Friday, December 21, 2012

My hopes for Winter Break

I am not sure anyone would question the need for two weeks off.  Our students have endured a great deal over the past three weeks.  There was much placed upon them.  For the most part, they rose to the occasion.  Consider yesterday, 12.20, in Social Studies as an example of this commitment.  I made the call that I would give full credit to each student on the team if everyone made the commitment to submitting a completed Chapter 20 Enrichment sheet on time.  It is a great deal to ask 115 students to commit to something that will help others and themselves.  Essentially, by 8th period, you had people looking out for one another, asking questions about work submission, and like good politicians, scouring the wing for every possible vote or submission.  It was great to see.  In the end, all of them came through.  The work has been evident.
Certainly, break and rest is needed to recharge.  I don't doubt its importance.  Yet, I stress to all students and parents that the two weeks away from school not be away from some type of mental fitness.  I have told the students that when they come back to school in January, it will seem as if there was no such break.  There will be immediate immersion, as if a beat was not missed, as if there was no break.  It is important for students to know that I will not be assigning homework over the break.  Yet, I have assigned over 16 extra credit tasks which can be found here.  Students might be interested in completing the extra credit for the lucrative point value.  Yet, the real value of the extra credit lies in being able to exercise the mind over the break, continually ensuring that its fitness is evident so that when school starts, burnout and sluggish demeanor can be avoided.  The idea of our society being one in which all the muscles are worked out "except the right one" is something from which we can pivot away by teaching our students to be constantly mentally fit.  Reading for 20 or 30 minutes, doing some writing about thoughts, meditating, or even examining news events through the online written medium might help here.  My hope for students is that they really do see to it that their minds are kept in good shape so that our return from break is not a rude awakening in terms of work output.
In terms of Social Studies when we return, this is what I see on the horizon:
Monday, 1.7- Everything will be returned.  All work will be returned.  This includes progress reports in Social Studies.  These can be returned with parent/ guardian signature for extra credit.  The notetaking guides for sections 1 and 2 will be assigned Monday night.
Tuesday, 1.8- The notetaking guides for sections 3 and 4 and for the arc of World War I are assigned.
Wednesday, 1.9- Breakouts based on where students are as well as finalizing in class work day for notetaking guides.
Thursday, 1.10- Start previewing the Themes of World War I in small breakouts or, if we are ready, in large groups.
Friday, 1.11- Start straight lecture on Themes of World War I

The mental fitness that students commit to over break will help them be fit and sharp when they return, as the work awaiting them with open arms might make them feel that the break has simply evaporated away.
It's a common reaction! : )

I wish all of you happy holidays and restful times with family and loved ones.  I anticipate spending my break enjoying the company of my wife... and about a ton of grading.  Grades will be updated hopefully no later than January 4, 2013.
All best,
Mr. Kannan

Thursday, December 13, 2012

“I hear the train a comin/’/ It’s rollin’ round the bend. And I ain’t seen the sunshine since, I don’t know when:” The flickers and embers of World War I

I have been told by many a student that the two “most depressing units” I teach are the Holocaust and the World War I units.  Indeed, this rite of passage is nearly upon our students.  We have some small work to endure before we engage in this, but this is where we are.

The “train’s a comin’” indeed.  Dear Mr. Cash was prophetic in his insight…

This week’s work in Social Studies should be done primarily in class.  Certainly, it can be done outside of class.  Yet, I anticipate that if students utilize their in class time well, they would be able to finish the work without having to devote as much time outside of class.  My hope is that this would help students budget their time so that other work, more pressing work that needs to be done, can be completed in thorough and worthwhile fashion.

Monday- Wednesday- In class work on Chapter 20 Enrichment sheet.  Make progress so that it can be finished by the end of Thursday’s class period.  Individual conferences will be held with students as they work to ensure that time can be used well. 
Thursday- Chapter 20 Enrichment Sheets will be collected by the end of the period.  On this particular task, NO EXTENSIONS CAN BE GRANTED.  THIS SHOULD NOT EXTEND PAST THURSDAY.  WE HAVE SO MUCH MORE TO DO.  ADHERENCE TO DEADLINES IS ONE OF THE FIRST STEPS TOWARDS SUCCESSFUL WORK HABITS.  Please make sure all work is ready to go by the end of Thursday’s class.  Completed work will be valued at 800 points.
Friday- Discuss the opening quote of the Industrialization and Progressivism Unit.  Then, start the World War I Unit with the beginning quote from Virginia Woolf.  The definition of Modernism will be unveiled.

Please help me help your students by encouraging them to complete the Extra Credit Tasks that are being given out on Wednesday and are due on January 7.  They can be lucrative.  Grades will be updated, most likely, by the start of the new year.  It will be critical for students to recognize that if they need to complete extra credit, they do so by the January 7 deadline.  No extensions will be granted for this one.

“And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when.”  Yes, the World War I Unit begins this week.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Friday, December 7, 2012

The upcoming week: 12.10 to 12.14

It is a challenging time of year.  Certainly, our students feel this.  I can only hope that all of our stakeholders are doing their best to assist our students in a tough stretch.  The two week Winter Recess will be beneficial to allow a certain moment of tarry or recharge before another strenuous stretch kicks off in January.
For Social Studies, students will have some challenging elements this week:
Monday- Reading of Dr. Seuss' "Yertle the Turtle."  Homework for this will be for students to complete questions on the reading.
Tuesday- Reading of Kozol's article on illiteracy in America.  Homework for this will be for students to compelte questions on the reading.
Wednesday- In class assessment on Kozol, Dr. Seuss, LeGuin, Bradbury, and Swami Vivekananda.  (That's a real interesting dinner party right there.)  Students may use their homework for successful completion of this assessment.
Thursday and Friday- Students may work in class on their Chapter 20 Enrichment Sheets.

At this point in time, grades have not been updated.  By 12.9, I will have updated students' status in terms of turning in assignments, not having turned in work, and so on.  Yet, the actual tabulation of scores and recording of comments will not be done until the Winter Recess.  So much of the work being submitted goes beyond numeric scores and must reside in the domain of talking about work, identifying points of strength and potential improvement areas.  As you can tell, this will take time.  I am sorry about the delay, but I assure you that I will have inputted scores and comments before January 5.  I think that talking points with students might be more on the reflective side of things, though.  Perhaps, preliminary discussions can be present with children as to how they feel they did on their work, did they put forth their best effort, where they think the work can improve.  This reflective discussion between process and product might be nice to have even before the final score is recorded.

I think that this is where we are and where we hope to be.  Trapped between the world of what is and what can be, we seem to meander on, "boats against the current."  (I am getting ready for the 1920s unit as you can see.)  If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

If you are interested in putting to memory the closing line to Swami Vivekananda's address to the Parliament of Religions Conference in 1893, here it is:

I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.