Sunday, April 29, 2007


I have had my thumb on my seniors all year. If you were to ask any of them to describe me as a teacher, you would here, among other things, that I am a bit of a control freak. I don't deny the charges. I like to be in control. It is why I don't like flying but love driving. It is why when I ask my wife where she would like to go to dinner, it has to be on my list of places I will eat at. Some day, I will seek counseling, but not today.
We are at the time in the year when my seniors begin to get restless. They sense the end is near. Some teachers believe that this time of the year requires them to maintain that control. I do not. At this time every year, I have embarked on literature circles--or at least my version--in my Pre-College English classes. I do this for two reasons. The first: I'm tired of listening to myself lead discussions, make observations, and do all the thinking for them. The second: our school has a Senior Seminar class that teaches self-directed learning; these circles require the students to be self-directed.
But, it is always at this time of the year that I feel like the worst teacher around. I walk through the classroom listening to their discussions. I stop to sit with groups and talk with them. Inevitably, I find that most of the students either don't do the reading or do a cursory read. This leads to a discussion about the recall questions like "Where did Kumalo go in this chapter?" Very rarely does a group get to the deeper levels of the text despite our focus on those questions throughout the year.
So, once again this year, I am reminded that I am really good at telling kids how to do things, that I am really good at modelling those habits for them, but I am not really good at teaching it to them.


At 9:05 PM , Blogger Onyx said...

Those kids make a choice to use or not use the skills. I have the smae problem with 8th grade after state testing is done. they know they are short-timers and do not want to think. YOU ARE A SUPERB TEACHER. I know this because I have read your blogs, teachers with poor skills never doubt themselves, teachers with good skills never feel like they have done enough, unless everyone got a full ride scholarship to a NAME University. They will remember and they will use it in the future!

At 5:30 AM , Blogger Ruth Ayres said...

I've been "lurking" around your blog for a few months now. I was drawn into reading it because you said, "I teach because I have to." I've enjoyed your posts & would like to link THE DAILY GRIND to my blog, if you don't mind.

Anyway -- Have you read Nancy Steineke's book, READING & WRITING TOGETHER: COLLABORATIVE LITERACY IN ACTION? Steineke is a high school English teacher & the entire book is about getting kids to think -- making reading & writing genuine & student driven at the high school level. I was enamored by the book -- it really stretched me as a teacher.

Obviously I would highly recommend it -- Steineke has figured out how to help kids get out of their own procrastinating ways & think deeply about literature . . . and she shares in her book the ins & outs of it all.

At 1:30 PM , Blogger ERKO said...

Hello: I just found your blog today and found myself described in the top post: about controlling and modelling, but not feeling like you managed to teach. I teach 8th grade and share the sensation.

At 4:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your students are learning more than you realize. They probably are just being lazy at the end of the year. They will miss those literature circles in college.

At 12:28 PM , Blogger Ricky said...

yo mcnamar its ricky campbell from last year. HOpe your having fun in connecticut. Down here at BYU its amazing. Peace.


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