Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Good memories of a Year 8 class

In my first year of teaching, I had a great experience with a Year 8 class, which I will refer to as Year 8B. This class had a good reputation with the humanities teachers. They spoke well, discussed things, but did not put their heads down for skills practice in Maths. I found them ok but not as responsive as my homeroom, 8A across the corridor. I attended a seminar run by a classroom management guru, Dr Ramon Lewis, and decided to try his methods with them.

We agreed on some rewards which they would get for displaying the expected behaviours. A couple arranged a special deal with me: 10 ticks for good behaviour would result in a letter of commendation to their parents. From the beginning, I told the class that I was not comfortable with the use of rewards and that I would eventually retract them. I simply wanted to give some of them an incentive to work well and find out that they can achieve in Maths.

Well, the system worked really well for many of them and only one student made an inquiry when I stopped giving out rewards. Here are some of the things I observed, for which I will always be grateful:
  • One of the weaker and more talkative students began to telling her friends: "Shsh, I am learning". Paying attention in class and doing what was required of her had helped her achieve good results, even in the much dreaded Algebra.
  • I walked into the last lesson declaring that we would do some useful learning. Some objected that they had finished all assessments and were entitled to a slack lesson. In the end, the students astonished me with how quickly they could use graphics calculators to produce linear graphs which formed prallelograms, triangles and -in the case of one of them- a five pointed star.
  • Jess, a keen girl who had broken her writing arm, insisted on taking the end of year exam. This was a training exercise only and the grade would not appear on the students' reports. She arranged to meet me at a lunch time with a friend who would act as a scribe. They assured me that they would work right in front of me so I could see that they were not helping each other.
Mind you, this class also included a girl that still thinks of me as an incarnation of the devil. This is for reasons which escape me. Maybe I look like the devil! I could not win them all, but that class remains the highlight of my career so far.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Report writing

I did not post anything the last two weeks, much to the disappointment of this blog's 2 readers! I was writing reports for my students! The reports came in two formats: the usual school format for the IT classes, and the new "plain English" format for the Maths classes.

For two weeks, I turned in at midnight and got up at dawn. My poor wife was being woken up by my alarm clock. I started making silly mistakes towards the end of that period. For instance, I photocopied only one side of double sided Maths sheets. I fell for a tricky joke which my year sevens played on me! They rubbed their elbows and said, "can you rub your shoulder like this?" Needless to say what my mistake was.

All this is now history, until reports collation night next Wednesday. The last weekend was wonderful. My wife, daughter and I went away on Friday night and returned to Melbourne on Sunday morning. That was wonderful!

Now it's Monday night, and the long weekend is over. I have to spend a few hours writing two Maths tests and preparing a lesson. But that's ok, as I am planning to stay up late and watch Australia take on Japan in the World Cup. I can hardly wait!