Friday, March 18, 2011

Time for Positive

Two shoddy-quality pics from my poetry slam, mentioned below. Child's face blurred for privacy.
And no those are not wine bottles.

I realized many of my posts are educational and informative (that's the purpose) but kind of...a "downer", bitter, cynical, or what have you. So here goes a happy positive post! And then back to the grind....

Last year I was asking my 9th graders who was going to go to college. I realize it is not for everyone so I'm not one of those P-16 type of teachers, but I am still pretty gung-ho about college. Anyways, perhaps 3 or 4 hands rose in a class of 28 students. I then asked why the rest weren't going, letting them know I wouldn't lecture them to persude them to go. That made them open up, and a few were wanting to join the military, one said he wanted to be a drug smuggling coyote (for which I visibly scowled) and the rest said something along the lines of, "I'm too poor" or "I'm Mexican". What what what?

So this inspired me to do some lesson changes and give a lesson on colleges, scholarships, and budgeting.

I went to and showed it to my class and told them, "even if you don't want to go to college, humor me and just research three scholarships and tell me about them. Maybe you don't want to go but in your research you may find the perfect scholarship for your friend!" They all went on and a bunch were pleasantly surprised....they could get free money for being "poor" or "Mexican". One student giggled about a LGBST (is that the proper acronym? The lesbian, gay, etc one...) scholarship and I told the class, if you don't "fit" the scholarship, you can still be persuasive enough to convince them to give it to you, for example if you apply to the LGBST and just show your tolerance and acceptance of all people, perhaps you'll be rewarded. For the rest of the year my students excitedly told me about the scholarship emails they received.

Then we visited some website that I forget, which helped you select your "dream college" by narrowing down your desired region, majors, population, etc. One girl really really wanted to go to a college in Alaska, much to her friends chagrin who picked a college in Washington state. It was kind of fun to listen in on their banter.

Then I decided to make a complex lesson plan (which I can't find anywhere! I lost it!) where they picked from a matrix, a career, college, (had them "pay" the average full price tuition, to promote my scholarship lesson), a job, car, home, insurance, etc etc etc and see if they were in debt at the end. They were excited to use their cell phones (banned at our school) as calculators since for some reason our math room was devoid of any, and to work with friends to problem solve on the activity. I had students "rooming together" to save money, a student "living sustainably" to cut down on costs, and a few students lost in debt and in the math, but still learning as they went. One of my more "at risk" students had the most "fun". When I called the end of class (my school doesn't have bells) she said "aww man, is it really time to go? I was having fun!" That was such a highlight for me to hear that!

Another time we did a huge unit on poetry. The culminating activity was to make a pretty poetry poster of their own compositions, and to present one in a "poetry slam". They were hesitant at first....I have to write something? And present it in front of people? So I decided to be the guinea pig and read a poem I had written in high school myself....a sappy poem I was embarrassed of, and they could see it in my blushing face. That broke the ice. That afternoon a few students, a fellow teacher, and I set up our Poetry Slam cafe. We strung Christmas lights through the wire book racks, laid down a table cloth, told them to bring in a mug if they wanted beverages (we're a "green" school so this would cut down on disposable cups), brought in cookies and tea and hot cocoa, and set a stool on "stage". My students looooved the poetry slam. I even got students, on a rotating schedule, to rate their peers on their presentation, a la American Idol style.

I do not teach this year but my past students still say we need another poetry slam...and to bring more cookies this time around.

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