Saturday, December 03, 2005

First Semester is Almost in the Books

The first semester of teaching is almost at a close. It has gone quickly, but when I think back to the first week of school, way back in August, it seems as though the semester began many years ago.

I have enjoyed my first semester, and feel I have been successful in many regards. I give my kids a lot of me: my humor, my support, and much of my free time. As Dave Odom said in class today, we always seem to choose what our kids need instead of what we need. But despite making this choice routine, I still feel refreshed and upbeat more often than not. That tells me that the second half of the year is going to be even better.

I have learned a lot about my students personal lives by reading their essays and watching them present their oral history projects. We have read two interesting books, The Road to Memphis and Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, and my students enjoyed these. I have picked up on many of my students' academic inadequacies, and feel like many students have made strides in improving. In fact, in a couple of my classes, 100% of my students are passing, and I have not lowered the bar at all from first semester, when a couple students failed in every single class.

I did not coach a sport in the fall, but I did work with the academic decathalon team, and spent six days after-school working with students preparing for the ACTs. I had time left over to run a couple times a week, write for about an hour a night, and watch a couple movies each week. My personal life is in a great place right now, my professional life is wonderful, and Christmas break is coming up soon. Next semester will be busier, as the dreaded state test approaches and I may be coaching track and field as well. But I just need to remember to control the things I can control and let the chips fall where they may. This semester was great, and next semester, though busier, will be even more rewarding.

Football Fever: Or How I Learned To Just Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

It's nearing the second week in December, and football fever is still raging at Simmons High School in Hollandale. This is due to the fact that Simmons High has yet to lose a game during the reguar season or playoffs: we're undefeated baby, yeah! All posturing aside, the joy of gridiron glory has its negative attributes as well, and these have increasingly come to light over past few weeks.

I like the football players I have in my class, and their academic work has not suffered with the prolonging of their athletic season. But the academic work of Simmons High School as a whole has taken a hit because of the team's success. Or rather, students have missed hours of instructional time to engage in the age-old ritual of pep rallies, something supported whole-heartedly by our one-man administration team.

We have had at least seven pep rallies, by my count. They are noisy, and many of them are short-lived, but I can deal with them as a minor annoyance. The real disturbance they cause is twofold. First, they throw off the bell schedules, leaving students and teachers uninformed. Secondly, they create an atmosphere where students do not feel obligated to attempt to learn. Students treat school like a party instead of a center for the acquisition of knowledge. Unfortunately, some teachers enable this mostly-harmful behavior by turning their classrooms into poster-making and pennant design centers.

The high school season ends this Friday with the state championship game in Jackson. Our school will be getting over with at 11:30, so that we can pack onto a bus and make the trek. How much learning will take place on that short day? None. Can I do anything to change that? I can certainly try. But sometimes I think that maybe I short just stop worrying. Just stop worrying and love the bomb.