Monday, November 2, 2009

High school teacher mutterings

In education classes (or during boring professional development days) we learn about the importance of student led conferences. Any one-on-one time you spend with a student is highly beneficial, but for me, there is something even more beneficial, or at least more practical than student led conferences.

The truth is that when you have 20-30 kids in a class it is nearly impossible to meet with students more than once every few weeks and even that is unlikely. What I have observed as most beneficial to high school students is to teach them how to speak to each other about literature. It is through higher level discussions that my students learn to talk about books. It is through intense writing workshops that they learn how to talk to each other about writing.

I learned how to facilitate this type of learning environment through my graduate writing classes. I wish more high school teachers could see the value of the workshop. It’s definitely hard work and requires more time, but it is invigorating and more valuable to students and their learning.

So many high school teachers are stuck in the swamp of simple comprehension questions. Do you need to know who wrote a book? Yes! Do you need to be able to recall the name of the apartment complex a character lived in at the beginning of the book? That would be nice, but I think it is much more valuable that you can discuss the character’s growth and flaw…

I don't know what the future holds for me. I am not sure if I want to always teach high school. The thought of doing any one thing for my entire life makes me feel a sense of dread. However, I do think I have something to say about teaching. I usually don't blog much about it, but I think I will start sharing snippets of what I have learned and what I am still learning in the classroom.


John said...

Hooray! I'm glad you've muttered your thoughts about teaching high school, Jen. I agree, reading and writing to the end. I love the word "swamp" for most assessments. Some are almost so 1:1 it's perverse.

I agree that thinking about teaching for the rest of my life fills me with dread, but I also take pride in the fact that I'm a trencher... a front line freak slogging through a swamp of sensory cacophony for the opportunity to change a person for the good, forever. Godbless!

Jennifer Sullivan said...

" A front line freak slogging through a swamp of sensory cacophony for the opportunity to change a person for the good, forever."

When you put it like that, John, my heart swells with a sliver of pride as well.

I do love my job. I just get so exhausted at times. The students deserve the best and when I give that to them, I come home and collapse.