It’s first period. I have posted everyone’s name along the wall and watch as they find their spot to hang their latest writing: Where I’m From inspired narrative vignettes. Actually, I don’t watch. My own recently composed piece about getting Icees during the summer with my Papa is posted too. I’m in the circle with them, and I get excited as I go around the room, examining their work as they examine mine. It’s a good feeling.
It’s fourth period. I get my students to circle up with some minor complaining. We are going to attempt a discussion of the text we just read. I stand in the circle with them, but I’m fighting a constant battle to get them to focus on the topic and not chat with their small “corner” of the circle. Actually, it’s not a circle, it’s a blob. I feel like a blob as I try to maintain the discussion, only to feel it continually drop. It’s not such a great feeling.
Welcome to my daily struggle as of late. I know these are two different times of day (morning vs. afternoon) and two different types of kids (College English vs. English 11), but does that really account for the different behaviors exhibited when I try fairly similar activities? I find myself reflecting on this dynamic a lot. What changes so much that where one activity succeeds in one class, it flops like a badly performed dive in the other?
I have to wonder sometimes. I know most likely it’s the makeup of the class, the individual students and how they are arranged together in this schedule versus another. However, there is a part of me that feels surely some of the blame must lie with me. I can think of several ways I am different with my first period class as opposed to my fourth. But is this a question akin to “which came first: the chicken or the egg?”
I feel like it might be, after all by fourth period I am tired, loopy, and it is by and large a different curriculum. Perhaps a curriculum that, if I’m being honest, I’m not nearly as passionate about, because I lack the true freedom to do what I would like to in that course versus what I can freely do in my College English course.
The sad thing is that I try to be just as passionate, just as engaging, and just as excited for my students in fourth as I am in first. I try to come up with exciting ways to present material that I know can be a little dry (The Crucible is no one’s first pick for a play to read). But it feels like every time I try something new in this particular period, it falls flat on it’s face. Honestly, I’m just not sure how to get students invested. Or maybe it’s a classroom management issue. I just wish I didn’t feel like it was a flop because of a small group of students. I just wish I wasn’t taking it so personally or that I could at least focus on the fun I’m having in first period. I just wish I didn’t feel so guilty for not having the same fun in fourth.
Mostly, I just wish that this blog entry had a solution. Instead, I feel like I’m just setting out a bunch of problems. Maybe what I really need to do is look past the curriculum, look past the grade difference, the student difference, and the time difference. I need to look at the strategies I’m using in College English. I need to look at that sense of community I am so proud of in that class and try to foster that a bit more in English 11. Maybe they just need a little more time to ‘get’ what I’m trying to cultivate in that class. Maybe I just need to put in a bit more work or maybe have higher expectations for my English 11 class.
They’ll rise to the challenge…right?