Well, it’s another year down and another weekend that I am sitting at my computer trying to gather my thoughts and make sense of it all. Was I successful with what I wanted to do this year? Yeah – I think so. The third year, by myth, is when “things should be getting easier,” for the returning rookie teacher. It is also at the tail end of when most new teachers plan to quit. SO I guess I’ve overcome both odds.
I guess the big thing that differs this year from my previous two is that I didn’t feel as connected with my kids, but I devoted a lot more time to my own education and employing strategies on the students. Last summer, I spent a great chunk of time getting rid of old lesson plans that most of my students found to be “too elementary,” and instead I looked at the Horry County learning objectives in the visual arts by grade level. Something I received during my very first few weeks of school but didn’t get to pay it too much attention. But it helped me out a lot. I would find the learning objective, try to modify a previous lesson plan that would fit that need – or search for one related to a country or time period the students might be studying in Social Studies. It was a lot of work, especially including the Who, What and the Why inside of every one of my power points, and the objectives and assessment. All in all, my kids came out with some really interesting projects.
Another thing that I felt quite accomplished was the information that I have gained from my three required graduated courses which just recently caused me to become a fully certified teacher. I took one course which I initially thought to be bogus since I was paying a thousand dollars in order to help run the Coastal Carolina Gifted and Talented Summer Arts Camp. But the course gave me the experience of taking the kids on a field trip, and the final requirement was developing something to present at the South Carolina Art Educator’s Alliance in Greenville (well, the city outside of Clemson). My presentation at the conference was small in attendance, but I rewrote a few things and was able to turn it into a staff development for Horry County ELA, SS and Art teachers, which turned out to be quite successful.
The staff development inspired me to get this project / idea televised, so I worked with the school librarian who made up a short video about my kids working on the computers and doing a propaganda project. It cycled on Channel twelve for a month and it was a nice thing to see myself on tv from all of my hard work. The propaganda project was also in collaboration with a few ELA teachers, but it was Carrie Baker that was really into it and wanted to do something more. She came up to me and suggested we could run an art and poetry show at the school. We came up with some ideas, made connections with the community, got a little bit of media coverage, nice layout of food AND coming full circle, I had my old professor come by to judge the work. SO that Coastal class did really pay off.
But amongst all of these new fangled projects and collaborations, looking back this year I felt like I have lost some connections with a few of the kids. I didn’t give out awards at the end of the year, but I did do Students of the Month in my class and we through an art show. Sure I know it is all about building relationships, but there were some new things this year that involved discipline in our school and acknowledging the good behaviors. This year we started the PBIS program, which is like a nationally funded “be good and we will reward you” type of thing. Basically, if you catch a student doing the right thing, reward them with a Bear Buck. If they save up enough Bear Bucks, they can buy little things in the school store. Unfortunately, not every student bought into it, and it was that ten percent or so that has problems doing what they are supposed to do, who fought the system and didn’t care about receiving bear bucks. SO what do we do with them? Document, administer consequences and eventually dish out hearings for expulsion or to go to the alternative school.
The downside to that last idea was that at some point along the line this year, full power came to the hearing officer when determining the outcome for a student’s hearing. In the past, it was at least the suggestions of the administrator and the teachers to determine such consequence – but now they have all the power. And does one become corrupt with power? Or is it a whole system of politics and schmoozing with the higher ups on the school board in order to keep expulsions down, alternative school attendance low and instead – dish out a whole lot more probation and sometimes even double extended probations. SO cases in which in the past would have typically been “gone for the rest of the semester,” over such things as possession of drugs, child pornography and/or indecent exposure – bring ’em back with their friends on probation. And if they screw up again, maybe we can just extend their probation? What is that teaching them as far as consequences go?
My theory is if a student is being too disruptive, and he/she is taking away the time and education of the thirty some-odd students in that room – then that child needs to be removed and perhaps rehabilitated on how to properly function in society. Sometimes there are parents that appeal to the school board for these decisions to become overturned. And what exactly happens when these students see that such drastic measures initially put on them can be just as easily overturned? Are we teaching them that, “it’s okay, we understand you messed up – here is your warning.” OR does it tell the student, “oh man, I can keep on doing stuff like this in school and get away with it.” I think we need to prepare these students for society, and they need to know the rules and obey them or receive the proper consequence. They need to know that in society if they happen to show their butts, they might not just get probation.
SO I guess that is my whole gripe about the discipline issues in our school (and I am NOT blaming anyone, or one particular person/group. It is an issue that we all need to work on and come together to solve in unison). As the actions of the few that have had a major negative impact on the rest. I think the other students see what is going on, and perhaps they know that they can also get away with it? Hopefully with the continuous implementations of the PBIS program we can address this ten percent or so of the students who do not follow directions or are disruptive. Just like Spock once said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” and I feel that our school is going through a somewhat stressful crisis over these few and something needs to be done. Issues of talking back, disorderliness on the bus, walking around with their Ipods and cell phones like there is nothing wrong with it. Something has gotta give.
Well, I guess that is my final little gripe. In closing, I have faith in the PBIS program, and I am curious to see where / what it will be doing with our students. I will continue to utilize programs with more hands on projects and develop an art show that focuses on student issues and get a bit more collaboration with the other teachers at the school. I also hope that I can be the school’s next teacher of the year – which is like a real personal goal of mine. I couldn’t believe it when one of the 8th grade teachers came up to me and said, “We are thinking of nominating you for teacher of the year – would you be interested?” I had no idea that I would make it to the actual nomination ballot, OR that I would make it down to the bottom three. I was extremely honored to make it that far, especially only being a third year teacher – so hopefully next year I can win.
To finally wrap it up, there are a few of my eighth graders that I will miss. The nerds, the freaky emo kids and that crazy party girl I once caught doing some rather inappropriate stuff in my classroom. It was those few that I stand by as they were the most successful, they helped me develop a s
kim board for Surf’s Up, yearbook productivity and were always down for coming to my class and giving me a hundred and ten percent. Hopefully there will be more like them in the years to come as they continue to let students choose their discovery. BUT hopefully we can get all of the bugs worked out in that system so that I do not have to hear any whining or complaining, “But I never chose your class – I can’t draw at all!” But when life gives you lemons…..they were the ones that I chose first to become my students of the month and try to make them the most successful that I could.