As of today, I've listened to 42 IB Formal Oral Commentaries. Each take 40 minutes (20 minutes of prep, 15 minutes of talking, 5 minutes of setup/teardown), so it's a pretty grueling process, and I'm glad it's over. It was so interesting to see the results of what we spent all semester practicing and preparing for. For some students, it came easily to them, and what I did for them was just a tweaking throughout the semester. For others, I know it was hard for them, but they worked hard and produced greatness. For still some others, I don't know what happened. I know a few things I will do differently and a few things I will continue to develop. Overall, though, it was a success. And I'm really glad it's over.
One of the reasons I think teaching is such a wonderful job is the ability to start fresh every year. You tear down everything every June and start fresh every August. It's rejuvenating and mind-clearing and healthy. But what also is great is that you can do a miniature version of it in the middle of the year at the semester break. The school year this year is making it even easier, as this week is a two day week of classes (professional development looms, and today, Monday, was exam makeup day), providing a fulcrum from which to pivot into the next semester.
To emphasize the shift in focus, I completed a dramatic re-arrangement of my classroom today. My desk is in the opposite corner. The student desks are in a strange trapezoidal shape. They 9th graders will be freaked out, but in a good way.
I've also been doing some planning of the semester. I'm laying out the senior schedule for the rest of the year (they take their first IB test on May 4th), and it's jam-packed. We have four novels (The White Tiger, Native Son, East of Eden, and Oryx and Crake), or about 1800 pages, to read, discuss, and practice assessments with during that time, so our schedule will be demanding. For the first time ever, I have to deal with cases of senioritis, of students who have made it into college. I hope I've chosen good books that will keep them interested.
As for the 9th graders, they're set to begin the semester with a lecture about completing reading. The final quiz grades from A Lesson Before Dying show that only a handful of kids are reading, so individualize notes are going home and I'm actually going to give another quiz on Monday over the end. The first on their 2nd quarter grade and is hurting them, but I still need them to read the book - it will be the first real grade of the 3rd quarter. My lesson plan tomorrow, though, will involve a dual analysis of Dylan Thomas and Tupac Shakur. How very white-teacher-in-an-urban-school cliche of me, eh? It totally fits, though (the Thomas poem is his famous one about not dying without a fight, as is the Shakur rap), with A Lesson Before Dying, and I want to throw them a little bit of a bone after their lecture. It's a lesson from Hip Hop Poetry and the Classics, a book I've never used before. I'm excited, though.
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