The Cat and the Bag and All That

For weeks, I’ve had to keep a secret. Nobody exactly told me not to speak of it, but they kept telling me that this thing may happen, they were hoping to make it happen, but it was not certain. They were 85%, 90%, 95% sure it would happen.

But finally, though no one said to me, “Okay, Karen, it’s happening,” it seemed to have happened.

Next year, I will be teaching an honors language arts class for 7th and 8th grade students.

For the past three years, I’ve taught two sections of 7th grade and two sections of 8th grade, plus one more class – sometimes a high school English elective, and sometimes a middle school enrichment class. For 2015-16, though, my fifth class will be the honors class.

I worked with the high ability guidance counselor to determine qualifications for entrance. We identified students who qualify by test scores, and invited each to write an essay in order to be accepted. (This way, students who do not want to be in the class can just decline the essay and they will not be put in the class. Also, it requires a certain amount of motivation in order to be part of the honors class. And if they aren’t motivated, they probably shouldn’t be in an honors class.)

I’ve met and emailed with the high ability coordinator at our school to discuss content. Since the course will have 7th and 8th graders, and some of those students will be in the class for two years, the curriculum will have to loop; I’ll do one set of readings and writing assignments one year, and another set the next year. It will be a lot of work for me.

Much of the literature I’ll teach will be things I’ve never taught before. I’ll have to search for materials and write brand new lessons.

I want to really emphasize reading at a deeper level and writing a lot more. (I did not do a great job of emphasizing writing this year in any of my classes, and I want to do better next year.) In the honors class, I intend to have them keep a reading response journal and a writing portfolio. The handy thing is that as I was cleaning out a cabinet this afternoon, I found a book called Portfolios in the Writing Classroom: An Introduction. What great timing! While most of the book was not interesting to me, one chapter was exactly what I was looking for. It showed me how I can have my students do a lot of writing and benefit from it greatly, but not increase my workload of grading. Brilliant! I’m excited to try it. Funny how this book, written before I even graduated from high school and then stored in a cabinet by the teacher before the teacher before the teacher before me, could help me now with a new idea I’ve never tried before.

Because I’ll have the same number of students in five classes instead of four, my class size will be smaller, which is great. (Except that I have one of the biggest rooms in the school – and the best room, too – and I’m afraid they’ll make me change rooms before too long if that remains the case.) However, my work load will certainly increase. My high school classes have been pretty self-directed and I’ve done very little actual instruction because the students study and teach themselves. The middle school enrichment classes I’ve taught have required very little grading. But next year, I’ll be juggling three courses filled with reading and writing. There is the potential of teaching three novels simultaneously (though I will try to avoid it by staggering types of reading!)

Not only that, but I see my summer slipping away before my eyes. Not only is it shorter than usual (we end this year late and start next year early), but I know it will be filled with reading books and planning lessons and scanning Pinterest for great ideas (or mediocre ideas I can modify). Deep breath. I must remember to take time for me.

But next year is a big adventure. I’m excited about it.

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2 thoughts on “The Cat and the Bag and All That

  1. I’m excited for you and the lucky students! A wonderful adventure ahead.
    Please inject me with some of that enthusiasm as i go back to teach one class at Ivy Tech.

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