Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Time of Frustration

I'm getting to the point of frustration with my Film - Heroes class. I've been trying very hard to be more constructivist - students in charge of discussing different films of their choosing, open dialogue on direction of class, variety of activities to demonstrate student understanding (blogs, reaction papers, option for creative response, discussion), and student choice on other films. However, I feel as though I'm only reaching about 1/3 of the class most of the time. In fact, in my class of 31 (all juniors and seniors), I have 12 students with D's and F's. I love the ideas behind constructivism and student-centered learning, but I fear apathy runs too rampant. Many of these students don't seem to care at all about film - they merely saw the class as an easy grade (but are learning they're wrong) instead of a place to learn. Likewise, I wish I could do without grades, but right now even I feel the grade is the only thing that will motivate some of these low achievers to try harder. My hope is that word will get out that this is NOT a slacker class and the students I do get will be more willing to put in effort and will truly love film. But, at this point, I can only dream of that day.

Monday, 1 October 2007

21C v. PLC - The Cage Match of the Year

Ah, the frustration of it all. During our last PLC meeting (9/26), we sat down as a department to attempt to figure out where we wanted to go with PLCs - the thinking being we can't really decide what to do at each grade level if we don't know where we are as a department. So, the 20 of us sat down and tried to make some sense of it all. As usual, I couldn't sit idly by and listen to others' visions without putting in my own 2 cents. I tended to get people riled-up as I suggested we, in a sense, start over and figure out what we want seniors to know before they leave the school. Then, design our classes and essential learnings around those ideas. Needless to say (especially if you know anything about our department), this opened that big ol' worm can and the conversation went multiple directions from there. I think everyone left that part of the meeting extremely frustrated and confused. My frustration stems from the fact I want to change what the department looks like (not personal-wise (we all look pretty good), but core class-wise), but am unsure even how I want it to look. I feel strongly that we do very good things here, but feel we can do great things if we're willing to "think outside the box" and re-evaluate what is essential to take away from our classes. I tend to be a "big picture" guy and the details on how to get there our eluding me. In spite of the fact that people thanked me for opening the proverbial can, I'm almost to the point of conceding and just doing things the easy way - shaping what we have always done to fit into thePLC mold they want us to utilize.

Then, I was talking with Terry S. the next day and we decided/realized how much what "they" want us to do is in direct opposition to 21C ideas - especially the idea of all teachers having common assessments to measure student learning. Yes, I believe we need to be able to assess whether or not our students are learning, but I think the constructivist approach of making it more student-centered contradicts a common assessment. Maybe I'm thinking too narrowly about what a common assessment looks like, but it seems to me we could have 34 different types of assessments within a class if we're truly constructivist.

So, I'm struggling to break out of the old ruts while PLCs seem to encourage staying within them.