Monday, November 22, 2004

This is the Semester That Never Ends

It feels a little like the song that never ends, only a little more annoying.

I shouldn't say that because there have been some seriously high points in this semester, and there are frustrations with every teaching program. I doubt that any are perfect, and I suppose overcoming the challenges helps us when we face challenges in the "real world."

Here's my biggest complaint:

The program seems to be headed by Richard Beach who has written a book called Inquiry Based English Instruction. We met Professor Beach at orientation (which was smack dab in the middle of spring exams week--great planning, huh?) and he said he was teaching the Teaching Composition in Secondary and College course (along with Teaching Reading in the Content Areas and Technology Tools for Educators, these are the core methods classes for the fall) and a fabulous instructor named Aaron Doering would teach the Technology Tools for Educators. This is wrong--instead, we have a really great Ph.D student named Tom Friedrich and someone else named Gina Debogovich teaching the Technology Tools (this is a whole other story).

It looks like I've started about eight other complaints.

My big one right now relates to this inquiry-based instruction. OK, we get it. What I don't get is why we have to create huge projects on our Sense of Place. Yes, we've spent a large portion of the semester doing projects on our neighborhood. How exactly will I use this in my English classroom? I'm not really sure. I decided to look at F Scott Fitzgerald's Walking Tour, which has been interesting, but I am to take pictures and make film and make an Inspiration map, etc. I'm not creating anything that I could use in the classroom. We've also been using the Sense of Place project with our Crosswinds students every Thursday, though most of the assignments are made by other teachers, so it's hard to make them meaningful (especially when we felt much of it is busy work).

We have to do this Sense of Place with Crosswinds kids, with our Technology Tools class, and we have to turn in parts of those technology tools to our Composition class (whatever is the equivalent of ten pages of writing). The only place we can avoid this Sense of Our Neighborhood (which is a suburb for me--no thanks) is our Reading class.

I know I'm complaining and I shouldn't, but ARG. We could use this time in so many better ways! Instead of making maps of neighborhoods, we could learn how to conference with a student. Instead of hanging pollution catchers, we could teach the kids how to do two column observations or interviews with neighbors.

And I try to make a point of taking these frustrating situations and making them better. Instead of doing my own neighborhood, I chose Fitzgerald's in the hopes that I might find some material to use while teaching The Great Gatsby. Instead of asking the instructors to integrate more lesson and unit planning in the classroom, I suggested to the cohort we start a lesson plan workshop after the holidays. But I can't figure out how to benefit from editing a video of a tree in the schoolyard. I know modeling is great, and I know that having many options for assignments and assessments is great, but I don't think I'm alone in being annoyed at this whole Sense of Place project. It's fun, but it's just too much. Let's think about our future classrooms and how to improve them rather than doing meaningless tasks.

No comments: