21 September 2017

Mandatory Office Hours and The Gleam

My planning periods have only lasted about 30 minutes for the past two weeks. Even though grades are due next week, I wouldn't wish that time back for anything.

What I'm doing with that time is too important to lose.

I have over 40 "super seniors" in my English classes this year (they have requested that we call them "Elders"). Mine is the last (hybrid) high school class they will ever have, as they dip their toes into their first full college schedule. So by golly, they're going to accomplish something before they leave my class! And that's where the senior project comes in.

Now this is a group who got to experience Genius Hour in Spanish I and II, so I've seen a little bit of their passions before. Honestly, I hadn't been seeing much of those passions this year. I made a point to start off with a contemporary novel to ease them in, instead of throwing them in with Jonathan Swift immediately like last year. One underclassman still reported that his Elder cousin says everyone hates the class. I've got to prepare them for the test, but I still need that spark.

I need The Gleam.

I set up a Google Calendar with appointment slots, leaving myself that precious 30 minutes each day but also plenty of room for all 40-some to sit down with me and talk about what they love--even if they miss their first appointment! They got a teeny test grade just for making the appointment this grading period, and in that appointment, I literally do half the work for them on their next test grade.

They have to turn in three possible topics as well as MLA citations to support each topic by the end of the month. When they come to their appointment, I type straight into their Google Doc, so all they have to do is find some citations when we're done.

I don't always need half an hour for each appointment, but I'm glad I have it. Because, you see, I can't stop until I get The Gleam. If their ideas--or mine--don't make something change in their eyes, if they're just saying "I guess" or "Okay," then we are NOT done. They may or may not come in with ideas, but my job is to keep asking and pushing and rewording until I can type something in that makes them glow. I don't care if it's makeup or musical theater, the anatomy of a heart attack or teaching themselves ASL. I have to see something that lights them up.

These kids--adults, technically--might not know where they want to go to school or what they want to do for a living, but all of them have something within them that gets that Gleam. And isn't that what all of us teachers want to find?

I do not want to suggest that we all need to stay up past already absurd bedtimes to get grades done, but if there is somewhere in your schedule where you can really see your kids--maybe not even "office hours," maybe right there in class--then it is well worth moving some things around.

Because we all have The Gleam. And even when grading or complaints or life in general start making your world seem darker, setting aside time so to see The Gleam will make enough light to see the path ahead.

16 September 2017

Visitor Videos - Cultural comparison PBL

They will be here in two weeks. They do speak English, but it is not their first language. They may have traveled to the U.S. before, they may not. One thing is for sure.

They have never seen anything quite like Gaston County.

It's as true for our community as it is for anyone's: there are some things about it that would be familiar even to international travelers, but there are other things that you just won't get if you "ain't from 'round here."

Our Sister Cities amigos from Peru (and Germany) will be here soon, and we've made arrangements to take a field trip with them, to show them our area and to just be together. We're all hiking up Crowder's "Mountain," which, FYI is about the same level at its peak as the lowest point of Cusco. There were a few things that our kiddos mentioned might have made them feel better prepared for Peru had they been warned, so we (okay, I) thought we'd get our amigos ready before they leave.

I had brainstormed a list of possible topics with some teacher amigas, and everybody raised their hand for the topic they were interested in:

  • Social media & technology  
  • Style and trends (clothes, music, etc) 
  • Money/prices 
  • Appropriate clothes/weather
  • Emergencies
  • Bathrooms 
  • Transportation
  • Families/homes
  • School
Then I grouped them in 2s and 3s accordingly.

They've listened to my stories, done a teeny bit of research, and sent some Flipgrid video questions via our kiddos (which will hopefully get answered in the next week or so), and now it's time to start planning our visitors' videos.

They've started working on their scripts, making sure that
  1. Each group member will speak for at least 30 seconds of the video.
  2. All group members speak in complete sentences in understandable Spanish.
  3. Each group member writes their own lines AND adheres to translator policy.
We brainstormed some "datos importantes" about Gaston County first, then played "Similar o diferente" (I picked one response at a time from their Google Classroom question, asked "¿Es similar a Perú o diferente de Perú?", counted to 3, then let them respond). They very wisely said yo no sé to some and I think started to really realize some of what we take for granted in our Gastonian culture! (WHAT? No Cheerwine in Peru???)

Once I've had a chance to look over their group scripts and discuss them with them, they can begin filming and/or editing. I will have them submit their notes in a note on Seesaw with a recording of them rehearsing so I can give them some pronunciation pointers, too--just so they're understandable.

They'll submit their videos next week and have them posted to our amigos in Peru, perhaps via YouTube, and the videos themselves will be scored according to this single-point rubric (but only for a daily work or quiz grade):


I think our amigos will get a kick out of the videos and maybe even feel a little more at ease when we're climbing that "mountain" in a few weeks. But however they feel, I know our kids will be a little more open-minded when they get here.