Thursday, October 16, 2014

One Class Down....

As of today, I've officially completed my first class for my Master's Degree.  I made it through with no scars, and very minimal stress.  In fact, honestly, I'm going to miss the class.  I enjoyed discussing the current issues in education, I enjoyed having the discussions with the people I'm in school with, and I enjoyed hearing what our teacher had to say.  

Seven weeks ago, I was pumped and charged to get the class over with so that I could move on to the second class.  Now, I'm not so pumped and charged.  I will admit that the thought of staying at school until 9:30 each Wednesday seemed pretty tough, but last night was the only night we did that.  I was really looking forward to the second class, which is an online class.  I had the stupid assumption that an online class would be easier, less demanding, and basically be a walk in the park.

That was, until I received the 46 page syllabus.  FORTY-SIX PAGES!  Not to mention the first email from our professor explaining that we'll be meeting next Wednesday for the first class, and we have three assignments due by that time.  We have to write up a substantial biography about ourselves, write a response to a list of standards he sent us, and come up with a list of our favorite websites.  Not hard, by any means, but so much for a week off to mentally prepare for the next class.

Last night's class was great.  We did our final presentation, which was an individual presentation.  That gave us the opportunity to discuss daycares in high schools, departmentalization, Amendment 3, school shootings, teachers carrying guns, quality schools, providing quality technology in schools, and diversity. A great variety of topics that are all very relevent to today's educators.  

My presentation was about departmentalization.  I shared the research I had done on the pros and cons of departmentalization in the elementary grades, I shared some common misconceptions that teachers have about the subject, and my personal opinion.  

I shared how there are some good benefits to departmentalization in the elementary grades, but I'm just not a fan.  It may be considered a stupid reason to some, but I became an elementary teacher because I wanted to teach several different subjects to one group of kids.  I didn't become a teacher so that I could just teach math, reading, science, or social studies.  I enjoy teaching ALL of them.  I also didn't really become a teacher because of what I got to teach, but who.  There's something about having the same faces each and every day, all day long, that makes my job as awesome as it is.  I cherish the bonds that I make with my kiddos, and I know that I couldn't get anywhere near a close a bond with 75 students as I have with my 16.  

Others disagree with my thinking, and that's OK.  I've heard that it's quite possible to have a bond with 75 kids, and I'm not arguing that.  I'm sure I'd care about all of them just as much as I care about the 16 I have in my classroom, but that's not what I mean.  I don't mean the bond I share with my kids so much as the bond they have with me.  They learn just as much about me as I do them, and we adapt to our environment, my expectations, their needs, etc.  I just can't see that depth of closeness if the faces in my class change every hour.  

I also don't care about how much "easier" departmentalization is supposed to be.  I didn't become a teacher because I thought the job would be easy.  In fact, I love coming up with new ideas and strategies to use in my classroom that connects our learning across subjects, is outside of the box, and is always changing.  I'm becoming more adaptable by the day, and that has everything to do with how my kids respond and relate to what we're doing.  It took me a good month to really learn enough about my kids to make some necessary changes, and understand some of their needs.  It terrifies me that if I'm seeing 75+ kids a day, it will take much longer to adjust myself to their needs and teach them in a way that's sufficient and meaningful.  

Maybe my way of thinking is selfish.  I mean, plenty of people will argue that departmentalization can increase student performance because dividing up the subjects can give teachers a chance to go more indepth with the learning and can really differentiate what they need.  But, aren't we supposed to be doing that?  If I have the same 60 minutes to teach math as the teacher that would be teaching math, why would my class be any less meaningful or differentiated?  OK, so the teacher that's teaching math may be better at teaching math, more qualified or comfortable with the content.  But, the time she'll spend teaching the kids wouldn't be any different than the time I'd be teaching them.  I hear that quite a bit when it comes to this argument:  The kids would have more time to learn in each subject.  OK, how?  We have a set time for each subject each day, right now.  That time wouldn't really be able to change much if departmentalization came in to the mix.  We'd still have to fit in guidance, library, computer lab, specials, and interventions.  

We are in school from 8AM - 3:20PM.  Take out 30 minutes for a rotation, 45 minutes for specials, 30 minutes for recess, 20 minutes for lunch, and an hour for interventions.  That's a total of 3 hours and 5 minutes that's taken from our class time each day, and leaves us with about four hours.  But, you also have to factor in our transitions and time it takes to go to lunch.  The first class goes to lunch almost 10 minutes earlier than the last class, and gets back in the classroom almost 10 minutes later than the first class.  That means we'd have an hour for math, an hour for reading and language arts, an hour for science, and an hour for social studies.  We definitely don't have four hours blocked together, so we'd have to break up classes during those breaks for other activities.  The kids would get the same amount of time in each subject, but we'd give up the 30 minute time slot we have for language arts and replace it with an extra 30 minutes of social studies.  They would also have to start a class, stop for one of the other activities, and then come back and finish up with that teacher somehow.  

I know I'm getting a little too indepth with this, but my mind is racing.  All I keep thinking about is how on earth we'd manage if departmentalization is something we start doing.  

As of right now, we have math from 8:10-9:10, reading and language arts from 9:10 - 10:40, rotations (library, computer lab, guidance, and two days of social studies) from 10:40-11:10, and then it's lunch time for the first class (my class goes at 11:20).  We're back in the classroom from lunch by 11:45, and we then have science until 12:30.  At 1PM, the kids come in from recess and go to specials at 1:15.  At 2PM, they come back from specials and we spend the rest of the day in interventions.  

Even if we split up, I just don't know how we'd make it work.  Math from 8-9, reading/language arts from 9-10, science from 10-11, and social studies from 11:45-12:30 maybe?  But then the science teacher would lose half of her time each day due to the mandatory rotations.  I don't know.  As you can tell, it stresses me out just thinking about it.  

I have adapted to our demanding schedule, and it finally works for me.  I fit everything in each day by working around all of the extras, and I've found a system that works for us.  One day we may have more science and less social studies, or vice versa.  I often incorporate my social studies in to my reading if I know there's a lot going on and I need to move stuff around because there's not much time for specific social studies instruction.  But, my kids are learning and doing what they need to do.  

I just need to stop worrying about it.  It's not something that's happening right now, and I don't even know if it will be something we start doing.  I know it's something the rest of my team wants to do, and I guess I just have to bide my time and see what happens.  Until then, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, and do a great job at it.

OK, I need to go and get ready.  It's weigh-in day for me, so I need to find some light clothes.

Have a fantastic Thursday, everyone!


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