Sunday, March 6, 2011

Coming Up For Air

The past five weeks have been very hard, but I think I have had some small successes, and I can see light at the end of the tunnel!

I have had to figure out what to teach in these last few weeks before the State tests so that the students would do as well as possible under the difficult circumstances.

Evolution was one of the topics I had to cover, so I got a lot of help from a science list-serve I joined and jumped right in. They took tests for the unit on Friday, and I was pleased to see far more passing grades than "incompletes" (D or F) which has not been the case for earlier tests on subjects where I had to assume that they had learned at least something in the 6 months before I came. But now there are only 3 weeks to go, with spring break in between. For Biology we have Ecology, which I would have love to spend lots of time on, and we're going to end up pretty much going through the book. The last topic on the human nervous and endocrine system we may have to leave out entirely, or else give it just 3 days. Sorry, students. Next year will go better!

The students in Integrated Science yesterday were so hyper about it's being Friday that we didn't have time for the lab on the thermodynamics of changing state (ice melting.) I've moved it to tomorrow, when my adviser is coming for the next-to-last time. However they're getting better at converting between Fand C temperatures, and have a vague understanding of Kelvin, so there has been some progress. If only we had more time! I don't think we'll be able to get to the endo- and exothermic reactions I had planned, because we have so much to review in the next 3 weeks.

The other challenge has been getting students back to wanting to learn science after so many months of inadequate teaching. The grade-book shows A+ after A+ for all students, as they got grades for completing simple tasks rather than for learning. It has been a shock for them that (some of) their grades are so bad. So far only one student has asked what she can do to get grades up. Certainly not with extra credit. I told her to restudy everything, and then she'd be allowed to retake the tests.

When I started at the school I was surprise about the "redirects" and "detentions" given out. We can send students to the "annex" when they disturb the class too much. There they are kept busy by an excellently supportive aide. Some students just can't sit still or keep their mouths closed while I'm talking. Not that they want to be disruptive (for most, anyway) but I can't teach and the others can't learn, so I learning to take more advantage of the aide's help. I was used to having to solve all classroom management problems in my own classroom before. But then the students at this school, for a large part, are those who could not thrive in regular public school, so the conditions are different. I am really pleased about how supportive the staff is for the students with many problems. There are many options to help them succeed.

My colleagues are very understanding of the situation I have been placed in, and even given me a slightly lighter load, since I don't have any electives until after the State tests. They tell me again and again that they aren't expecting fantastic scores from my students because of the previous teaching.

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