Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New School

From what I understand, there has been talk of building a new school in Paris for decades, but I've also been lead to believe that it has never been as serious as what is going on now. The school boards have selected an architecture firm to work with (actually, it is two firms who have teamed up for the job), students and faculty have been surveyed, and last night they had a community meeting to begin creating a community vision for the project. In light of these developments, I would like to outline the top three reasons I hope this project happens.

#1- One issue that I see in this school on a daily basis is that of students not motivated to do well in school. They simply do not see the value in education, and in many cases, who could blame them? Many of our students travel to other towns for sports, to visit family, or any one of countless other reasons and see communities that have shown the importance of education by investing in it. The physical school building as an obvious and unmistakable representation of the value a community places on education. I honestly believe that many of the issues plaguing our school- and by extension, the community- will be greatly alleviated by a new school.

#2- The location of our current building has many drawbacks.
a-Currently, school property consists of the building and the sidewalk around it. Students are able to simply cross the street and be outside the reach of the school's jurisdiction. This leads to a serious public relations issue. Anyone visiting the town (people looking to move to the area, perhaps) drives by and sees dozens of teens who are obviously students at the high school standing around smoking, swearing, and sometimes fighting in plain view of teachers and administrators who are unable to do anything about it. This does not present a very favorable picture of the school or the community.
b-Safety is another issue brought on by the location of our school. When students are entering or leaving the building, they must negotiate heavy traffic on one of the the busiest roads in town. It doesn't take an expert to realize that 600 hundred teenagers exiting a building into heavy traffic is a recipe for disaster.
c-This is one of the only schools I am aware of that doesn't provide parking for students and visitors to athletic events. Students have to park on side streets, sometimes blocks away, in order to attend school in this building. Others pay for parking. Fans visiting the school for sporting events in Eveland Gymnasium face the same parking problem and the same perils of crossing busy streets.

#3- Lastly, these facilities have simply become inadequate to house 21st century learners and educators. This building was designed and built over 100 years ago. How many other things in our life are still effective after a century of use? Don't get me wrong, there are a few things that are just as useful today as they were 100 years ago, but a school that needs to prepare its students for a dynamic and increasingly technologically-advanced workplace is not one of them.

Please respond by commenting on my reasons or add your own reasons to the list.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Time For You To Think

***Warning: This post asks for absolute honesty.***

Okay, many of my students have responded to my post about the frustration I am feeling this year by saying that they love my class and are really learning a lot. That is great to hear, but now I have some questions for them to answer:

1. What clues do you think teachers look for to see if students are working hard and learning in class?

2. What clues do you give a teacher to show that you are getting something out of their class?

3. What could we do differently in class to give you more of an opportunity to show what you've learned?

I am also open to any other thoughts you may have on this topic.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


***WARNING: The following post contains absolute honesty.***

I'm not going to lie. I'm having a tough time this year. I don't know what it is, but I sure wish I did. I don't like it. Almost ten years ago, I decided to change my major from business management to English. At the time, I had no intention of becoming a teacher. That lasted for about a year. I was taking classes towards my teacher certification as a "back up", and one of the requirements of the very first class was to go observe high school English classes. It was during one of these observations that the teacher I was watching had to teach a history class (she accidentally had enough college credits to be deemed a "highly qualified" history teacher), and a student asked a question that the teacher didn't really have an answer for. It just so happened that I was taking a history class that semester in which we had spent a majority of the time studying the period they were discussing in class that day, so I knew a ton of stuff about it. I tentatively raised my hand and said I knew the answer. The teacher happily yielded the floor to me (I must remember to do that if I ever have a teaching candidate in my room). I stood and gave an impromptu lesson for only about five minutes. I was terrified at first, but almost immediately felt at home at the front of the class. I walked out of the school that day without a doubt in my mind that I had found my calling.

The problem is that now I'm not so sure. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate my job. I enjoy going to work everyday (for the most part), but this year I feel like something is missing. I hear that many of my students enjoy my class, which is great, but I am getting to the point where I don't feel like that is enough. If I am unable to get students to learn-- I mean really learn, then maybe I should happily yield the floor to someone who can.

I have friends who are still working away in college right now, and they call me for help when they need to write a paper. They tell me that they don't know what they are doing. Now I know they sat through four years of English class, so I can't figure out how they didn't learn at least the basics of how to make connections and draw conclusions from what they are reading and how to write that information in an organized and at least somewhat grammatically correct fashion.

Then I think about my own students and some of the conversations I have with them. When they are being 100% candid with me, they admit that they don't approach school with the attitude that they are going to learn something. They tell me that they are just going through the motions to earn enough points to get the desired grade (for some of them, it is a D). This is where I am running into trouble this year. I went into this year feeling really great about all of the plans I developed over the summer to make my classes something special this year. I just knew that real learning was going to take place, but as we near the end of the first quarter, I'm not seeing it materialize. I still feel like a majority of my students are simply trying to find a way to complete my assignments with the least amount of effort while still meeting the minimum requirements, and I understand that to an extent, but I also know that they will not get what they need that way. It has become incredibly frustrating for me to conduct a class in which I don't feel my students are learning. I feel like a musician playing to a crowd that doesn't really care to hear the music.

So this post is for my students. I want you to tell me what you've learned in my class this quarter. Be completely honest. I want your feedback. I need to know if you feel like you are any more prepared for what lies ahead as a result of this class. If you aren't learning anything, we need to take some time in class to figure out what needs to change. I'm open to suggestions because I don't want my students to go off into the real world only to find out that they don't have what it takes to be successful.