Sunday, March 30, 2008

We don't need no stinkin' grammar...

I want my students to learn to write competently. So after months of scoring paragraphs and essay, followed by individual corrections, I have decided to teach grammar. In my last post, I shared that many of my students are failing. The main reason is that they don't turn in the work, but we also need to improve skills. What follows are a few examples, unedited, of student work.

A Sophomore in the College Prep Track

Electronics is being a big issue in school, administration think its not good source for student concentration and mind multiply teachers think its not doing any good for student that its just a distraction and a not a good at all very few teacher think its good. Students are against this issue they think the opposite of this, their opinion is that mp3 players such as I pod's are good them and hllps them stay focus and concentrate on their work or materials to comlete and not only that but they say that their work is right and complete with almost no errors.

A Senior in the non-College Prep Track

...Now the school had to call the cops but what I am trying to say is a lot of incidents happen like this in the school and for someone getting arrested for something so stupid just because he got a little angry is ridicules but what I think the school is trying to do is because the school is so bad and the cops had to come 170 times out of 80 to the school last year they feel that they need someone to help out and there going to start cracking down on kids that actu up and have bad behavior to rty and change the schools weaknesses with an officer.

A Hodge-podge:
"Heavy Metal VS Today's Rap, what I think about the subject, many people today listen to rap and many listen to heavy turtle, a lot of violence today is based off rap and the "gangster" image the is posted everywhere by these rap artists they put a bad image all on the teenagers today."

"Cell Phones for teenagers are their life. They have all diffent kind of information on them like serval texts messages on them that may mean a lot. Tehachers on the other hand are getting over per causes about them."

"I believe hiring younger teachers are more effective, because they are at a younger level and closer in ages with us, and understand our differences."

"Some of the reasons the officer will have on the student body will be the fact that he's already at the school and I know some students will find it as a threat, take it as if he him self is being disrespected and maybe causing more problems when the officer isn't at the school."

Here is where I can admit a limitation of mine. I really don't know where to begin. Will grammar study fix the serious flaws in my students' writing? Probably not. So what do I do to help these students, especially the college prep sophomore?
At some point, don't I have to go back and re-teach what they should have already learned? I've got to believe they've been taught about nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions (we can leave out the interjection.) I've got to believe they've been taught that every sentence is a unit of thought made up of a subject (always a noun or noun phrase) and a predicate (always includes a verb). I've got to believe they've been taught that a complete and proper sentence makes sense.
But clearly, they haven't learned it. I don't know what methods were used back in grade school and middle school, yet it is evident that the basics need to be taught.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Here's an indication that it really isn't just the teacher's fault when students fail:

Total Number of Students on my Roster: 84

Total Number of F's Two Weeks Before the Quarter Ends: 48

Total Number of Parents Who Signed Up for a Conference: 12

Total Number of Parents Who Actually Showed Up: 8

Total Number of F's for Students Whose Parents Showed Up: 4

And let me get ahead of those who will blame me for all of the F's. I accept late work; I don't give homework; my students have said to me, "Mr., don't worry; it's not you--we are just lazy," and recently, "Mr., our parents don't care; when have any of our parents met with you?"

My Units This Quarter:
Sophomores--College Prep Track
1. Business Writing Unit: develop a business or product; describe the product/business; write a letter of request; write a resume; write a thank-you letter.
2. Opinion Editorials: students could choose topics or use class generated topics.
3. Grammar: yes, it's boring. But, my data evaluation showed that 3 out of 45 could name more than 3 of the 8 Parts of Speech.
Seniors--Non-College Prep Track
1. Choice between How Full is Your Bucket? and Please Send Money!
2. Opinion Editorials: students were allowed to write on any topic, plus they were asked to formulate an opinion about the Cambridge report regarding our school's need for improvement.
3. Emerson's Self-Reliance
Freshmen--Non-College Prep Track
1. Grammar: very slowly and very painfully teaching them how to construct accurate sentences.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ohhhhh Canada!

I hope our American parents don't get any ideas from the Victoria, B.C. man suing his son's Montessori teacher for generally sucking (that's a paraphrase).
Actually, it seems more likely that parents will begin to sue teachers here in the good 'ole U. S. of A. because N.C.L.B. mandates that every student succeeds. In fact, I am now encouraging all graduates to pursue a degree in Law. 2014 is only six years away and the demand for good prosecuting attorneys will increase drastically.
Me, I am already planning my defense against these lawsuits. The way I see it, the current class of 2014 is now in the sixth grade. Knowing this, I am making the rounds at the Middle School parent meetings, charming them all with my high school teacher wit and charm.
Knowing that this will not be sufficient, I've contacted a Public Relations company to manage my image. With the right spinsters, I'll be able to pass the buck back onto the students who don't pass. Bill O'Reilly and Anderson Cooper will run opinion polls showing that 89% of local citizens have a favorable opinion of Mr. McNamar. The result, the jury will be so overwhelmed by my high school wit and charm, I'll walk free.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bracket Busters

Well, the NCAA Tournament hasn't even completed day one, and my brackets are shot. But, in unrelated matters, I haven't punched out another teacher.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

