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

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