Monthly Archives: April 2015

A month of ‘Things That Happened Today’ – a cup of milk

Every month the Daegu Reflective Practice Group makes reflective goals for the month. And nearly every month, I fail to complete mine (or even remember what it was most of the time). Last month, we all committed to bring an incident to reflect on so there would be plenty of material for the workshop (which is tomorrow and is being facilitated by a guest: Mr. Bryan Hale). I realized upon making this commitment that I almost never remember a thing that happened at school without a lot of effort. By the end of a school day, I normally just want to crawl in bed and try again tomorrow. But I didn’t want to come empty-handed, so I made the rather ambitious goal of keeping a running log of at least one of the myriad things that happen each day… for each day. 

What follows is four weeks of things that happened, with edits for clarity where possible and a few pretty pictures that might be related.

Things that happened today:

3/23

What are students made of? What are teachers made of?

I took a picture of what happened when we talked about this in Esther’s class.

What is anybody made of, really?

What is anybody made of, really?

3/24

Sera’s story of Trevor’s stick up the dog’s butt joke. She also said he gave the finger to a teacher and ran away. And a lot of other bad boy things. She thought it was all hilarious. I asked him what he was playing at, and he said it was a comic he’d drawn and it didn’t really happen. I think I was most bothered by fact that they all found it so funny. Except the violent kid – he thought animal cruelty is horrible.

*Editor’s note: this came up again today in a conversation with another teacher about how Trevor tells stories.

3/25

I don’t remember.

*Editor’s note: I don’t remember what happened in class this day, but I have a very clear memory of why not.

3/26

Today I gave the M2s their new free writing notebooks and pencils to go with. Then we did free-writing in class to begin the notebooks and I took them away again. I wonder if that was the right thing to do.

*Editor’s note: they were very excited when I gave back their notebooks with comments for each of them.

3/27

I was reading a story about trolls who came and stole a sleeping baby while her sister wasn’t watching. While I was reading, Paul and Sera got into an argument. I stopped to see if they would resolve it. They didn’t. So I put the book away. Some of the other students were annoyed because they wanted to hear more of the story.

3/30

‘Tom’ walks in the classroom to the usual chorus of groans. I don’t know how to stop them from ostracizing him. I don’t know how to teach him acceptable classroom behaviour. Julie, who wasn’t paying attention anyway, interrupts the class to tell me that Tom has been sticking his tongue out at her. Tom says she started it. She says he started it. I wish they would stop it.

3/31

Ellen just flat out refused to work today. No idea why. She put her head down and wouldn’t participate. She wouldn’t speak during the group speaking task, even when her group members tried to engage her and I backed off. She wouldn’t read during the reading task. When I asked her if she had some reason, she said “no.”

Another thing that happened was I realized that kids don’t know how to look at pictures in a story book.

Editor’s note: since I discovered that, I started teaching them to notice the pictures (which are really where the story is).

4/1

April Fools’ Day

4/2

The Thoughts and Notions class Kakao Group. (I blogged this one because it was such an interesting experience)

4/3

Today I changed the seats in NP5 by lottery (pick a card and line up alphabetically according to your card). Ellie was so angry about it, she moped for the rest of the class. Her mood seemed to affect her group, who look to her as a leader (as most of the class does).

Editor’s note: I also remember that when the class ended that day, she came up to me to tell me that she wouldn’t do my homework. I told her to give it a try.

4/6

M3 debates: The first group worked out really well. The timing was almost perfect and their arguments were clear, concise, and well-prepared. They also used their survey tools. That was fantastic. The second class was not a train wreck, but not nearly as good. They spoke in Korean a lot, used their phones and dictionaries during the debate, and had a really hard time understanding not only their opponents’ arguments, but their own as well. Their topic was too hard, I think.

4/7

Total lack of clarity about homework in the M1 classes and I didn’t really remember either what had been assigned. One new kakao group made.

4/8

The mind maps from Junho’s class and Michelle’s class. Peter and Ben had a tiff but Ben didn’t know why.

They haven't generated this much language ever. Now, to get them to use it!

They haven’t generated this much language ever. Now, to get them to use it!

4/9

The kakaotalk group class. All but one did their homework. Seriously. And so since they’d done it we were able to make questions about the text and play Golden Bell. Max and Mike won the game – the two weakest students. Their next teacher reported that they came to class smiling and seemed more confident and happy and cohesive as a group than before.

