Saturday, September 26, 2009

The First Month Over: From where to where we have come

One of the most critical elements I can stress to students is that scholarship is a journey. Like all journeys, it is essential to examine from where to where we have come at certain points in this process. With our first month coming to a close, students have gained some valuable elements. One such element would be the understanding that each summit climbed is succeeded by another summit that awaits. Yet another critical element gained is the idea that process is critical to product; both are “hopelessly devoted to each other.” Indeed, both elements are “the word” as we leave our first month together and enter a tougher second.
For the seventh grade students, trace fossils conceptions will be supplemented with the analysis of the road to revolution. As we examine the steps that the Colonists took to freedom, we will end up analyzing how the revolution started. Terms like economic rights, political rights, as well as the ability to want to be free will be elements that shall be appropriated into our discussion. Our journey begins with Scholarly Sparknotes, student generated teaching aides that will be completed on Tuesday and presented on Wednesday of this week. Chapter 5 will be critical in helping to fortify our understanding of colonial discontent and the reclamation of power in the emergence of our nation.
Power is of vital importance to our 8th grade emerging scholars. The Constitution Exam is rapidly approaching. This Friday will mark three weeks until the exam. Tentatively scheduled for October 22 and 23, the exam will be a two day affair with the first day consisting of writing and the second day consisting of the multiple choice component. A letter will be forthcoming that will detail the critical elements of the exam format and content. Students are past the half way point of the unit. I ask all stakeholders to ensure that students are engaging in a nightly review of the concepts covered thus far. Naturally, there will be study sessions each week during Wednesday’s lunch period. We will also be adding study sessions to be held in the mornings, which will be announced very soon. Each week, students are taking checkpoint quizzes on the Constitution. A pattern is emerging which strongly depicts the disparity between those students who are actively engaging in effectively nightly study of the concepts covered and those who are not. To the former, I applaud your efforts and hope that they can continue. To the latter, I implore you to modify your approach and embrace “the fierce urgency of now.” Perhaps, opening up a dialogue with me in a private setting, or trying new and different approaches to your studying. I am fully aware that some of our students have endured the study of the Constitution in the past. I am cognizant of this and applaud it. However, the topic is so intricate and challenging, I would advise all stakeholders not to underestimate it and seize this particular moment as essential. With three weeks to go, good things can happen if the “fierce urgency of now” is understood. However, as we work towards a specific moment in time, I remind all stakeholders that when this moment approaches one has a choice of either grabbing it with tenacity or realizing that it will pass by without a care of what remains. I implore students and stakeholders to make the right choice in such a critical moment.
The school has sent home information with how parents/ guardians will be able to access their student’s grades and academic status through online means. If further clarification is needed, please do not hesitate to contact any of the core teachers or your child’s advisory teacher. Conference confirmations will also be forthcoming very soon and your vigilance is requested in ensuring that these arrive. If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at school via email or at my home.

All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Unbounded Horizons

This particular entry will be a truncated one, as grading has been the focus of the weekend. Updated Social Studies progress reports will be given to all students on Monday. These will include all recent graded work. It is my hope that you will be able to review these particular items with your emerging scholar.
It was wonderful to see so many of you at Curriculum Night last Thursday night. Of the many impressions I imagine you absorbed, I hope you were able to take away the idea that our Social Studies experience is one of horizons and endless vistas of knowledge as we strive to take bold steps towards the pantheon of scholarship. This is certainly the focus for both grade levels this week. Seventh grade students will begin to take their first steps into the textbook and Chapter 5, as the Road to Revolution begins with Scholarly Sparknotes, an activity where students absorb a particular act of Colonial Resistance and explain its relevancy to their colleagues. Students will receive this task description on Monday, and begin the process of working on it all week. Trace Fossil papers will be submitted back on Monday. Revisions of these tasks are due on Friday, 9/25, and students will be expected to follow the policy of revisions for this task. Overall, the papers were quite strong. Over 90% of the team scored a B or above on the paper, and, with revisions, that number will move to 100%. Students who submitted rough draft after rough draft saw the reward of this process of redefinition in their final product. The bar was set high for all students, and my hope is that we can take this focus and intensity into our next foray of the steps that led to the American Revolution.
The focus and intensity that seventh graders are beginning to show have seen their residence amongst many of the eighth grade students in the past two weeks with our study of the Constitution. We continue this journey this week, with the study of the Judicial Branch and the legal system that the framers' envisioned. Students will receive their Checkpoint Quiz from last Wednesday, along with an updated progress report on Monday. Students are encourage to attend study sessions on Wednesday afternoons during lunch, as well as seek out additional help. More forums will be posted on Moodle this week and students can do much to begin the process of engagement in dialogue and discussion. This week's quiz on Wednesday will cover goals, principles, and structure of the Constitution, as well as Articles I and II. It will be tougher than last week quiz, so students are encouraged to continue their good work in this realm. The exam is rapidly approaching. We are within the 30 day mark until the exam, and as we approach this benchmark, students will be expected to raise their level of commitment in conquering this adversary as they pursue the scholarly notions of "the good, the true, and the beautiful."
As always, if I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home.
All best and happy hunting!
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The dawn of morning broken, excellent and fair

