Saturday, September 24, 2011

Heroic angels soaring above a sea of construction

This week is going to be an intense one for students in Social Studies. It will be moments like these where the true nature of our students will be revealed. For it will be moments like these where valor and austerity will be needed. The ability to rise above challenges, hovering over that which might bring others down, is where the angelic and almost heroic nature of our students can emerge. Out of the ashes of construction, something great rises.

This would be the hope, at least.

For the seventh graders, our work in the textbook commences. Students were given an at home copy of the textbook on Friday, 9.23. (Please let me know if extenuating circumstances necessitate students having another book.) Additionally, students received their new packets for Chapter 5. Students will have nightly homework in the textbook this week. Chapter 5, section 1 will be on tap for Monday, with an open note quiz on Tuesday, along with a presentation being assembled this week to start next Monday. Indeed, it is the time for heroes now.
Oh, and by the way, I will be expecting written work on The Crucible to be submitted on Monday or by 9:00 AM on Tuesday. If I can be of any assistance in this, please do not hesitate to contact me.
And, then, there are the eighth graders. Monday will be a quiz on the Amendments. This is merely a prelude to Friday's large quiz. This quiz covers... well, everything:
* Goals
* Principles
* Preamble
* Legislative Branch
* Executive Branch
* Judicial Branch
* Amendments
This is an excellent primer or set up for the Constitution Exam on October 20 and 21. This will be real telling as to where our students are and where they need to be. I think that when we call to see whether the truly heroic nature of our students can emerge through adversity, this would be our discussion point. Indeed, it is a powerful quiz and I hope that student attendance at our study session on Wednesday will help to bring this into vision. For Friday's quiz, extended time will be granted into Monday and Tuesday during lunch, should students require it. Nightly preparation for this exam is critical, essential to student success. With this, I can only hope they are able to soar to the realm where only the most strong of intellectual "eagles dare to tread."

As always, I welcome the opportunity for students to revise work, initiate discussions with me when they are confused or when they need help, and to serve as active agents or advocates for their learning. I extend this to all our stakeholders, with contact being made through email or phone and appointments in the morning or at lunch.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Delving further into challenging terrain

It was wonderful to see so many of our stakeholders during Curriculum Night. One of my hopes was that I was able to clearly convey how much we have to do and how little time we have to do it. That certainly becomes the focus this week.
For the 8th grade, the focus of this week's Constitutional study goes towards the Judicial Branch. Within this lies "the greatest video of all time." It is a seminal moment for our students, who will enter the pantheon of greatness that so many others have entered rather unwillingly. This video is a moment in time for it represents one of the most intense analysis of the Judicial Branch offered. At the same time, it will help establish our study of the Supreme Court Cases that occupy so much importance on the Constitution Exam. Friday's quiz will be returned early in the week and revisions of this quiz will be due on Monday, 9/26. There will be a study session this week during lunch. My hope is that students will actively engage in dialogue with me and with their parents/ guardians on what they need in order to discover or sustain success in this unit of study.
For the 7th grade, their study of The Crucible in Social Studies ends this week. We will end our study of Miller's work with a writing assignment assigned on Wednesday and is due on Monday, 9.26. Students have really taken to reading a challenging work and the groundwork from this will assist students in their work from the textbook. Students will receive their at home copies of the textbook on Friday, along with their new packets on Chapter 5- the Road to Revolution. This chapter will focus on the idea of how the colonists struggled for freedom and the themes that guided this pursuit. Students will have to read and absorb at a quick clip. However, if students could follow Miller, Salem, betrayal, and loyalty with discipline and focus, then I would think that being able to read about the American Revolution could be done with the same diligence.
As always, if I can be of any help or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Our own exploration of scholarship's true nature

It is at this point in the year where we start the recognize that the hue of the "honeymoon" period is over. I certainly can relate to this in my own life. There is a particular joy of any relationship in its early stages. Things are new, and this sense of eternal optimism guides all interactions.

And then, reality settles in and one starts recognizing the true nature of both people and situations.

