March 5, 2008

The Lost and Confused Saga

Just because testing is over doesn't mean that life in my classroom isn't a little stressful these days. We do have that team research project we're behind on and rushing to complete at least half before the end of the quarter.

I'm pretty well out of my classroom, but I introduced the project to my students on Monday, along with a lecture on different online research techniques and resources beyond Google. I warned them that they might become irritated at times because in my class we will be learning the skills of research while producing two products: a public service announcement and a research paper. I have some reflective steps built into the process that demands the students stop to think about how they are researching and learning. This attention to process slows them down. They hate it. It's an important part of our program. That's life.

This morning I told the student teacher that the students might start freaking out about the project and it wouldn't be a bad idea to check in with them each day and see if they have questions. We don't have a lot of class time for students to work on the project right now, and they need to complete a few tasks on their own while we finish up the literature unit during class time.

I have to admit that there are some parts of the project that might seem a little confusing because they have to also go through the thought process of research rather than simply submitting a product of a research project as they do in their other classes. Again, it's not uncommon for the students to stressed out in the beginning of a large project, and since their foreign language classes (the base of the team project) gave out instructions on Friday, our students have been slammed with a lot of information and some giant tasks.

The student teacher had no problems and no questions from the students until the last period of the day. And then she had a new riot situation on her hands--so bad that she thought she might need to send someone for me.

I walked into the classroom at the dismissal bell only to be mobbed by 20 voices, "Ms. HappyChyck! You're here! Ms. HappyChyck! Where have you been? Ms. HappyChyck!" They were so so rowdy I thought they were being goofy. Come to find out, they were actually near hysteria with worry because they don't understand the project. (I might add that at this moment the student teacher looked like she needed a drink.) My automatic response to broad declarations about not understanding is, "Exactly what part do you not understand?" I answered a few questions and promised to return to answer a few questions the next day for the rest of the class who had already left.

I reminded the students that they tend to make things harder than they really are, asking them to recall the last mondo project that they did and how confused they were at first. Guess what? They survived the experience and turned in awesome projects. The students were slightly appeased and a tad bit more confident as they left the classroom.

The student teacher could not figure out why the last class was so stressed out while the other classes hadn't said anything all day. One of the classes is full of the top, most motivated students and they have already figured it out. I'm betting she'll have to field clarifying questions from those students by Friday. The other two classes are in denial about the whole thing and haven't even looked at their materials yet. She should be concerned about the two classes that won't ever ask any questions. Those kids don't get it, or they don't care enough to freak out.

I promised the students I'd stop in and answer questions, but that's Mama Bear kicking in. How else do I react to students in crisis?

The student teacher is implementing a unit that she didn't write, and I need to coach her more on the requirements and procedures so she can own it. I'm not sure if her teaching my unit is authentic, as I've rarely had to use another teacher's plans to teach. However, I have had constraints of working as a team or keeping the pace. Teaching this unit is constricting to me. We're working with a team, on an unfamiliar topic, using a lot of technology I'm not competent with (iMovie), and we need to meet a firm deadline in the video part of project.
As a teacher, it's my job--and it's her job--
to know the unit,
to be able to explain,
to be able to reframe,
to be able to give guidance,
to be able to calm the fears
to be able to make students do something tomorrow
that they don't understand today.

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