Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Panel Discussion from Previous Cohort & Julius Caesar Intro Activity

Last year's cohort came in to talk to the current cohort about the whole job situation and the first year of teaching. This was last Thursday--a very long day for us. We had the regular Tues/Thurs classes (8:40-12:20) followed by the last ELL class (12:40-3:45) (or ESL, whatever you want to call it) (which wasn't a very good class, by the way, though I do recognize that the content was incredibly important--the instructor just wasn't very good at all) followed by the panel (4:15-6:00). That's about nine or ten hours on campus. Whew! Looooooooong day.

Anyway, the previous panel graciously came in to talk with us about their first year and, of course, the job hunt. Things I need to do very soon: sign up for the final Praxis exam, open up my credential file, write a second draft of my resume, write a first draft of a cover letter, start finding and filling out applications (my goal is 30 districts, though I know that might be a bit much--and I know "a bit" might be an understatement). Many of the people were able to find jobs and many of those offers came later in the summer (June is the hopeful month, while most offers seemed to come in one or two days at the end of summer). But still many others are not full time teachers (.3 or .7-time) or are substitute teachers. One was running a tutoring center (though I heard through the grapevine that he wasn't the world's best student teacher). This makes me nervous--not everyone was able to get a full time job teaching.

They say that there is a plethora of elementary and social studies teachers whereas there is more of a need in math and science. English seems to be directly in the middle. I keep my hopes high with Rochester, though I also keep my options open.

I was in pretty low spirits after that day... long day, ending with some pretty frustrating news.

In better news, I came up with a fun idea for the beginning of the Julius Caesar unit. So there's always this big question--how do we start a unit? How can I get the kids involved and fairly excited about the upcoming text/etc.? (This might not be as exciting for them--I would go with improv drama or creative writing for "fun". Or something artsy--like making paper mache masks, like we did with my mother's class in AP Language.) My cooperating teacher has them read the introduction in the textbook and the students do a worksheet (it's more of a hunt-for-the-answers kind of worksheet). She also just got a free video from the NEA (which I haven't been able to find on their website yet, but I'll keep hunting--or ask her), which actually looks pretty good. But I already have them slated for watching Inherit the Wind the week before we start Julius Caesar, and I don't want to have them watching too much; I'm trying to avoid passive learning.

Anyway, here is my idea... At first, I thought I would create my own museum. (I like the prompt--if you were a curator for a museum, what items would you include in a display for .... fill-in-the-blank... To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.) I thought I would put together materials for them to explore--images and artifacts with display tags. I could put the images along one wall, make fake display cases, etc. But how would I hold the students accountable for participating and not just chatting with their friends? Another worksheet? So instead, I thought I would have them make the museum (hey, and I don't have to do as much work--score!). Since there are nearly 30 kids, the least amount of groups I could have is five: one for Julius Caesar's bio, one for Ancient Roman history, one for William Shakespeare's bio, one for Renaissance history, and the last for the history of drama/theatre. Once divided into groups, I would give them some images relating to their topic and have them create an "I Wonder" list. (I think I explained this before... it came from an article I read in Dawn's Adolescent Literature class--it spoke of how young children are curious about the world around them and wonder why things operate the way that they do... I want them to try to return to that wonder. I'm going to use it on the first day of my Journalism class to see what they are most interested in and revamp lessons to fit what they are interested in learning as best as I can--you know, without erasing all that important stuff.) So they'll see costumes, relationships, etc. in these pictures and start to wonder about their topic. This will help them decide what might go well in their museum. I haven't worked out specifics on the assignment, but I think having them put together a handout would be smart as this information will probably end up on the unit test. Maybe they can bring in some visuals--pictures, models, etc. An oral presentation will be required also (which is good, since an oral component is in the course description), but with a group, it should be less scary, I would think. I could probably do this in about three days--the first and second day for research and presetation and the final day for actual presentations (or maybe we could do the two on Shakespeare one day, two on Caesar the next, the drama on on the third--these three days being the first three days of the play). I don't know if that's enough time for them to put something together, but I would bring in the books from home and the library. So the searching part is done for them. They just need to gather, and most of the books I have been looking at (at work tonight) are designed for kids; DK Eyewitness books are ideal for this. They are chock full of great pictures (there is one on each--Julius Caesar, Shakespeare, Renaissance, Ancient Rome, though I'm not sure about general theatre) as well as interesting details. They're like mini-museums themselves. Anyway, that's my idea. It would take longer then watching the video (which is effective, but passive) or reading the intro (which is fairly dull) or giving them a lecture (yeah, we're trying to avoid those--I don't want to give them, and they don't want to hear them). I don't think it's as fun as something completely creative, but it's highly interactive and they're accountable in smallish groups to put together something for each other. As we always say, we become more of an expert on a topic when we teach it!

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