The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

First Week of School

I can hardly believe the first week of school is almost over and I haven't blogged once, but I have been just drowning. SO, SO, SO much to do... but it has really all paid off.

I feel like I am reaching this beautiful point in my teaching where I am starting to really "get it" about so many things, and the activities I am planning are turning out just how I planned if not better. Plus, so many beautiful things have fallen into place this year. No, I should restate that- they haven't fallen into place; they have been painstakingly planned into a beautiful symphony.

Last year, I read some research that suggested that smaller class sizes only make a difference for struggling students, and that larger class sizes at the top make little to no difference in student achievement. This seemed to make some sense, but for me, this would mean keeping, well, ALL of my regular classes small. That's when I realized, "Wait a second! That's what would happen by default if I packed out Honors!"  So I discussed it with my department chair, she agreed, and we went for it. We encouraged the top students to apply for honors and accepted pretty much all of them, even ones we would have had reservations about before.

I am SO glad we did. I already see the difference. My regular classes are beautifully smaller. Whereas my smallest class had 27 before, now, that is my largest class. Of course Honors has 41 people in it, but they are doing wonderfully. The energy in that class is amazing! It is going to be a fun, fun year.

Speaking of large class sizes, my drama class has 52 students, and I just wrote a note for two seniors saying that they have my permission to add. When the counselor asked for my permission to increase the cap (there were 49 when she sent that), I texted her back, "The sign in my room says maximum capacity is 72." Okay, I admit, I added that 72 might be a bit much. I guess I am both excited that so many people actually want to be in drama (they all requested the class) and I don't want to deprive anyone, particularly seniors, of having an opportunity to be part of a theater program. It is an amazing experience.

When the seniors came in to ask my permission to add today, one of them was genuinely shocked to hear it was full. She said, "Two years ago, we barely had enough people to do Beauty and the Beast. What happened?"  I thought about it, and I realized what happened. Failure happened.

Or shall I say, we didn't really fail. As Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that don't work."  We experienced what DIDN'T work last year when I tried to put on three student-directed one-acts at the same time during the second semester with a bunch of seniors suffering from senioritis. However, through our lack of success at putting up a real evening time show, we ended up putting on about 5 performances during school. Students who may never have thought to add drama before became interested. And thus... my class has reached 54. I'm excited.

And I am putting a lot into really teaching drama this year, not just doing drama. I'm studying theory and technique and teaching it all along with exercises and examples. It is going to be a good semester. I could tell that today when my "physical theory" activity resulted in a group of kids creating a "workout room" made only from their body parts, with an exerciser who came in a "rode" their recumbent bike. I was impressed. I only wish I took pictures.

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