I'm feelin' this election season. Very often, people ask for a candidate's plan. How on earth will you accomplish what you advocate for? It's a loaded question which should not be answered. Have you ever noticed how today's presidential elections mirror the presidential elections of our high school A.S.B. candidates?
Instead of saying, "I will improve school morale," and leaving it at that, the A.S.B. candidate adds, "by allowing students to have cell phones in the hallways." She can't deliver the promise, but she knows it will gain the attention of the students.
Listen, I'm okay with a Obama preaching hope and theory. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace. " Obama, or any candidate, could lay out a plan and promise to deliver, but I would rather see my President put his or her heart into the office and do his or her best--even if the outcome isn't what was hoped for.
It is this audacity of hope that I have bought into. The hope that Obama will work for true reform. The hope that Obama will deliver unity to this divided country. The hope that this nation will be healed. The hope that our students will achieve.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thoughts From A Near Teacher

I've been having an ongoing e-mail dialogue with my buddy N. Our friendship dates back to the early 1980's, a long time when one considers my youthful age of thirty. N began his collegiate career with the intention of becoming a teacher; I started out to become a Youth Pastor. He works in banking, I teach.

He asked: Do you really think the public school system can be changed from the inside-out?

My answer: Yes, but it will take the teachers and students to revolt. I really mean this. For the public schools to change, it will take the students demanding a better product and the teachers refusing to follow the status quo dictated by politicians.

In referencing one of the Obama speeches, he adds: The speech begs one question of his massive assumption - do parents today really know what it means to be a parent? And - do parents really care about what their kid does in school or do they mostly send them because they know the kid has to go?

My answer: I don't think parents really know what it means to be a parent. We are a child centered world which indulges our youth instead of teaching them the importance of self-reliance--Emerson would be furious.

But both of these questions are far too broad. In general, parents do well at validating the educational process. Yet, we still have too many students neglected by both poverty stricken parents and lavishly wealthy parents.

For public education to flourish, we must recognize when our students need more than an academic education. To assist us, the politicians who dole out money to public shools must change their paradigm. Instead of giving equally to all, the government ought to recognize that some need more than others--and not just financially. Part of being responsible with public funds should mean teaching the parents the necessary skills to help their children.

To get a driver's license, we take a mandated course. To become a parent, a much more dangerous venture, society requires nothing.
He closed with: When you have a sense of entitlement towards education, which a majority of students have today, there is no drive to stand out, let alone achieve the minimum. There's no respect in the prison for the jailkeeper unless he (or she) throws the prisoners a bone now and then. That's what it seems to me that you are describing in some of your posts. Kids that are doing what they have to because there are no other options to school (the prison). To many of them, you're the jailkeeper. Though, its not really you...its big government.

My answer: Well, there's no question so it is simply to agree in principle. I need to consider the prison concept a bit further.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Strange Creatures

In a brief document sent to me by my buddy D-Rob, Intervention Specialist Wendy Bates provides some insight into managing today's sensitive teenagers.

These creatures we work with have complex and convuluted reasoning skills. We've all had that moment when we watch a student respond in a way we hadn't expected. Those moments confuse me because my semi-adult brain doesn't understand how the student heard one thing when I clearly had said something else.

But D-Rob had trouble buying into this quote:

"You might say 'I know you can do better in math'. But the first thing they hear is 'you are so stupid.'"

He didn't elaborate, leaving me with "See Ya."

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Engage Me.

Bouncing around on Youtube this morning, I searched videos on teachers and students. You'd be both amazed and disgusted by what students are posting about our colleagues. Some videos were of teachers screaming at kids, some were videos of a "hot" teacher's ass or other body parts.
What I didn't find, of course, were videos posted by teachers of students who are idiots. For every teacher losing his temper, there is a student or two making it happen. It's easy to be sympathetic to our students when teachers flip out and go crazy, but if we're honest, sometimes we can't blame them.
But I did find a few videos about the modern K-12 student. Watch the video to get a view into our current students.
After putting up all types of facts about how much time they spend using computers or iPods, the signs plead with teachers to teach through technology and finally to "Engage Me."
And they are both absolutely correct and absolutely wrong.
We do need to engage our students, and technology would be great. But while these nice kids are posting videos, too many of our students don't have the same access.
These student ask us to engage them without realizing that not everything we learn must come in an engaging fashion. Students of all ages have a responsibility to find their own reason to engage.
I'm trying to teach my 9th graders the parts of speech so that we can learn to write effective sentences by using those parts to construct meaning. It isn't all that engaging, and I can admit that. But it is important. I really don't know of any other way to teach students why what they write makes sense or doesn't.
Anyway, check out the video; it's worth watching.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I have a man crush.

Listen to Obama, reformists. All of the efforts we make as teachers don't mattermuch if the parents don't parent.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Advanced

Every once in a while, I come across a question that I don't have an immediate answer to. So, edubloggers, parents, and others, here's the scenario:
A young student is 4 1/2 years old and will turn 5 this summer. She is already reading Junie B. Jones and other chapter books geared towards the 6-9 year old. Her brother, also an early reader is well ahead of his kindergartener peers.

The Question: Should the soon to be five year old skip kindergarten and begin school in the first grade--the same grade as her brother?