Final exams ended today, but the final exams for my IB course are a 15-minute Oral Presentation. I've scheduled the presentations for throughout the week, meaning I've got to sit through about 70 of them. I'm now probably 70% done, but that means I've got about 20 of them to sit through tomorrow. In other words, it's going to be another very long day, just like today, while all the other students are finished and all my colleagues are relaxing, taking real lunches and grading.
It's alright, though, as I've enjoyed teaching the course and this is something that goes along with it. The scores will be sent off to the International Baccalaureate program headquarters (eventually), so I feel like I'm having a part in an international process, which feels pretty cool. Plus, these bright kids just come up with some great ideas in their presentations, and it's a joy to watch. Most of the time, at least. However, today was a very, very long day, from 8:30 until 4pm without even a lunch break.
I'm spending a lot of time right now thinking about how the course has gone this year. I was given the course in late July, when a colleague resigned. Someone else was slotted into her old slot, and I was slotted into that other person's slot, meaning I was teaching the first year of a two-year course. I hadn't been trained in IB in five years, and a lot had changed since even then, so I felt a bit clueless. But I worked hard over the month I had to prepare in the summer, and felt ready to go in the fall. Then, I found I was saddled with two huge (35+) classes, plus a big load of English 2 kids (92), giving me about 170 students taking two courses totally new to me. However, I think I did a good job with them. After I was sent away to training in November, and felt like I had much more of a clue about assessments by then. I enjoyed teaching the course and think I did a pretty good job, with some rocky moments here and there (particularly having to leave so much during 9th period to coach).
Still, there are lots of things I'd like to do differently next year. I have a solid idea now of what all six assessment are, and what skills I really need to be focusing on. I've led them once through the Link Paper, and know now what I need to do as we're reading the books so the kids have good topics. I can even problemetize book selections, which are totally up to me. This year, my three choices for the World Literature texts (must be a translated book from a long, long list of titles) were Death and the Maiden (Dorfman), The Sorrow of War (Ninh), and The House of the Spirits (Allende). The latter is staying (what a great book, so much there), the former is going (I chose it because it was being performed in Baltimore, but there just wasn't enough for the kids to write about), and The Sorrow of War I'm undecided about. I'm thinking of substituting The Elephant Vanishes for Dorfman's text, or, even, more bravely, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which might be too long. We'll see. I need to do some more reading over the summer and figure it out. I'm considering bringing back Kiss of the Spider Woman, which was taught in the slot before my time. I just didn't want it to be too Latin America heavy, so I moved The Sorrow of War in there. Now, I wouldn't necessarily have that problem. I just need to re-read it.
As for Free Choice, I chose Song of Solomon (Morrison), Frankenstein (Shelley) - both of which are staying - as well as Capote's In Cold Blood and Murakami's The Elephant Vanishes. We had to rush through In Cold Blood, and the kids didn't love it like I thought they would, and I'll probably switch that one out, particularly because I don't want to have more than two American texts in a World Lit class. And I'm thinking of The Elephant Vanishes for the first part of the class, so I think I've got two slots open there. I'm thinking about Joe Turner's Come and Gone for one of them, because it's being performed at Center Stage next season and because I like the connections it has with Song of Solomon. For the other one, I'm leaning towards the graphic novel Persepolis, which I think the kids would think was cool and fresh, and would offer different sort of literary analysis. A lot of IB schools are using it now, and it's a fun read (which is ironic, because it's about a pretty frightful childhood... it's sort of like Maus).
The summer reading assignment for the course ended up being How to Read Literature Like a Professor and The Known World (Jones) OR The Namesake (Lahiri). I think they're good choices.
With all that being said (and I know it's a lot), I don't even know if I'm going to teach the course next year. I've made it clear to our forgetful (but lovable) department head what I want to teach, and I hope the word gets passed along. I've also e-mailed the woman making the decision - a woman I actually respect a great deal - and she gave me a strange reply. In fact, I'll post my desperate e-mail to her, and then her reply:
Dear (Assistant Principal),
I'm writing to you about course selections for next year. I've already let (Dept head) know some of my thoughts, but Amy also suggested that I e-mail you about teaching English III IB again.
When I was given ENG III IB following (former colleague)'s resignation in July, I had reservations about teaching it, especially alongside another high-stakes new prep in English II CP. And it's been a challenging year, teaching seven new texts in English III and five new texts and the HSA in English II. However, it's also been a very rewarding year professionally. English III IB is a course that I've spent a lot of time learning as I taught it. Particularly since training in October, though, I've felt really good about it, but even more excited about teaching it a second time. I now have my head wrapped around assignments and expectations more than I did at the beginning of the year, from summer reading assignments to the world literature texts I want to do. While I think the course has been a strong one this year, I think it can be even stronger next year. The IB curriculum is something I think is a real academic gift for our students, and have enjoyed being a part of it and hope to continue.
I also think that (current colleague, who teaches the second half of the course) and I work particularly well together. We informally meet on most days to discuss things I can do to make her students' writing better next year - for example, students will have their World Lit second papers done by the end of the year as well as their link essay. Next year or the year after, we tentatively plan on doing National Boards together, and I look forward to continued working together with these two courses.
I hope there can still be room for me to continue teaching English III IB - I've never been so passionate about teaching something a second time. I know that you have to consider many factors when making a schedule, but wanted you to have it on record that I'd really like to teach this course again. 9th period planning for coaching would be great, too!
Thanks so much,
(Epiphany in Baltimore)
Desperate much? That was sent on April 3. My reply was immediate:
Hey (Epiphany in Baltimore)
Thanks for your comments. There is room for you to continue teaching the IB IIIs.
So, I guess that's it, eh? But, no, it doesn't really seem like it. I haven't heard anything else, and everyone seems to be acting weird, and I just don't know for sure. The schedule for next year is a state-guarded secret. I hope it works out in my favor, which I also think would be in the kids' favor, because I'm going to work my ass off (again, though this time I'll know more).
I will admit that I may be devastated a little bit if it doesn't come through. I mean, I just don't think I deserve an "A" for teaching the course this year. I just don't have it mastered. It would suck to have the course taken and feel like the job I did wasn't as good as it could have been. Next year, I can master it, I just know it.
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