One of the most exciting elements of the school year is the rush of adrenaline at the start of the year. The students, teachers, and all stakeholders hold a great deal of zeal and enthusiasm. Everyone believes in their authenticity of their own convictions and their own state of successful being in the world. It is a wonderful time to absorb the classroom setting.
Until after Labor Day, when the reality of the daily grind hits everyone akin to a freight train coming down a mountain.
This is where we are now. The hue of the start of the year has been worn off, the dawn of the day has broken to reveal a sight that is "excellent and fair." This is where we are with both groups of students in 7.8/3 Social Studies. For the seventh grade students, trace fossil final drafts encompass and envelop. Students should be striving towards successful completion of their final drafts that are due on Friday, 9/18. It is a challenging time as there should be constant revision and a sense of anxiety about whether or not the work presented represents "the very best to offer." A little anxiousness might not be a bad thing for it displays students' drive "to strive, to seek to find, and not to yield." These Tennysonian creatures will also be receiving their copies of the textbook this Friday that can be kept at home. We begin our foray into American History with the Road to Revolution on Monday.
For the 8th grade students, a different kind of road awaits. On one hand, students who are working well on the Constitution in class, posting on Moodle, engaging in Constitutional discussions, and keeping up with the work will find themselves successfully progressing to the Constitution Exam, to be administered in about a month's time. At the same time, those who are not engaging in a process of representing the very best of student scholarship might find themselves on a different kind of road, one where pain and discomfort await. This road to Constitutional perdition can be alleviated if students begin the process of appealing to the better academic angels of their nature. Nightly completion of work might be a proper step in the right direction, and attending study sessions to be held each Wednesday in B405 during lunch can be another one. It is essential that students recognize from an early point that failing to prepare can result in preparing to fail. This exam will be a challenge, but not for the proactive student who understands and values the importance of ensuring their best effort has been made against an arduous and challenging adversary: Me.
It is my hope that I see as many of you as possible at Thursday's Curriculum Night, which starts at 6:45 in your child's advisory classroom. It is a great opportunity to walk through your child's schedule and sense what a day in their life is like. It might actually explain some things, as well. Signing up for Fall Conferences is one of but many advantages of such an evening.
If can be of any help in anything that relates to Social Studies or school in general for your emerging scholar, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home. The time for greatness is upon us and I believe our students, your emerging scholars, are beginning to sense that the hour for their emergence into the pantheon of thought is rapidly approaching.
Happy hunting and all best.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cracking the Code, Solving the Matrix, and defeating “the desert of the real:” Welcoming Students to Social Studies Life on 7.8/3

The upcoming week will see a great deal of challenge hoisted upon the shoulders of emerging History scholars of 7.8/3. For the seventh grade students, I have but two words: Trace Fossil. Have there ever been two other words that have caused so much discussion, debate, consternation, and fear? Students should be making progress in their papers. They should be actively constructing a paper about an object they have identified and explain how this particular object holds meaning to both their own senses of self and its cultural implications. As they engage in a literal description of it, students should ponder what will be deduced if it is placed in a time capsule and discovered hundreds of years from now. Students will find that there will be moments where this paper flows easily, and others where an “intellectual drought” might be experienced. Like all moments that represent potential wastelands, these are temporary, giving way to a natural flourishing and replenishment. Students must observe their own demeanor in these moments and not succumb to it. All students can converse with me through personalized writing conferences in class, and can make individual appointments at lunch or before school. The more active role students take towards success in this venue, the better the chance the patterns for success will be laid.
If I were to find two words that could inspire an equal magnitude of emotion in the 8th grade students, it would be “The Constitution.” Our 8th graders take their first steps in leaving the hallowed halls of learning that we euphemistically call “Julian” with their study of the Constitution. This week, we will be engaging in the basic elements of both the document, the situations that surrounded its origin, as well as its fundamental goals and principles. Students should be working on something related to the Constitution each night. If you are sitting around the dinner table, sensing that your emerging scholar is eager to discuss their schooling with you, yet feeling a sense of impotence about how to initiate such a discussion, open with a brief question such as, “So, what do you think the most important goal of the Constitution is?” Maybe you will be taking an evening walk with your emerging scholar and there is a natural lull in the conversation. This can be broken with another topic such as, “Why do you think Article I is the longest article in the Constitution?” Finally, you might see your scholar immersed in watching television. They are really involved in watching a particular episode of “CNN Presents” or very driven to understand a particular stock report on Bloomberg News. I encourage you to distract them momentarily with a question like, “Which branch of government is the most important in your mind?” Since we all know these are the daily situations in which all of our children live, I encourage all stakeholders to make the Constitution come alive with such topics for discussion. If you think these discussions might be better suited in the classroom setting, “ask” your emerging scholar to attend lunchtime study sessions on Wednesdays with Mr. Kannan, starting from September 16. While this unit is very challenging, I believe that if students can focus on what needs to be emphasized and gives the effort which I believe lies within all of them, success will not only be achieved, but will be literally owned.
Indeed, both groups of students are immersed in the navigation of the Matrix of learning within the confines of B405. Being a casual observer of “The Matrix,” myself, I can relate to how students fight, persevere, and seek to define new ways of breaking through this particular design in order to see things as they are: “Truly infinite.” It is my hope that while I offer them the matrix and ask them to find themselves within it, I strive to develop the tools within them that will allow them to break through it.

All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan