Daily Objective: Student will be able to define unfamiliar vocabulary words and summarize plot elements from chapter two of TKAM.
Since we were off for Labor Day, I figured students would be slightly more refreshed and ready for a short week. I definitely was – on the 25 mile commute “Call Me Maybe” came on the radio, and for the first time in a week I was physically able to sing along. It is amazing to have my voice back – all the better to scold you with, my dear.
Anyhoo, I figured they’d be ready to get back into the routine and see what happens beyond Boo Radley allegedly stabbing his father in the leg with a scissors, but I was wrong – Tuesday was just a rehash of a sleepy Monday. Such is the day of a tenth grade English teacher.
Today’s activities included putting together an English binder with dividers for organizing notes, learning vocabulary words from chapters 1 and 2 of TKAM, and reading chapter two aloud in class.
Despite knowing for a full five days that I required a binder and dividers in class today, at least a third of the class didn’t have them. For some kids this might be a money/logistics issue, but the school has plenty of supplies available if they need them; they only need to ask, and I encouraged it. I don’t know how many times I said, “See me if this is a problem,” but only one girl took me up on this. It’s been on the board. I’ve made them repeat it for me. “What’s due Tuesday?” “Binders!” “What?” “Binders!” And yet, so much failure.
It reminds me of why my co-teacher and I try not to give homework. It is district policy to let students make up failing work for partial credit “within a reasonable time period.” I’ve been told if I assign any work to be completed outside of class, at least half of my kids won’t complete it, and fail the class. If we do all the work in class, at least they learn the material without the chances of failing. Mastery is valued over accountability, because mastery will hopefully result in higher standardized test scores and lower fail rates than homework accountability.
I’m not sure I like with this philosophy, as many freshmen flunk out of college because they are incapable of holding themselves accountable. However, since I am now an employee of this district as well as a totally inexperienced teacher, I will stick with that plan – especially since so many of my sophomores couldn’t manage a binder. Not a real, thought-provoking homework assignment, but just a binder. On the other hand, it is nice doing all the reading in class and having students all on the same page. It feels like I’m making some real progress when everyone answers my questions correctly.
Today we started with vocab – a few words we discussed last week, and a few new ones from chapter two.
What I learned today is that when I ask the same questions the same way six times, I discover that I get six copies of the same wrong answers.
For example, when we looked at the word “malevolent” (as in, Boo Radley the “malevolent phantom”), we broke it down into its Latin roots: male “ill” or “evil”, and -volent “wishing, wanting”. We covered mal- related words, like malicious or malnourished, but when I asked for related word dealing with volent–, six times in a row I got “violent.”
I appreciated the attempts to connect, it was just a pity they were wrong. Another one of our words was “vexation,” the verb form of which is of course, “vex“, which as my tenth graders informed me, also rhymes with “hex” and “sex.”
Golly I hope something got through to them. I feel like I’m not doing my job as a teacher when I get to the end of my 53 minutes and I have no idea what stuck. Should probably work on that…although it is only day 6 in my first year of teaching. Perhaps I should cut myself just a little bit of slack?