Making the Most of a Short Week

With all of the ups and downs working in an educational environment, it’s hard to find a groove sometimes.  There are so many unexpected things that come up that make it hard for both students and teachers to get into an even pace.

Last week, we came back from our abbreviated spring break.  We were scheduled to have the entire week off, including the previous Friday, but, due to snow days, we came back early to have classes on Thursday and Friday.  The short time off had a significant effect on my students and quite honestly, on myself.  I had planned on having the entire week to recuperate a bit and work on planning ahead for the remaining few weeks of the internship.  These are the things that we deal with as teachers, so I rolled with the punches and got back down to business.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite as smooth a transition for middle-schoolers to make.  The kids have caught spring fever – for lack of a better phrase – and I had more difficulty in getting them on task and keeping them there.  I remember feeling the same way as a student, so I can’t get too upset over it.  I adjusted my attitude somewhat and gave them a little more leeway than I normally would in terms of how much time I allowed them to complete tasks.  My CT pointed out that there would be a significant number of absences on Thursday and Friday, since some families would keep their kids home for the entire week – and he was spot on.  He advised that I not create lessons which would be difficult for students to make up, since many ended up not being in class anyway.

On Thursday, we completed a note frame on “Economic Activity and Productivity” and then the students in each class period created a diagram of the circular flow of economic activity by drawing and labeling arrows on the board to show how money, resources, and goods and services flow throughout the economy.  Once we decided that the diagram was accurate, the students re-created it by filling in a blank diagram on a handout I provided.  The lesson went very well, especially in 4th period, which is my quiet class.  I’ve discovered over the course of the internship that activities that get students up and moving – whether its to interact with information on the board, or to circulate to stations around the room – go over very well with that period in particular.  On days where the students are fairly stationary, it’s a little difficult to get interaction from them.

On Friday, I gave a quiz that had been announced the day before.  I approached this quiz as a measuring stick for the students as well as for myself as a teacher.  After the test I gave on the judicial system, on which the grades were fairly low, I was anxious to see if we had improved as a team.  The students did very well overall, and much better than their previous test scores.  I learned from the previous test experience and phrased my questions in ways that were easier for the students to understand.  I must constantly remind myself that I’m working with 7th graders, not graduate students or even high-schoolers.  I’ve witnessed significant personal growth in this respect and now feel much more confident in my ability to teach students at this educational level than I did when I began the internship.

After the quiz, we completed an A/B Concept Attainment activity, in which we fleshed out the concepts of public vs. private goods.  This is the second time I’ve used this activity, and both times were great successes.  Each time, I’ve projected the handout onto the white board, so that students could come up and provide their own answers, while still being able to follow along with their own handout at their desks.  At first I was a little daunted by the prospect of using concept mastery exercises, especially with this age group.  Once I made the decision to take the activities and make them my own, however, I’m feeling much more confident and seeing real student growth each time we use them.

I only have about a week and a half left of teaching my own material.  The time has flown by incredibly quickly and I know that even though I’m a little bit anxious to be done with the internship and move on, I know I will miss the opportunities I’ve had to test so many ideas.  Oh, and I’ll probably miss (some of) my students, too.

More to come soon.

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