This week I taught a course for our seniors who plan to spend their last “quarter” studying in Israel so they can meet their English requirement. The week-long course was an intensive all-day class, which we as educators are perhaps used to, as it seems to be how most professional development is conducted. I wasn’t sure how my students would handle it, however. It’s hard to sit all day, have a working lunch in which you’re required to read around 10 pages, take two or three quizzes, write an essay each day, and still do between 40 and 60 pages of reading each night, which is what my students were required to do. In fact, they did an excellent job. They worked very hard, and I was really impressed by our discussions. The feedback I received about the course was positive, too. The students indicated they felt challenged, but that they also enjoyed the course.
The main text we used was a college freshman literature text. It included some of the standard freshman level pieces, such as Updike’s “A&P,” but it had quite a few very modern selections. I spent a long time reading the selections and framing discussion questions before the course began, but the planning really paid off. The whole week was very organized. I really enjoyed some of the selections we read, too. Each day centered around a different theme.
I came home exhausted each day. Even when I teach, I have at least one planning period or some kind of down time, and I discovered it makes a huge difference. One day I came home and actually fell asleep sitting up, which I don’t think I’ve done since I was a child. However, even though it was hard work for all of us, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with the course — the work the students produced and the work I produced. I think I learned quite a few things I plan to apply to my junior and senior level English classes. My students responded to this class in ways that my seniors last year didn’t respond to my year-long course, and I think it was the college-level challenge and approach that framed this week-long course. On some basic level, I think teenagers especially want to be treated as intelligent people, and I don’t think they mind working hard if the challenge seems to have a point and the instruction and discussion are interesting. Or, at least, that was the feedback I received. It was an intense week, but it was just a week, and I think the students and I all felt that if we could just plow through the week, the reward would be worth it. I think we were all surprised by how much we enjoyed it.
I am, however, relieved it is over so that I can spend next week recovering before school starts. So if you’ve contacted me over the last few weeks and received no response or if I’ve put you off, give me a couple of days to wake up, and I’ll try to catch up. I feel so behind! I especially feel bad about my absence from the UbD Educators wiki. I’ll get on there and look over the discussions and posted units soon, I promise.