Friday, December 21, 2007

'Tisn't the Season

Even though this pyramidal shape could remind one of a christmas tree or, to be politically correct, "a holiday tree" it somehow doesn't, for me, this Christmas. We are having some major challenges to our "reason for the season". A testing one's faith and family commitments is on going.

It wasn't much better at my latest "guest teacher" (sub) assignment. I had promised a friend teacher that I would cover her class the 3 days that she helped produce an annual holiday show at her school and it, at times, was difficult. It wasn't the subject, Art, but the personnel and the administrative lack of support that made it all less than inspiring to that festive, holiday time usually experienced just before the annual two-week holiday haitus. Students at the middle school age are generally so into themselves and each other that they hardly give any signs that they are "festive" or joyful...even with "breeze assignments" in Art. The ones who would normally respond are far out-shouted by the two to three in each class that "take extra attention"...usually the negative kind. They come into class with their own agendas from the previous "passing period" and could care less what they are there for or assigned to do. They then force a confrontation which first involves warnings, chances to comply, then threats of "referral" usually 3X and then, with persistant refusal, and lots of time taken away from the "deserving students" they are given a note and asked to leave. This seems to be, more and more, standard M.O. with "subs". But not this one. Then on the next day when they see that "this one" is still there they don't want to come to class and report to the girl's V.P. in charge of discipline and complain with their calumny. This is where my sponsor teacher steps in and backs me and what I'm trying to teach/accomplish (her lesson plans) This works to a degree although they still wouldn't take any direction from me.

We got some beautiful projects from most of the students, 5 classes of Art with the same assignment: Make a small, black and white, newspaper collage to then decorate with pastels with copied or created pictures, landscapes or abstract designs. Most took to it and enjoyed doing the three-day process with friends, conversation and "tunes" in the background. They, of course, wanted "their choice of tunes" which never pleases everyone so the teacher had picked 4 or 5 CD's and we put them on "shuffle". I stuck in a holiday CD from "Manheim Steamroller"..."oo yuk" was the predominant response.

The one different class, "Yearbook" was asked to write a "critique" on the "show" or interview four of the kids ("student celebrities") who were in it and in their class. Here again we had to threaten a certain few who were trying their best to get out of the assignment or do the minimum; even when I made sure the assignment was from their regular teacher, not me. Finally I had to do the old "exit ticket" routine. i.e. "You get to leave the room when the assignment is given to me at the door with your name on it...even if it isn't a blank piece of paper with your name on it. We had a few that were close to that. When I tried to read and grade them it a rude awakening to what writing skills most lack and don't even know it.

Another "Snafu" transpired on the second day first period. The Art assignment had rotated to "Prep Period" which means no students. Wrong for subs...we have to be available to "cover" for last minute cancellations until they find another sub or a "staff" person covers. This time it was me and I was sent to an "Algebra" Class. The regular teacher was there and doing the last minute lesson plans on his computer. He then explained the to me and handed me the attached packet of individualized assignments. Then another sub come in and relieves me so I give her the packet and the explanations I had just received. I'm not back in the Art room for 5 minutes when I get the call to come back to "algebra" the releaving sub was wrongly sent. But she in the meantime had mislaid the packet and assignment and handed me some "work to return" . Even with a "T.A", who was busily correcting papers, we could not find the original assignment page or packet...even sending the TA to find her and ask her or it. With 5 mins. left in the period and two whole class refusal do do a "supplementary assignment" "Oh we've already done that one" Yes, you may have but you didn't pass it again...nope; we found the packet. I left copious notes to the regular teacher and praised the one student who tried to help me the whole time. I also stopped a girl from chasing another boy student around the room with scissors i.e. "running with scissors" and then she came up to my desk and threatenly operated the scissors rapidly and violently several time not two feet from my face. I wrote that up too. Her parting sarcastic comment as she left and the scissors were laying on the desk, pointing toward me..."Oh be careful, they might get you." Vicious! Most all the problem students, both classes, ones with real issues, were females who were performing for each other and the class.

It seems that at this level the females are much more socially "advanced?" and not really interested in assignments. Hormones are freshly flowing too and that's part of it. This is probably another school I will not return to unless requested by my Art Teacher Friend. She would like to get more of my "artsy ideas" and pick my brain for future she says. We'll see if my "rubrics", although older and tested, might help in what I see as an increasingly challenging scope and sequence of art curriculum. "Have you tried shrink art, simple origami or even napkin folding?" I have. RRR

No comments: