I decided at the end of the school year that this summer I would spend some time each Thursday working on school stuff. I’d look though my books, plan lessons, develop and overall theme for the year, focus on integrating vocabulary and grammar, choose the order in which to teach my novels, and pick stories and poems from my new textbooks.
Well, it’s Thursday, and that means my brain is melting.
I decided to use new workbooks for my high school etymology class this year. The books I had previously were fine, but the SAT is changing and I found some books that I thought would meet the needs of students taking that test better than the previous ones did. Also, I had a hard time motivating my high schoolers last year because the books required a lot of memorization and regurgitation. But as I looked through the new books, I came to the conclusion that maybe that’s just what vocabulary study is — a lot of memorization. And while it’s not the case for all the students I’ve had in that class, many students take etymology because they need an English credit, but they don’t like to read (so they don’t take a lit class) and they don’t like to write (so they don’t take a comp class) and are generally unmotivated learners. But when there is a lot of memorization, you have to be pretty self-motivated. It’s not exactly fun to memorize words and word parts. And while I tried some new things last year — for example, a research project which required each student to look up words related to the career he or she is most likely to pursue after high school — it’s just hard for some students to get excited about words. So I’m a little discouraged about that, and I am wracking my brain to come up with interesting, exciting lessons and projects for my etymology students for this year.
After getting frustrated with that, I decided to look at my middle school classes. While middle school is my favorite age to teach, I struggle a bit in this particular school due to time constraints. Every other middle school where I have taught provided two class periods for language arts: one for reading and literature, and the other for writing and grammar. But here, although my class periods are 55 minutes which is about 10 minutes longer than periods at other schools, I have to cram all the aspects of language arts into one period per day. It’s hard to cover all types of reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, speaking, and listening into that short time. (Plus, my personal soap box is that all other courses that have an ISTEP test have only one test. English has two tests, but we have only one class period. Basically, my kids are tested — and I am evaluated — on content that I have half the time to teach as my colleagues in other subject areas.) Anyway, I looked through the state’s new standards (not Common Core, but very much like Common Core from what I can tell) and I found them rather vague in comparison to the previous standards. And while I had everything aligned with old standards in last year’s lesson plans, now I have to start over and align my stuff with the new standards. And I just felt like I was drowning.
So, I’m stopping for the day. Perhaps I’ll pick things up again later this afternoon, or maybe I’ll work on it tomorrow. Maybe I’ll just stop until next Thursday, hoping my brain is in better condition for the work then.
I just don’t want to melt down every Thursday.