Friday, January 29, 2010

Memoirs of a First Year Middle School Reading Teacher

Today, all of the 8th grade teachers are gone to the PDC (the Profesional Development Center) downtown for a training day. That is, all of the 8th grade teachers except the 3 reading teachers. This means one thing: chaos. Substitutes are great, but the kids think (know) that they can get away with murder with some subs... this will be an eventful day, to say the least.

SO... instead of dwelling on the fact that today might just be a repeat of the end of yesterday (NOT a good rerun), I thought I would share some things about a GOOD day this week...
On Tuesday of this week, I was able to go and observe two other reading teachers in Denton ISD. One was an 8th grade teacher from McMath Middle School, and the other was from Harpool Middle School. Both were really great to experience. I very much respect the classroom management they have.
The second classroom was almost dreamlike for me. I have shared in a previous post that Nancy Atwell's aproach (along with many of others) is my desire for my classroom. The focus being the act of reading. There are mini-lessons taught at the beginning of the class, but they don't last more than about 15 minutes. The rest of the classtime is spent with the students reading THEIR choice of book. They are given this time so that they can actually get into the "reading zone", that place when you lose yourself in the book that you are reading.
I already implement a little bit of this approach, when I can, in my classroom, and yesterday my heart was so full when my 2nd period class (with many students who have been sent to the office before for falling asleep multiple times as we read in class) literally BEGGED me for more time in their own books before I made them take a few notes on genres. :) It was truly a time of joy for me, as a reading teacher, to see their passion for their books. One girl was so engaged in her book, that she kept gasping, and looking up at me as if to say, "WHAT?! I CANNOT believe that just happened!!!!".
I have had a handful of students who I NEVER would have guessed, come up to me and say, "Mrs. Power! I finished this book that you let me borrow yesterday! I read the whole thing last night, and it was really good!" One of the students that told me that just 10 minutes ago was the one who told me that he didn't get to read the chapters I had assigned to him to read over the weekend, because he was too busy working on his dirt bike. "I can't very well read while I'm lying under a dirt bike, Miss!" I guess he found something worth taking a break for? :) I love that.
The classroom that I plan to model my class after showed me that I can actually make it happen! She had her desks in groups of four around the perimeter of the classroom, and she had 2 large rugs in the center of the room. On one rug, she had a low-sitting beach chair, which all of the students recognized as the teacher's spot, and on the other, she had a HUGE pile of oversized pillows, beanbags, and chair cushions. The pillows were just old couch throw pillows and cushions that she had roughly sewn covers for in brightly covered thrift fabric. I LOVED it. I cannot wait to transform my own room. The only problem is that I need to find the means of getting rugs and more pillows and fabric and beanbags, etc. I have had a little success at garage sales, but rugs and beanbags get expensive, so all I really have so far are two cushions, two little foot rugs, and a runner-type rug that really just stays back behind my desk... I'm in the market for a lot more.
Since my biggest need is in the book area, I have been spending the money that I can on them instead of the decor-type things...but... eh, I have such high expectations for my classroom, and it's just frustrating for it not to be there yet. I know we all feel that way with things sometimes, and I'm still learning how to be patient, and live NOW instead of waiting for the future. What a waste to just always look forward to that future instead of enjoying the time the Lord has given me right now...
well, that's all for now, friends. If you do run across anyone who wants to get rid of rugs, lamps, beanbags, cushions, fabric, bookshelves, books, etc. please let me know? I'll gladly take them off of their hands. :)

your local first year middle school reading teacher.

p.s. sorry, that is probably completely scatterbrained writing. I hope you will forgive me :)


Luke&Lynn said...

It is so encouraging to hear of your good days! I'm praying for more of them, Love you!

The Irwins said...

I like this. And I like our teachers' conversations over Harry Potter. Love you!