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Week 20: time to play musical classrooms

The second semester started last Monday. Usually, that just means students switch elective classes. However, just like everything else is at Markham, it’s a whole different story.

I still don’t really understand why this happens other than to balance class sizes, but a lot of students from every grade level get switched to new academic classes. The first time this happened a couple of weeks into the first semester was due to placing students in classes based on skill level. Now, I think it has to do with academic level and behavior. I know a new sixth grade teacher was added to the staff, which opened up another class for teachers to request students to move into. Some of my students, who are the misbehaving angels, were candidates for this class, but weren’t switched. Instead, three of my focus list students were switched out of my math class and into my teammate Charlotte’s math class. It’s pretty much like the kids playing musical classrooms, not musical chairs, every couple of months.

Many of my teammate’s students were also switched. Some of us got lucky and another teammate inherited our students, but others, not so much. Some of the students my teammates have been working with are out of City Year classrooms for good. Now what? All I know is everyone’s focus list (the list of ten students we work with and track our time with) have to change.

Yet, things could be worse. My students that got switched are still in my English class (where I do the most work with them) and at least one of them admitted to “actually having to do work” in her new math class. But that’s not always the case; I wish there was more consistency at this school because when these kids are switched it gives them more of a reason to not do anything in school because the new class might be ahead or behind their old class in subject matter.

Last week’s post discussed my hatred toward data and my student’s common assessment scores. I finally got to see my student’s math scores and I was pleased with them; the scores stayed constant, but at least they didn’t go down (and one student who only speaks Spanish scored basic! Pretty good if ya ask me).

Now that the last common assessment is out of the way, my English teacher wanted to do about a month-long journalism unit. YES, A JOURNALISM UNIT. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. MY LIFE IS COMPLETE. As awesome as that sounded, my teacher and I spoke too soon. The district and school threw a new challenge at her: The next periodic assessment for 6th grade English is in three weeks. Although she knows what the topics of every assessment will be, it’s up to the school to decide when the test will be administered. Painfully, the journalism unit has to be condensed into a week and we have to move quickly onto writing five paragraph essays. When my students still don’t write paragraphs with topic sentences or complete sentences (even though they blatantly know how to), I wonder how it’s going to be to get them to write five paragraphs. I honestly don’t even want to think about it right now. I still have my complete sentence challenge going on in the class and students get mad when I don’t give them a point. Hmm? I wonder why. Because a sentence is like this. And sentences are started like this. Sentences with no subject. Is not good. Alright, time to stop thinking about that looming challenge and time to reward myself by being in journalism bliss for the next week or so.

On Tuesday, my English teacher introduced the journalism unit to the students and I was given the opportunity to lead a discussion. I brought a copy of USC’s student newspaper the Daily Trojan, which I reported for back in the good ol’ days. To kick off the discussion, we asked the students what the difference between broadcast and print journalism was. Most of the students I called on said newspaper is “boring” and broadcast is “exciting” and that newspapers are “for old people.” The comment that threw me back the most was when one student said that “print journalism doesn’t tell you the details and doesn’t give as much information as broadcast.” I had to swallow my print journalism pride at this comment, because any print journalist knows that we are allowed to do so much more with a story than broadcast is (length-wise and detail-wise). I found this cute excerpt from a 3rd grade textbook on stuffjournalistslike.com and got my teacher and the class to read it popcorn style.

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My teacher explained to the students that this is what I went to college for, so I got to do a short Q and A with the kids. I thought not many would ask questions, but they were genuinely interested in what I did – even though they think journalism is boring – because it makes a topic so much more interesting when you can associate a human face with it, especially their Ms. Liz! They were asking adorable questions like, “so all your classes were about this? How hard is it? Isn’t it boring? Who do you interview? Why are you here if you did that in college?”

20120212-230343.jpgA mess of a desk after a newspaper scavenger hunt

I told them about all about the different people I’ve interviewed, how hard it can be to make deadline and how I would stay in the newsroom from 6pm-11pm every night for the brief time I was an editor. The best question, however, was when a student asked how I still enjoy journalism. I told him it’s a passion of mine I found in middle school and sooner or later all of them will find passions of their own. I hope one day my students will find something in their lives that makes them feel as good as I do after I finish an article or the euphoric feeling I get after completing a bomb interview or finding a good story.

Due the classroom changes and the next periodic assessment surprising us from under our teacher’s desks, the CY academic data is still hard to produce at a school like Markham. But, that doesn’t mean we’re not making a difference. It was overheard at the therapist’s office that Markham students who attend therapy are mentioning CY, which snows we really are having an impact. That’s what’s up!

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One of my students always makes these paper puppets in class. I stole it from him and went around math class and attacked my students who weren’t doing work with it.

My students gave me the “are you serious” death stare, but all I said back was “sorry I embarrass you; sorry I’m not sorry you’re stuck with me everyday.” I’ve come accustomed to embarrass my students and make fun of them (as they do with me). Now that one of my boys and one of my girls got into a scuffle last week in class the resulted in a slap on the face and the girl crying, I call out the boys and girls who are fighting by saying “ewww stop flirting.” Although they come back at me with the, “well your dating so and so from City Year!” it affects them way more than it affects me (obviously because I’m not dating anyone from my team, contrary to student rumors about all of my teammates).

Peace Corps update: Medical process is whooping my butt. So many forms to get signed, so many appointments and so many needles. Next step: Lab work is returned and my wisdom teeth will be yanked out this coming Friday.

Soon-to-be chipmunk cheeks,

Liz

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. I love the kids’ comments. Newspapers kind of ARE for old people. Sigh.

    February 17, 2012

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