Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Where I need to be

The image on the right was one I found on FaceBook. I think it tells a good bit about my life. Problem is, each time I find "where I needed to be" something happens and I have to move on.

To catch up a little since my last blog post back in October, I was actually glad that I didn't have a job all fall, because there were a lot of family things going on (my husband was very sick, so we moved to a new house without stairs in a neighboring town, and there was a birth and a death that moved us all.)

But in January, I was asked to return to the tiny charter school in Hesperia, where I completed my credential. It was like coming home. I knew all the colleagues except the new Dean of Students, who has been invaluable, and I knew about half my students and they knew me, so we didn't have to start at square one.

I am also teaching the same subjects, Biology and Integrated Science, although different parts of them, since the teacher they had in the fall had taken a different part of the curriculum than last year's teachers. But the most important aspect was that I have learned a lot about Guided Inquiry and Reasoning and Sense Making since then, which turned out to be the right way to address the needs of pretty much all of my students.

Most of our students have come to us because they just couldn't make it in the regular public high school. Some had tried a variety of other charters, home schooling, etc. Many have a great difficulty concentrating, and get easily distracted. If I had been trying to do whole-class teaching, I think I would have lost most of them. But I put them in 6 groups of about 3 students, and provided lots of hand-on labs to introduce topics. I also made many worksheets, often finding illustrations and text on line, and then guiding them with questions to the illustrations and concepts. It took a while for the kids to understand that they were to work TOGETHER in their groups, and that I wasn't going to be standing up front with a PowerPoint, but coming around to each individual group to ask them questions, and guide them on their way (I like the word, facilitate!)

I am more than half-way through the "University Induction Program" at UCLA Ext, to clear my credential, with interesting courses and "Inquiries" into my teaching about what sort of strategies will help my ESL students, and now my students with IEPs. I've also just completed a fun course at CGU in ways to teach Physics hands-on, which gave me a lot of tools and ideas for the Physics part of Integrated Science, and an online course in working with students with ADHD, which is much needed to learn to reach our many "wanderers" and "blurters." And I've also earned a certificate as "Green School Professional." (I've been taking more classes than my students, to learn to teach them better!)

But the tragedy I alluded to in the beginning is that our little school is too little. We need about 20 more students to release some important funds and make us viable. So the charter has been pulled, prospective students are being turned away, and our students are trying to figure out where to look again to continue their education. Some of the students are looking forward to going to a "real" high school, with all the amenities we can't offer, although we do offer gym, a couple of sports, classes in art, music, sign language and astronomy. But many are going to try the individual learning of home schooling or computer-based learning, away from any social aspects of school. Some of my students are sure to get lost, students I was just getting through to. How sad! My younger colleagues (one just got married) need jobs to support their families, older ones aren't ready to retire yet. Our special ed teacher, who isn't much younger than I am) is working on her EdJoin application for the first time ever. She was the life-blood of the school for most of its existence, but is left in the cold like the rest of us.

So far the only jobs I can see for me are even further away than my trip through the Cajon pass to Hesperia. I can manage without a job, but I hate inactivity, and I have discovered that I have much to give my students. So I'll just have to see where life will take me next, and know that that's where I'm supposed to be for a while again.

On Saturday, I will be walking in the graduation ceremony at Claremont Graduate School, with cap and hood and all. I'll post a picture to prove it after it's happened!