Tuesday, March 3, 1992

Every day I sit at his computer wondering what tomorrow's entry will be. Every day as I reflect I recognize the good that occurred, the bad that occurred all too frequently and the missed opportunities that are a part of every class. Today was a comparatively uneventful day in the grand scheme of things, though monitoring a standardized test is a regular, if not important, part of every teaching assignment.

Hours 1 and 2 met together, and all 3 of us were there. Mrs. Korman began reading the instructions and then I took over. They are insulting and denigrating, but I read them for the same reasons I followed a canned sales pitch in my insurance sales days it gives all the info and leaves nothing out. They recognized the inanity of the instructions, and were polite, if not enthusiastic We managed to get the paperwork part done relatively quickly and successfully and begin on the test in good order. The multiplicity of staff was quite useful because we had many kids coming in throughout the hour. Many finished before the hour was up, and those that didn't had a break at the bell. I was unsure that this was a good idea but it turned out to be a successful break time. They returned (and a couple more straggled in) and we had a successful test time. They took it seriously (despite their promises to just mark anything) and actually were quiet, diligent and conscientious.

Hour 3 had only 3, though my two members of the "Do not admit" crew were both no longer on the list. I had decided to attempt a lesson, and I worked on phrases and clauses. However, I made it clear that my objective is to teach skills, not facts, and I had what I thought was a great metaphor. I discussed bicycles we talked about knowing all the parts of a bike, naming all the functions of the bike, but not using it. Those are the facts of bicycling, but they have very little to do with riding a bike in fact, on e can be a champion bicyclist without even knowing the names of the components. The skill of cycling is one that they will never forget, even if they have forgotten all the names. If there were a bike out front, they would all be able to ride, despite years away from it. That is skill knowledge. And that is the knowledge that is important. I then used the same bike analogy to discuss appropriate language. If we had a BMX, a 10 speed road bike and an 16 speed mountain bike out front, and I asked them to pick one to go on a ride, which would they pick. They (or at least one) recognized that you have to know what you're going to do with the bike before knowing which one to select. This led to appropriate for the task each suited for one kind of task and comparatively useless in others. We discussed 3 kinds of language that which is used with friends, that used in school and that that would be used on a job interview. They followed, responded and performed. This is a lesson I will do on one of those dreaded observation days. Of course, I am only as good as the help I get.

Hour 5 was another DRP monitoring session, but several very interesting things occurred. First, they were worse at getting started than the SWAS kids. It was lots of the nagging little name calling ("Nigeria! Samantha, please. Joseph, come on."). I am sure that this is largely because I was alone and not their regular boss, whereas with the 3 of us in hour 1/2 we had much better control. Anyway, Rodman, one of my noxious nuisances was finished in about 20 minutes. He assured me that all his answers were guesses, but I took a minute and checked and every answer was correct. I told him so and he said "Well, don't check any more, they're all wrong." looked at a few more and they too were all correct. I said "Rodman, you're a very lucky guesser." I didn't want him to lose face, but I did want him to recognize that I knew he could do it and will expect him to do it in the future.

Interesting as well was the fact that several other of the "A" girls were not done at the end of the hour. The test is supposed to be un-timed, so I told them we will spend a little more time on it tomorrow. However, the counselor was upset. We had one of those famous bureaucrat conversations:

"I thought it was un-timed"
"Yes but they should have been done in the 50 minutes."
"So do I let them do it tomorrow?"
"Well it was supposed to be done today. Did they work all the way through?"
"Either it was timed or un-timed."
"Well, but they were supposed to be finished."
"So do they get more time? I told them they had all the time they needed. I can't very well go back on what I said."
"Well, no more than 20 minutes."
"So it is timed?" (the last uttered under my breath)

Hour 6 was again on the computer and they managed to get something done. Or some of them did. I hope they will accomplish real writing, but they do not know how to type in any way. This really slows us down. I wish I knew WordPerfect more thoroughly, as I have to answer both questions about writing and pure questions about the software. They do not have the template to give them the commands and so they are forever saying "How do I do this..." If we had started at the beginning of the year (or even the beginning of my time) we may have been able to do more. In fact, today several of the kids had a written a rough draft that they copied from (including one of the unmotivated guys you just never know). We are on the way they treat me as their teacher. (4th hour, while I was doing some work for tomorrow, 3 of my 6th hour girls were in my class talking. I didn't interrupt, but they were comfortable and pleasant in my presence.)

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