4/10

Ellie refused to do the reading: “I skimmed it and I think it’s not interesting to me.” But she was clearly in an awful mood for whatever reason, so I asked her to read it again on Sunday and see if it was interesting then. Later I found out that she was in a bad mood because she had mistakenly told the other students in her class wrong information and half the class came unprepared and it was “her fault” in a sense. No wonder she was in a bad mood.

4/13

Katie and Heather’s compliments in other cultures. The difference between singular and plural compliments: Good job! I liked that song. Vs Good job! I like that song. Katie’s response: Oh, no. It was not good. It was just so so. Which led to a mini-discussion on how different cultures respond to compliments (In Korea brush it off; In the USA acknowledge it – we’d all love to know how you respond to compliments!).

*Editor’s note: This conversation might be related to the upcoming #KELTchat.

4/14

The M1 debate disaster – only three students talked and as it turned out, they didn’t understand their topic well enough or the information they had found well enough to explain it to the other team (or me). Six silent students, and in the end everyone had the same opinion anyway. What a fail. I wish I’d recorded it. But I think what happened is that they didn’t have clear enough tasks while they were preparing and I rushed them because they’re going to be off for two weeks. Next time I’ll remember this.

4/15

Somehow nothing at all got done in OW1 except a spelling test about the months and a memory game using “I want/ He/She wants”. And suddenly the time was over. I don’t know how that happened.

4/16

Homework charts finished. Most of the kids get gifts. And I’m the fool who lets them choose. Anyway, so little Paul says he wants o-gamja, the blue one. It’s a potato chips brand. So I went shopping and there were orange, green, and a sky-blue at the store. I got the one that was not orange or green, but was a little surprised because it said it was onion flavored. As soon as I pull it out of the bag, he starts complaining that it’s all wrong. And I overreacted. I just tied up the bag again and said, we’ll just do this later. And I was too angry to talk so I wrote a note on the board for him that said, ‘It’s a gift. Next time, just smile and say thanks.’ But then I changed my mind and gave everyone their gifts anyway. Now I realize that I had failed to leave my baggage at my classroom door and little Paul is in no way to blame (although he was, by my standards, a little rude – he had every right to express that he hadn’t got what he wanted).

4/17

I made amends with little Paul and got him the right snack. He said thank you.

I played pictionary with the phonics kids. I didn’t let them draw, though.

I found more mystery puzzles for the M3s because they love those.

Oh, and I took a picture of my graffiti wall. Three weeks of student art. One group asked for a new paper. I said no.

20150417_212137-1

What I learned from the process – lots of things happen every day and it is really hard to decide what is important and what isn’t. Also, writing stuff down isn’t enough. It’s important to go back and read it. Some of the things that seemed important at the time seem pretty trivial now. I wonder what that means. I wonder what I should have remembered about those days. For example, I remember now yelling at a student about his racist comment. How did I not write that down? What did I write instead on that day? I notice I wrote a lot about individual students and their feelings or attitudes, and less about lessons and successes and failures and challenges. This is just the beginning and maybe it would be more useful to focus on a single class each day next month and see how the posts develop. 

TL;DR – stuff happened. I wrote it down. Pretty pictures.

how can i help you remember? (a snapshot)

Here is a thing that happened today:

I have a few middle school classes that only meet once a week. In one of the classes, the students almost never do their homework at home. They find themselves doing it or trying to do it frantically in the first five minutes of class. The result is a waste of time, terrible quality, and incomplete work. And of course an angry teacher.

Today was no different in terms of homework completion. But it was different in terms of response. I was midway to shouting when I realized that maybe the problem was that they couldn’t remember it. I mean, I have a hard time remembering the beginning of a day at the end of it. It would be no wonder if the homework got lost in the sea of other assignments. While I know that it’s their responsibility to record and recall their assignments, it is possible that they need some support.

So instead of shouting, I asked them: How can I help you to remember your homework?

I really actually expected them to just look at their desks and not answer me. But they picked up that my anger had drained and I was asking a real question.

And they answered.

One girl said, “we can make a Kakao group and you can remind us the homework one or two days before the class.” Heads nodded. Other students agreed. They looked around at each other. I confirmed that they all use Kakao Talk and I passed my phone around. They input their phone numbers and names. I put my phone number on the board and gave out their phones. They added me, too. One of the students helped me find them all and create the group.

Our Kakao Group

Our Kakao Group

At the end of the class, I wrote the homework on the board. I also posted it in the chat room. I also took a picture of the board and posted that as well. The ‘thank you’s started streaming in (which was a good reminder to turn off notifications!), along with banter and friendliness. I promised to repost the homework a couple days before class next week as well.

Hopefully it works.

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