Monthly Archives: September 2007

PR Disaster

I was at Safeway last week, and a parent approached me with a look of concern. I don’t have one of her kids in my classes, but she recognized me and decided to ask me a question: “why did the teachers decide to cancel Open House?”

I was shocked to silence, a rarity for me. I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t know it was canceled.

I told her the truth: “I didn’t know it was canceled. When did this happen?”

She said, “I got a mailing today.” She then went on to explain how she enjoys Open House to see who her son’s teachers are, the environment in which he learns, and how difficult or easy it is for her son to get to his classes.

Of course, she wanted to know who made the call, but I really didn’t know. She said she’d call the school.

By the way, this was one week before the scheduled Open House night.

The cancellation was never mentioned at a staff meeting (we had two last week and one this week), and it still has not been discussed at all.

Apparently the Boss Lady decided to cancel it because of a soccer game and a volleyball match. However, we still have not been provided the opportunity to discuss the way this was handled.

A group of parents went to the school board and complained, and the Boss Lady was grilled for all to see. Ouch!

P.S. I found out yesterday from a parent–after mailings went to the community–that our parent-teacher conferences are now changed as well. I’d say that’s 0 for 2 in the communication department.

20% Increase

Last year I made vocabulary a focus in my English classroom, beyond the simple literary terms upon which we English teachers focus. I decided I was tired of 65% averages on quizzes. I figured I must be doing something wrong, so I used my Masters classes as a way to better my teaching (fancy that!). I even told the kids they were part of a study, which they enjoyed.

Here’s what I do now.

Mondays (40 minutes)
1. The previous week’s practice work turned in (puzzle and charts)
2. A vocabulary quiz over the previous week’s words
3. A crossword puzzle with the new words (and the old ones)
4. A chart where students create sentences for the each new word
5. A chart where the students draw a picture for each new word

Wednesdays (15 minutes)
1. 3-5 students write their sentences and pictures on the board (each student gets a different word)

Thursdays (15 minutes)
1. 3-5 students write their sentences and pictures on the board (each student gets a different word)

Fridays (10 minutes)
1. Students brainstorm synonyms for the words
2. Synonyms listed on the board

Lastly, I have the students spell the words, match them to definitions, fill in blanks in sentences, compose sentences or stories, share their pictures and explain how they are appropriate, and more. I have some of the traditional quizzes, but I also try to mix it up a bit and the kids seem to appreciate it.

We get to practice the words, talk about them, connect them to images, apply new words to situations, and generally share ideas. It’s great!

They also like the routine we’ve created because they see their immediate successes. Now averages range from 85-90% on the quizzes.

Great Day Times Two

Today was my lucky day!

First, I got a note from a parent asking what I was doing to her daughter. She said this is the first time she’s enjoyed an English class. Not only was I honored, but I was surprised. We’re studying A Tale of Two Cities, which is not normally a fan favorite.

Secondly, I was asked to attend a union meeting with a few of the local big-wigs, but this meant I had to get a sub for the second half of the school day. Not only did I get my favorite sub (and her grandson is in my class–odd, eh?), but when I arrived at the meeting they told me I was mistakenly invited and I should go enjoy my afternoon. They already paid for the sub, so woo-hoo!

I’m now caught up on my grading!

Class Size Update

I just learned some new information about why our classes are so big. The special ed. department stopped servicing 38 students in English, so those students were added to English with no additional support. Not only that, but those students were placed in groups of 9-10 into four classes taught by two teachers.

This completely changes the dynamics in those classes and creates an additional burden on those teachers.

Also, we did not get an extra class (we normally get one class per 32 students), and special ed. did not lose one. We take on additional load with no help, and they have less to do with fewer students. Grrr.

I’ve been asked by a couple teachers to follow up on this with the union on the grounds of workload, burden, and number of special ed. students per class (we usually limit this to 2-3).

This does not serve the students well at all.