with respect in a lot of ways (respect of each other, respect of our time together, respect of supplies, self-respect, showing respect, etc.). So we’re building character in the students as the students build characters. I hadn’t planned on this, and it will be a tough part of this semester. I have to keep my expectations high. Whenever friends refer to my apprenticeship students as “kids”, I usually correct them because naming is important, and I want to think of my students as students or storytellers and NOT as kids. Yesterday, they acted like kids, and I was calling them kids in my head, but I need to self-correct. This morning, they are once again students, and I’m going to give them the chance to stay that way—or maybe even to become young adults.