It is here where we are with our students. Certainly, things are presenting themselves in this manner in Social Studies. For the seventh graders, the concept of finishing Arthur Miller's work, The Crucible, is upon us. Students will be starting the assessment phase of this intense project. The extended periods have proven to be so essential in being able to tackle complex literature. Having our students exposed to about two hours a day of Miller's work has allowed for greater comprehension of it. One of the most exciting elements about working in middle school (If that phrase can even be uttered without the response of deafening laughter) lies in the ability to flex out class periods and allocate more time to complex issues to ensure greater student comprehension of said ideas. To not be a slave to a bell is amazing. In a rapidly mechanized world of education, where thoughts and comprehension are limited to what can be crammed into a particular moment in time, the ability to hear more student insight into concepts like loyalty, honor, betrayal, and Regina George and her gaggle of "Mean Girls" is really insightful. It is only because of the extended periods that we have been able to effectively work with our seventh grade students in such an intense manner in such an intense course of study. Last Friday was a great example of this. Being able to read the work in two classes simultaneously for an hour and then discuss the implications of the work for another hour was awe- inspiring. It really allowed me to see what could be done with an extended period. It is this element that makes middle school such an exciting domain of teaching and learning. Students will be able to utilize the extended periods in the assessment phase of the unit, which starts this week as students end up learning what happens to Proctor, Elizabeth, Giles, and, of course, Abigail. In this light, I hope students are able to recognize that if they need more work in a particular domain on the work, they are free to make appointments to come into during lunch. I found it especially revealing when a seventh grader emailed me this week and started the process of establishing a standing lunch date with me each week to make sure that she "does not get lost." That shows advocacy of self, one of the benchmarks of scholarship. In this, true natures of students are revealed.
Lest we not forget discussing the true nature of students in our 8th graders. They started the quest towards the Constitution this past week with their first quiz, on which no one scored lower than a C. That is a good starting point. Students took active steps towards accomplishing their end goal of doing the best they possibly could on the Constitution Exam. This quest continues this week with the Legislative and Executive Branch discussion... and another quiz on Friday. With our first study session on Wednesday during lunch, it is my hope that another active step can be taken and another element of true nature can be revealed.
It is my hope to see as many of you as possible on Wednesday's Curriculum Night, starting at 6:40 in your child's advisory classroom. It is also the first opportunity to sign up for Fall conferences, a time where efficiency and timeliness translates to a greater chance of picking up the desired time slot. I also hope you are able to access the team website and team syllabus online. A link is featured on the left hand side of this blog. If I can be of any further assistance or help, please do not hesitate to contact me.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of with rights stipulated here

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Not just a great song from Rodgers and Hammerstein, but a way of life!

Over the course of the year, one element that students come to identify in my blog is that they get to know more of me through my writing. This will be one of those seminal moments.

Standing upon the altar of confession, I make the open declaration that I am a fan of the musical, The Sound of Music.

It is not something that is concealed too openly. Two years ago with my 8th graders, we watched the film in connection with our study of the 1930s. This was a moment where I was able to have students blog about the film, and enjoy it simultaneously. While I was mocked mercilessly by my colleagues who kept on singing, "Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens" or "I Have Confidence," it was worth it.

My favorite part of the film, though, has to be when the Mother Abbess sings "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" to Maria. When we watched it in class, I remember pausing the film and then telling my rather talkative 8th graders that if anyone spoke during the song, I would never forgive them. They were taken aback, but even more surprised, and perhaps disturbed, when they saw me shed tears like a newborn baby as the song continued. I will stand on the altar of confession one more time in saying that I cry during The Sound of Music.

This is really embarrassing.

All this is to bring out the power of the song and how relevant it is to what we do. The idea of struggle as a part of being in the world is something that the song articulates. The need to "follow every rainbow until you find your dream" is something that I have always felt has personal and professional connection. There is struggle and a sense of pain and discomfort in what brings purpose to our lives. The song brings this out in a beautiful and lyrical manner.

I look to our students right now and see that like the Maria and the von Trapps, they, too, climb every mountain until they find their own dreams of scholarship. 8th graders took the first step on this journey, scaling the arduous heights of their own mountains and a fairly thick packet on the Constitution. Their journeys become more difficult with this course of study next week. Nightly progress must be made on memorizing the Preamble, grasping the concepts of the goals and principles that helped to form the document. There is no way of getting around this mountain as they take an active step towards their own dreams of scoring well on the Constitution Exam on October 20 and 21st.

For our seventh graders, they arm themselves on their own climbing of intellectual mountains with a green packet on The Crucible. No doubt this is a difficult mountain to climb, slippery and steep. Arthur Miller is not one to be taken for the faint of heart. This is going to be challenging and I can say that many of our students have really accepted this challenge. The grasping of difficult emotional and social valences has been very unique and interesting to see. Students are reminded to not fall behind on nightly homework, and if more assistance is needed on scaling this mountain, they are encouraged to speak with me during lunch. Setting up an appointment to go over difficult concepts or to even gain greater instruction can be very helpful in both the content grasping, but also in forging a bond with instructors to better understand what is being taught and how to receive it. This is a life skill, and one that can help in climbing the mountains that will be present for our students "every day of their lives, for as long as they shall live," to paraphrase the song.

I wish our students nothing but the best as they climb every mountain, follow every rainbow, until they find their dreams.

All best.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of with usage stipulated at