Thursday, January 12, 2012

What? ELA in Social Studies??????

It is scary that my students think that I should not be making them do any math in social studies. Yesterday they griped because I made them do ELA. I gave them a writing prompt and five minutes to answer. Today the prompt will be even worse. It is so sad that they think every class should work independently. They think that math should only be done in math class and writing would only be done in English class. They don’t understand that EDUCATION is all about increasing their “life value”.
After 22 years of my students taking the state mandated end of the year LEAP test or an SAT test, I think I know something about what they will face this spring as they try to move on to the next level of their life. I have had so many students come back to thank me for getting them prepared for life in high school and college.
My current students don’t seem to understand. They have all been pampered, told what to do – when to do it – and how to do it - by their parents and other teachers. The school is promoted as a 'school of excellence' but as an outsider coming it; I can tell you it ISN'T! These kids can’t think on their own. What happens when they get out into the real world? My job is to make better people out of them but they don’t see that yet. I understand. I have students that if they were in a public school they would be in 'Special Ed" and they should have never been accepted here if the was a school of "EXCELLENCE".
Yesterday I had a parent conference and most of the other teachers were scared for me. They all seemed to be shaking in their boots. This parent was going to chew me up and spit me out they said. It didn’t happen. The parent was so grateful for what I have been doing. She smiled the whole time, we had a great conversation, and I really like visiting with her. Maybe it is the fact that I am not afraid of parents. I WANT to help their child do better in life and I am not going to “dumb it down for their kid”. Middle school is too short. And what's worse is that I teach Louisiana history. 8th grade is the last time any of them will have anything about out state in their educational life. The only time they will ever see more is if they go into education or became a history major. THat isn't likely. They have all been brain washed to think they will become doctors, lawyers, civil engineers, CEOs of some company, and set on several boards. Sorry, I don't see it that way.
I like her daughter for who her daughter is not for who her parents are. Sure the parent is on the school’s board, she is a very educated, very rich, very outspoken person; but with me she is just “Mary”. Everybody seems to walk on ‘eggshells’ around her but maybe it is because this is my first year here but I don’t see or hear that from her. She is just a parent who wants the best from her child.
After grading my student’s writing yesterday I can tell they will not do well on their test if their writing doesn’t improve quickly. Some write so poorly and one didn’t do anything but rewrite the question in her five minutes. Some of them did really well for a first time with their extended prompt writing. Today will be more of the same. Tomorrow will be a math project so I know they will gripe then too but they will get over it.
"But MrE, this is social studies!"

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Interdisciplinary teaching is fun, even if my students don't think so

How has the week gone? Very well, thank you. Did the kids do what you expected? Most of the time. Yesterday was a little rough but it was “math taught during social studies”, and they think SS should be only SS and nothing else.

I love my eighth graders but they just can’t get the concept that everything is fair game in their education. The “math” we did was a simple look at Mardi Gras, Epiphany, and Easter and how all of it fits together. Why carnival season is sometimes long and sometimes short and it changes every year.

We studied the reason for it falling after the spring equinox and after a full moon and the 40 days of Lent, 12th night and all the other things that go into our Mardi Gras/Easter season. Then they had to do some simple calculations as to when and how dates are selected. They were given one date and had to figure out the remaining dates

The math was simple. Such as: (12 night) ___________, (days in Carnival season) _____________, (Lundi Gras Gras) ____________. (Mardi Gras)___March 3____. (Number of days in LENT) _____________, (Date of the spring Equinox) __________, (Easter) __________. Based on the one date you are given you can figure all the rest knowing the information you just learned. Not hard but you really have to do a little math and remember of few plain old facts.

You would have thought I was making them do calculus or something. It was nothing but simple addition and subtraction. My students have been doing this for years and never had a problem. These are supposed to be better kids than the ones I have taught the last 15 years. Not so.

12th night is always the same DATE. The spring equinox is always the same DATE. Knowing the date of Mardi Gras leads to the date of Lundi Gras – Fat Monday, or the DAY BEFORE Mardi Gras. Ash Wednesday is the reason for Mardi Gras so it is always the DAY AFTER. Lent is always 40 DAYS plus Sundays. Carnival season is the number of days between Epiphany or 12th night and Mardi Gras. Easter is always the Sunday at the end of Lent. All you have to do is do a little counting of 47 days between Ash Wednesday and Eater to know the DATE and the counting of days between Epiphany and Mardi Gras to know the number of days of carnival.

How hard was that? But some of my students could not follow any of that. If they could not COPY from someone else’s paper they weren't getting it.

Just what till Monday. They have more math because they will be graphing populations of Spanish Era parishes of 1785. Graphing!?! That’s math! Dang. Give us two weeks at we will do doing “fractions” of Louisiana parishes (counties) such as “what fraction of Louisiana parishes touch the Gulf coast?” Not only will they have to figure out the fraction they will have to convert it to its simplest form. More math, DOUBLE DANG!

I love making my students do some math in class but I also have them doing some ELA when they have to write a sequel to a movie that we will watch. I give them a list of all the characters then ask for them to write a sequel to the story based on a few years later. The movie happens in 1859 and the sequel takes place in 1862 – DURING the Civil War. All elements must be correct for the time period. They MUST cover all the characters, answer any and all unanswered questions from the movie and do it in at least 5,000 words but not over 7,500 words. I am killing them again. TRIPLE DANG!

We also do science when we study the wetlands, hurricanes, rivers, population. QUAD DANG, I thought this was Social Studies!?!!

It is so much fun being a teacher.

Now, back to my opening question. How has my week gone? GREAT. I love making them have to work for their grade. It’s not really work. One of my students asked the other day about some vocabulary words, “”I don’t know these words! How am I supposed to use them if I have never seen them before?” Well, DUH! Look them up. I am not here to teach you stuff you already know. Interdisciplinary work is fun.

Oh, and by the way. Stop by my store were almost evertything is free for the taking.