Thursday, February 2, 2017

And the Semesters Turn, Turn, Turn

First, I'm nervous/anxious/excited to try my hat as a presenter at the OCCUE Techfest 2017.  I'll share my slide deck with you all after Saturday.  

I am so bad at this blogging thing.  I'm sorry it's been so long, but like any of you teachers know, things get busy.  But with my last final done for the semester and all my grades (pretty much) in, I have a moment to breath and try and reflect on this past semester.

My last post, back in November (shame *clang, clang* shame *clang, clang*), talked about add-ons, including JoeZoo.  Well, since then, JoeZoo has made some changes.  They now have the add-on called JoeZoo Express and they have the web app.  It's still a really useful add-on to use, but you'll have to jump through some hoops (like getting your district to install it to get all the features) to get the full array of features.  I used to use it mostly for its MonkeyChecker, but I find I really like the rubric function a lot.  If you set it up right you can get it to do all the adding to get the score for each essay.  I may move to JoeZoo for the big 11th-grade research project coming up instead of Goobric.

Each year, I feel like I have less and less time than I did the year before.  For next year, I really need to decide what is most important for the students to know (I know, we all say this every year), and take more time.  I need to decide what is and isn't important, and this includes for common assessments.  If I don't think my students really need to know X, then maybe I'll adjust my own copies of assessments and not test for X (or convince my PLC we don't need to include it).
Looking back at my workload this past semester, I need to move forward with assigning deeper, more meaningful assignments.  Again, many of us say this all the time, but it's hard to get myself to do it because I feel so much of a work of literature is meaningful and I want to share all my knowledge with the kids about it.

I also think that when I try and add meaningful assignments (like the Passion Project for my 10th graders and Kid President Blogs for both 10th and 11th), I feel like I'm falling behind the other classes because I have to take time out of the week to do these things that other teachers are not.  That puts some pressure on me to try and catch up.  It kind of makes you feel like a bad teacher if you aren't able to go the same pace as everyone else.  You aren't one, but you sometimes feel like it.

Next year's Poe unit for my 10th graders will include less poetry I think.  I can easily cut out "Ulalume", but I really don't want to give up "Dream Within a Dream".  And, I certainly don't want to cut out "Eldorado", "The Bells" (perfect for talking about sound devices) and "Annabel Lee".  I can't cut out "The Raven" (you can't talk about Poe without reading "The Raven".

If I cut out one of the three short stories, it will probably be "The Black Cat".  Despite its difficulty, I want to continue to do "Murders in the Rue Morgue" because it's a departure from what Poe is known for and the birth of the detective story.  In case you were wondering, the last story is "The Masque of the Red Death", and that is NEVER coming out (ah, symbolism).  I think I might also switch it back to starting with the stories and ending with the poetry.

I'm nearly paperless in my 10th-grade class so just about everything is due through Google Classroom.  I think one of the problems with time that I am having is because the technology has made the students...lazier (for lack of a better term).  If I were to assign a "worksheet" on symbolism in "The Masque of the Red Death" on paper and it was due the next day, students would typically go home and finish whatever they didn't in class and bring it back done the next day.  That is overwhelmingly not so with these kids when an assignment is online.  The majority of students still haven't' finished it the next day in class.  We've had this discussion multiple times and I just have to get better about putting a time on the due date and giving homework cards to those students who don't have it in on time (I will admit that going to blended-learning has negatively affected how I handle homework cards consistently).

My 11th graders, by in large, have the same problem regardless of if it's an online assignment or a paper one (I'm less paperless in this class), but many of them try and use the online aspect of an assignment as an excuse for poor motivation and achievement.

My goals for this semester:

Ease up on my workload.  I don't need to grade every assignment.  
  • Get better with electronic assignments and homework cards.
  • Throw it back to how I used to be as a teacher and come up with more project-based assessments with choice (still have to do the common assessments with 11th grade though).
  • Get more helpful screencast videos done for the students.

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