Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fourth Year -- Harry Potter & I

Quick Synopsis: Harry competes in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, engaging in three increasingly difficult tasks in pursuit of the overall title. His three challenges define and give structure to the year, and while functionally different than the life of a teacher, offer certain parallels.

TASK #1: Stealing a dragon's egg
In room D2, the egg is 2 years growth in reading ability, the dragon guarding it a composite of immaturity, ELL status, lack of English immersion, home environments not conducive to reading, the lure of DVDs, IM, Xanga, and GTA: San Andreas.

In the book, Harry uses a broom to fly toward his goal; it is easy going in the beginning, but the closer he comes to the nest, the more arduous things get, the harder it is to bridge that final distance. That's me, and our class. I can do a year's growth no problem (and look, it doesn't sound like much maybe, but if their previous six teachers had done that much, my kids wouldn't start 4-5 years behind), but really pushing and building them up into that multi-year growth level has proved exceptionally difficult. Some of it involves strategic intervention on my part, truly investing parents in the reading goals, and finding a way to build in components that make them see reading and reading success as ridiculously important as I know it to be.

TASK #2: Rescuing a loved one from the Mer-people
This task required a great deal of creativity, forethought, and finally, a high-level of on the spot execution. Harry is bailed out of the first two by the intervention of a house elf; I'm not expecting that type of help.

The arrangement of grammar/writing/vocabulary/spelling is linear, consistent, point A to B stuff. New words, new skills every week, summative test on Friday, unit test the fifth week after much review and reteaching. It's strong, and effective, and the kids learn. But it's also not enough. I've become a little too comfortable in this structured environment. I need to push to include the level of creativity, community involvement, and non-traditional application that my kids sorely require, and which, I think I am more than capable of. Field trips, service-based learning, performances. I need to push myself to carefully and forcefully develop and plan, to hit the highest levels of teaching.

TASK #3: Navigating a maze filled with intellectual and physical obstacles
I do not anticipate fighting a blast-end skwert, out-thinking a sphinx, or finding off a colleague controlled by the impervious curse, but still, the year poses its own set of challenges. I will commute 110 miles a day, teach an hour longer than other schools in my District, coach two sports, work on the leadership team, hold after-school reading programs, try to start a true student newspaper, and endlessly grade papers, quizzes, classwork. Somewhere in there it'd be nice to play basketball, drink PBR, see friends, and write.

Three weeks to go and I am:
1) Eagerly awaiting CST results

2) Reworking my bank of homework assignments because this kelptomanical dork stole my backup CD-ROM last year and now all I have are hard copies

3) Working on templates for school-wide posters

4) Researching "sentence starters" for our ELL population (>80% of the school) -- high-level academic language that they can use in informal question-answer situations, across content levels.


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