Attached below is an exchange between myself and another parent from today that I think applies to all students regarding how Writing has been going…
PARENT – You are a good teacher, you are right, you are challenging the kids like they are supposed to be challenged – like little adults in life. They are to be aware and knowledgeable about their environment. Academically, they are learning to learn and study. Eg, the writing , at first it was hard for us to see why so much writing without editing, but now _______________ is comfortable writing easily 4-5 paragraphs. As for narrative stories, I saw her grow from a simple narrative style to a full dialogue narrative style. Her final piece seemed like an excerpt from a novel, full of dialogue, of course, minus grammar and punctuation, which we are working on. I am looking forward to see how she grows in informational writing.
MR. S– Absolutely, you’re not wrong about the editing. I’m actually taking more and more of their writing home with me now and I’ll be reading it and providing more feedback as we move forward. It doesn’t make sense to obviously check and give feedback every night, that’s why I lecture, so that students can make the changes/modifications on their own (aside from not having the time). I do have a TA now so she can help me with the editing of their Writer’s Notebooks throughout the day (I can probably get through 3-4 in a period the way I do it now since if I rush, the kids will miss everything), so that’s a blessing. I wish she was there more than once a week, but c’est la vie.
Anyway, I really want the kids to move away from the marble notebooks because they are too scared to remove pages from it and thus it takes me too much time to do it myself. I showed them a trick using a ruler (from the movie Dead Poet’s Society w/ Robin Williams :-), but are are hesitant to use it). If they had perforated pages, I can collect the work quickly and then read it at home on weekends. Right now I take a couple of notebooks a weekend and do what I can, but again, the TA will hopefully have the most positive impact on this particular area moving forward.
I’ve also been saving the bulk of their submitted writing assignments in folders so that students and parents can track their growth from the beginning to the end of the year. I always found that enjoyable once I completed a grade to see the folder of my work and how far I developed my abilities.
I think right now we are on the cusp of students fully grasping the routines and so I hope during the second half of the year I can incorporate some different things. Remember, we still have a great variety of projects coming up, large and small. The mummy one is going to be next. Paints and brushes will be needed as well as any dolls we can get donated. I purchased many last year at the Dollar Tree so I’ll take a look again. After that we will practice Chinese calligraphy and study how the Greeks, Chinese, Romans, used both government, technology, and the arts to develop their empires.
After that, during our Mystery reading unit, we’ll be doing a lot of play acting, learning to take/lift fingerprints, how detectives track a case and use evidence, how to extract and examine DNA, etc. We have a lot going on, I just need to wait until the kids are ready to perform.
Anyway, I give you my word that more editing will be done as we move ahead. I know that we’ve been doing a lot more grammar than other classes (some, literally, don’t do grammar at all since it’s “not part of their curriculum”) which is great because we have some issues with punctuation and spelling. With those Spelling Tests, students are now going to have to look up the words, find at least 2 synonyms and antonyms, and then put those words into sentences or even the occasional story.
With Math, we have a wonderful long-term lesson using the stock market (spiraled w/ fractions, decimals, %s) later in the year. Students will choose stocks to invest in on their own and we will track the prices for use on line graphs over time as we learn about the importance of the stock market on the US economy at large as well as in the lives of everyday people like you and me.
These are just some things I know that the kids loved and enjoyed last year, that I myself went through and learned to appreciate more when I got older. I promise that your kids are in good hands and that they are learning some wonderful things in a more advanced way that I know properly prepares them for the future. I have a handful of students now emailing me almost on a weekly from their private boarding schools thanking me for teaching them things that they are only just now seeing again in 6th or 7th grade and that the concepts are easy because they aren’t foreign to them. They are ahead of their classmates because they are more prepared as they were exposed to these wide-ranging skills during their time with me.
In summation, that’s why I do what I do…I know my style is making an impact and I know that the kids understand that it now falls more than ever upon their shoulders to step up and take ownership of their education.
Attached below is the letter I sent to all parents today in both classes, 5L and 5S…
Hi, so I just wanted to reach out to everyone in both classes regarding two short things.
First, I have been in contact with the tech department and they are aware of the issue in not being able to see the Quarter 2 grades as of yet. I was emailed a short while ago by a parent who said that the Quarter 2 gradebook is now indeed accessible. The only issue at the moment is that you cannot see grades from years prior, but I’m sure that’s something that will be ironed out shortly. So long as you can see the Quarter 2 grades for this year, that’s my primary concern.
The second and most important part of this email has to do with what I feel is a misunderstanding or a slight misconception of how things are going in class, what my philosophy on education is like, etc. I just thought it helpful to communicate my thoughts on the matter since in all honesty, no one has really reached out to me regarding anything going on in my class and yet I still hear that there are some concerns. If there are some questions that you have, please feel free to reach out and let me know; even during basketball season I’m always accessible (I prefer text or email over the phone first, I’m just not a phone person unless it’s absolutely necessary). I do indeed call parents, but only when it’s a major concern with their grades or an incident happens. Net Classroom and our blogs (pacssanteramo.wordpress.com) should be the resources that you rely on as that is how I speak to all parents on a nightly basis. Either way, I’m up all hours of the night so just let me know so I can hear things first hand and adjust rather than second hand or sometimes not at all.
Continuing, the kids in both 5S and 5L are really being exposed to some wonderful, high-level concepts in class. I’ve been pushing them to work very hard, that what they say and what they do matters, that words matter and to do their work with pride and high expectations for themselves. Obviously, since I see my students more often than Miss Lujan’s, much of this is directed at my boys and girls, but in truth, both classes are being held to the same high standards and exposed to same diverse curriculum that blends our obligation to the text alongside what is going on in our world today.
I truly believe that the education I provide my students goes beyond what’s in the curriculum and that is what makes our classroom so vibrant and engaging. I feel like my background as a coach, the ability to speak on and develop trust and strong bonds with students on a variety of levels both within their own lives or in their community, I truly believe that many teachers avoid current events and topics many consider taboo because they’re not comfortable or knowledgeable enough to present the information in a way that allows the student to think and decide for themselves.
:-). Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I hope parents are understanding that I’m developing the whole student, that my goal is to educate their children to be knowledgeable, well-rounded members of society, and to want more for themselves than they may have ever dreamed about before. I present the world as it is but with a feeling of hope for the future that their lives will be as fruitful as our own and that the world will one day in their lifetime reflect more of their image than that of my own.
Lastly, (phew!) I believe my biggest gift and strength for my students is that I know a little bit about a lot of stuff, and so that is another way that I feel like separate myself from other teachers who in general are more comfortable with one or two topics rather than 10 or 12.
Anyway, I know this was quite a tangent but I figured it best to communicate this message to every parent so you have an even better understanding of my philosophy and what I’m trying to achieve in class. I love each and every one of the 42 that I have now along with the other hundred plus students that I see in the building on a daily basis. I’d go to bat for my students eight days a week if they needed my support. The only thing I expect in return is for my parents to push their children once they leave school to develop a sense of responsibility and accountability, that’s all.
Anyway, thanks again for hearing me out and let me know if there are any more changes to the gradebook.