Friday, March 21, 2008

Teachable moments

I know it's been awhile since I've posted, and that's probably because I've been readjusting to the school schedule. However, I wanted to tell you all about some interesting things that happened to me "professionally" last week. They were very encouraging to me.

Ok, to the task at hand. First is about grammar. You may remember that I've mentioned that my hardest subject to teach has been upper level grammar, because it's VERY detailed and difficult, and of course, very boring. So this semester I decided to switch it up, because they weren't learning or enjoying the class (and honestly, I wasn't enjoying it either). So, instead of having double periods of grammar, I'm having a period of grammar and a period of literature. Split it up so it's much easier to handle. Also, I pretty much chucked the book (well, I used it but they didn't). I taught them what I thought was important to know, what I thought they could handle, and ignored all the nitty-gritty stuff. And I taught it to them in 3 stages--lecture which involved me teaching and getting them to make up examples....a game that they played individually to see that they each had to think of it on their own and I could see how each of them was progressing....and lastly a group game that was either a race or funny to hammer in the information even more. They had so much fun with the games that one day they asked if they could skip the literature and keep playing the game the whole time (I had inadvertently made literature boring in comparison)!! One day several of them left the room at the end saying, "Good class, Miss Kelly." Highly novel! One guy, a smart kid, said "I finally get it after all these years!" They all seemed pretty confident during the review. Then came the test. I have to preface this by saying I almost always had one or two people fail grammar tests last semester, and had several D's and C's along with the usual A's and B's. I almost always curved a little. Well, this test, the lowest score was a C+!!! 10 of the 14 scored in the 90s!! I was so proud of them!

My other story is a little different. One day, in my writing class (which is new for me and the kids) I was showing a video. We're doing a new program and there's a set of videos where the guy teaches it much better than I could at this point. So I've been using the videos a lot. Well, for the 11/12th class, the guy moves at a perfect pace for the slower to average kids, and the smarter kids are a little bored. Well that's fine, because usually I have the problem of losing the slower kids. Well, one or two of the faster ones (good kids, in general) were making very subtle comments throughout about it being too boring or too easy or him harping on things way too much. "We get it already!" That type of thing. I knew several others felt that way as well, but these two were a bit negative about it. So as the class was dismissing, I asked them to stay for a minute (these aren't kids used to being in trouble...not that they were, technically). God worked with me here, and the slowest kid in the class took longer to pack up than usual, and while he was doing so he told me that the kids in the video (who range from grades 8-12 I think) were very intimidating because they seemed so smart...I think he used the word genius at one point. So this was about to perfectly illustrate my point. Once he left, I spoke to the other two and said something like this: "I know you guys are smart and I could teach this to you in 5 minutes and you'd be fine, but I can't go that fast because I'd completely lose part of the class. They'd be lost. So I know it's frustrating for you, but I have to move this slowly for them. So please try to understand." And they looked at me like I had two heads and said things that gave the impression that they had no idea what I was talking about. So I explained that I hear comments and sometimes the attitude comes through. They apologized saying they "didn't mean it that way," and I explained whether they do or not, with that tone, that's how I take it. They sheepishly apologized again and left the room. I was gentle in this reprimand, as I'm sure you can imagine. Well, the next morning when I walked into my room, sitting on my desk was a tiny gift bag with a beanie baby type thing sticking out of it. In it was a small note on scrap paper from my desk, I think, that said, "Miss Kelly, I'm sorry for being such a pain in the butt. You're a really good teacher. I hope we're cool." And then he signed it. (The words "good" and "cool" were actually stickers that he put in the appropriate places....haha). I was incredibly touched by that.

Anyway, I know this may not have been as dramatic or action packed as some of my posts are, but I was very excited by it and wanted to share with you. It's very encouraging to see my teaching abilities growing. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I've started with a good foundation that God has blessed me with. Just further confirmation that I'm exactly where He wants me to be!

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