Friday, August 31, 2007

Creating the culture

Last year, I felt that a culture of learning developed over the first three weeks in my A.P. government classes. I had two classes of 36 and 38 and, for the most part, the "What do you believe?" discussions helped lead to a class culture of participation and analysis where we felt comfortable asking the next question, opening new other words, we were students.

So how do I feel today? I have 4 classes, none as big as last year. I thought this would make this easier to accomplish this year. And I feel half right. Two sections are there - willing to share, listening as well as talking, taking arguments to new areas, allowing me to explain when they are unsure. One is close. And one section isn't in the ballpark. A student from that class approached about changing sections as she feels it, too. The culture is instead one of "Nothing said by others has any relevance to me." Some of this is ceretainly led by two girls who seemingly have no interest in anything but their personal discussions and lives. This, like a cold, has spread to neighbors. I know that I am supposed to recognize the multitasking abilities of our students. But this class isn't going to "see the gorilla." Not unless I allow them to leave class and go to the zoo! It is early and I realize I'm close to 75% success at building the culture. But seeing what their peers are capable of doing, it still frustrates me. Guess it is time to find a new tactic.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New and Improved...or Just New?

As I sat with my leg propped up on ice, with a laptop actually sitting on my lap, I started formulating what my classes would look like this year. And like most changes, I am left questioning whether the changes are new or do they start to get the students and me to new AND improved places.

Given a need to still prepare AP Government students for a national exam that is based on simple vocabulary, will they be ready for that exam if I am much more concerned with them becoming political participants and contributors. I'm not as concerned that they know the title of a concept - yet AP is. I'm not as conerned that they have memorized key cases, but can they use any case to help them build future arguments? SO how do I merge the two and still be effective with the more "old-school" AP requirements as I hopefully push/pull them into the 21 Century lifelong, continuous learner in a world-wide Personal Learning Network?

Blogs, Wikis, and Podcast Oh My. Should be an interesting year!