8th graders

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I feel the same way with 8th graders and misguided gender calls

Teaching in a low-SES Hispanic population:

@mrskreads asks: “I have the opportunity to take a position with a 95% Hispanic population in a low-income area of town. I’m hesitant on taking the position because it’s not something I’m used to. My student teaching is in a nice neighborhood, and all of my observations have been in diverse schools. I was wondering what your feelings have been working at this school, what challenges you face, etc. Thanks so much!" 

I have had numerous people ask me some version of the question above, so I thought I might answer it. Overall, I will always default to "kids are kids”, because entering the classroom with that mindset of “me” and “the other” is going to seriously hinder your ability to connect with your students as well as build any meaningful relationships, which in turn will hurt your instruction. Knowledge and understanding are great, fearfulness or hyper awareness are not. These go in order from most serious to more humorous towards the end. 

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BWMS 8th grade student gallery Still life #sketches & WPA art #lessonplan #artsed #horry

To help the students get a firm grasp on form, value and contrast, Mr. Doublet and I set up some still life stations and allowed the students to work with charcoal and graphite. 

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See the full gallery on Posterous

We were really pleased with the work that the students came up with. I only wish we had more time to spend with them on working with the carcoal so they could independently create more forms and values on their figures based on the Works Progress Administration / People at Work lesson plan which can be found below from Google Docs

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8th_grade_WPA_People_at_Work_with_charcoal.ppt Download this file

A Teat for Everyone
  • Student 1:Mr. [X], what does "teat" mean?
  • Me:Dude, it's too early for your weirdness right now
  • Student 1:No no no this is real this time! You know how you said that some people say teachers make too much money?
  • Me:yeah...
  • Student 1:Yeah so I was looking up those articles and a bunch of them said that, like, teachers were sucking at the governments teat or whatever, but I don't know what that means..."
  • Me:
  • Me:Mammals when they feed their young nurse them, it's why cows have udders, for example. So the metaphor there is that teachers are weak and have to rely completely on government resources. Make sense?
  • Student 1:*nods, and exits*
  • Student 1:GUYS, HE SAID IT MEANS TITTIES!
  • Me:NO!
Teaching Tip:  Keep that connection with your students and do a “Letters to Self” project

Today had to be one of the best teaching days of this year.  When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t wait for my day to begin.  It was officially “LTS” day. 

For the past four years, my students have participated in a “LTS” (Letters to Self) project.  I learned about this project from my friend, C. Holub, and she was nice enough to share her ideas/materials with me.  Essentially, my 8th grade students write letters to themselves and their friends, put the letters and anything else they want to remember from 8th grade in a folder, and I deliver the folders to them four years later right before they graduate high school.

Well, today was the first time that I delivered the folders to the seniors.  SO MUCH FUN! The guys changed dramatically in four years.  I’m tall, and yet, I had to reach up to give them a hug.  The girls hung out and chatted with me about their lives, and it felt like no time had passed. 

We chatted about their college plans, how things have changed since 8th grade, but the best part was seeing those students that kept me up at night with worry.  It turns out THEY turned out okay.  Many thanked me, some were still incredibly shy and scooted out as quickly as possible, but most were just excited (and wary) to read what they had written to themselves four years ago.  You could hear the laughter across the room as they read the letters.  One student gave me a letter that she had written to me and put in her folder.  It brought tears to me eyes when I read it. Other students are setting up appointments with me to come visit after school before they graduate.  It’s those connections that keep me going.

My teaching tip to you is to keep some kind of connection with your students.  How will you know they are okay when they leave your classroom?  How will you know if you had an impact on their lives?  (That is the reason most of us went into teaching in the first place.)

If you would like to try “LTS” with your own students, here is the link to my presentation.  I share pictures of myself from middle school and on with my students, so don’t laugh, and yes, you will have to change the pictures for your own students.

LTS Project

Some days, it is difficult for a teacher to find that motivation to get to work in the morning.  It’s up to us to create our own motivation.  My motivation is the connections that I try to keep with my “kids,” and that is why today was one of the best days in a long time.

http://www.zazzle.com/high+school+senior+gifts

Things my students say #2

Me: (explaining the Virginia Plan of 1787 at the Constitutional Convention) Under the Virginia Plan, there would have been three equal presidents. Imagine we had Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, and Mr. Tupac Shakur–

Whole class: (reacts and then giggles and laughter ensue) 

Student: (completely surprised) How do you know about Tupac?

Me: I just do.

Student: Wait. How old are you.

Me: Old enough to know about Tupac.

Student: Wow…so you’re like old, huh?

Me: (doing this while thinking to myself: I love teaching. I love teaching. I love teaching. I love teaching.)