Half day with students
These days have the possibility of being useful and often are not. This year I’ve been working in a 7th grade math classroom 1st period (8:45-9:30), whose attendance is stellar. I would say 80-85% of the students are there on time and we have 95% within the first 10 minutes. This makes it possible to use the entire class period for content teaching and the absent students could be caught up later or we try to find our way they are not on time and deal with it accordingly. In contrast, today I had what is normally my 4th period geometry class (10:21-11:10) at the beginning of the day. I had three students on time and by the end of the period I had less than half. This class is a mixture of grades 10/11 mostly with some 9/12. I tried my best to teach about the sine and cosine functions and have my students play a game that uses them but I had to reteach twice because of latecomers. So I’m going to have to do something very similar on Monday to catch everyone up.
Even the next two periods were sporadically attended. Luckily I teach computer science during these periods and so my students are working on a project where they know what to do already. But I hear from others that students don’t bring their bags or notebooks on these days, making it really difficult to have substantive teaching taking place. To top it all off, we ended the day 10 minutes before we normally would to have students leave at 11am because that is what we have done in the past. I disagree with that policy and wish we could have had the extra time to teach our students.
Half day with staff
We have had three half days in March to learn together. Today's focus was on deficit thinking and how to get out of it. The idea being if we only think of students as being ‘low income’ or ‘having a single parent’ that might negatively influence how we view them and act towards them, leading them to internalize these interactions.
I was impressed with my principal for sharing a story of her upbringing; she doesn’t often get that personal. It was quite motivating for me to hear how she interpreted her life’s arc and how it relates to what we do as educators. Essentially, her teachers didn’t pigeon hole her into certain boxes just because of how she looked or her family background and that allowed her to have a positive self-image and do well in the future.
We spent a significant amount of time in pairs talking about when we have experienced or seen certain types of deficit thinking. Then we looked at some examples of things staff members might say and tweaked them to think about our role in supporting them. I liked the re-framing of ‘those kids fail because they are always in the hallway’ to ‘what is the reason those students see the hallway as a better option than the classroom?’
The only snag to me is resources. Maybe those students in the hallway only get to socialize during that class period. Maybe a student comes late to school because they have to help their grandma in the morning. Those are important things. I want to know how I, as a classroom teacher, can provide the support those students need within the confines of school so that it doesn’t overwhelm my life. Certainly, I could host a club before or after school for kids to socialize but when would I get my work done or socialize myself? I could try to connect a student to resources so their grandma gets help in the morning but when do I make those calls? Sometimes it feels like the system is broken at a level so deep that we don’t have the time to fix the things we recognize need fixing.
Anyway, it was an interesting day to ponder.