Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November hodge-podge

November is an interesting month. The end of a quarter, the beginning of another, you know your students, you are building on their strengths.

Event: The breaking of the Pompeii mug.

At the beginning of 7th period a student saw a spider and screamed, jumping to her desk chair, and several students followed. An intrepid scholar spilled extra pens and pencils from a mug that was serving as a reservoir in order to contain said arachnid. With it captured, the student then heeded fellow-students' urges to "free" the spider outside and in the process, dropped the mug on the slate, breaking the mug. (the spider was fine). Students return to tell me the mug is broken and I ask "which mug? the snow-man one?" "no, the one with the wall-painting" DUH DUH DUNNNN! It's the Pompeii mug. A simple 7 Euro mug, but a fave. So I suck it up, accidents happen, and let's move on-please collect the pieces, we don't want anyone to fall or be cut by the remnants.

Fast forward to Tuesday November 23rd, 2010. Students ask me to step out into the hall and hand me a note (glitter-lettered) and a bag. I asked, "Is this a Thanksgiving gift, how thoughtful!" "No, it's a we're sorry gift." The lovely children gave me a mug that they had hand painted with "semper ubi sub ubi"-a Latin joke meaning always wear underwear. Nearly brought to tears I embraced each one and they explained that they saw that the mug was important and they were moved that I had said "accidents happen" and moved on with class on that fateful day.

I've kept the pieces of that original, broken mug. I think that I will place them in a shadow box frame with the word "patientia". Only through patience do we take steps toward the goal-sapientia.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Has the format of teacher conferences become obsolete? I've just come off a 14 hour day followed by a half-day of conferences and I have to ask the question. Parents sign up for a 15 minute session with their child's teachers in which time they get to ask questions and hear an overview from each teacher. Since I am a world language teacher, I get to attend conferences with 4 different teams of teachers and hear each team's style and approach. More on that some other time. Right now I'm wondering if the concrete schedule is a dinosaur that needs to evolve.

Many parents are taking advantage of having access to their child's work and progress through technology and they can choose how and when to communicate with me about their child. Some parents involve the child as the spokesperson, helping them to set goals, communicate learning needs and take responsibility for transmitting information. Other parents shadow and allow the child the feel of independence while providing an invisible safety net by communicating with me and filtering the information themselves. Of course, there are some things that MUST be handled with a human voice-and face to face interaction needs to be maintained throughout the process.

So, with all that said, is it time to do away with the set "Teacher Conference Days"? An ongoing line of communication in all its forms is coming into play in my classroom. With blackboard, email announcements and the constant back and forth that is being maintained with a large number of students, would we be better off spreading out the conference times throughout the year or having open classroom meetings that parents can attend physically and virtually?

Is the set conference time artificial? It's a good check-in, but I see some parents bewildered by the experience, and attending because they know it's what a good parent does, but they're not sure what they are supposed to walk away with. We offer them talking points to get conversations flowing with their children, checklists of items to help them set goals, and remind them of the opportunities that their children have to meet with us and extend their learning. But I see a lot of dazed parents, and really, the parents are mostly the ones of A-A+ students who are keeping up the good work.

Real change doesn't happen in a 15 minute meeting. It's established and maintained over the entire time of the educational relationship. What should that look like now?