Well, our “first week of school” has come and gone. I’m teaching 8th grade again which I am pleased about. Jon is also teaching 8th grade. I am doing things a lot differently this year though I will be using a lot of the same material. Going into the new 8th grade classrooms with new students was a great way to see how far my former students have come. I am most excited about the fact I have 60 fewer students this year. Last year, I had 220 8th grade students. This year they are projecting that we will only have 160 students for 8th grade. This means my class sizes will drop to 53 (every time I say that, I see lights shining down from heaven on me and the song hallelujah being sung). I am hopeful I can do a lot with smaller class sizes. Jon and I have implemented very strict behavior rules and punishment but also a very good system for positive behavior rewards. Together, we have scared the students into thinking we’re really mean, though, we’re really excited to rewards our students who try hard.
Together, Jon and I made posters for each classrooms conveying information about points and stamps that can be earned by good behavior for students. They can either purchase school supplies with their points, earn movie tickets to see movies, or earn stamps for their whole class to see a movie.
I went to see my former students, who are now in 9th grade. I am teaching Life Skills class this year to the 9th grade girls after school. I introduced the idea to them yesterday and they were ecstatic. I’ll teach them 2 times a month. The curriculum has been developed by Peace Corps and it includes peer education, relationship skills, learning about HIV/AIDS & other STDs, how to use condoms properly, and decision making. I gathered the girls in a room and told them that I am interested in teaching these topics to them. I asked for a show of hands of how many girls would want to attend. Every single girl raised their hand. No exaggeration. There were about 100 hands high in the air. They LOVE that I have selected to teach them over the boys and they want to keep the whole class a big secret so the boys don’t know what we talk about. I loved it. I also loved when three girls followed me out of the classroom to tell me how happy they are that I am going to continue teaching them.
I am also proud to brag that 1/4 (about 50) of my students who took their 8th grade district English exam, passed it. This is a huge feat for them. I know 1/4 doesn’t sound promising, but to put it into perspective, only 6 kids from 9th grade passed their English exam and only about 15 of these students will move on past high school education. Also, my school is ranked the worst school in the entire district. So, really, I am counting this as a huge success for me and for my students.
In other news, my former college roommate and one of my best friends sent my students some bubble gum. At first, I acted like only the students who got the top 12 English scores were going to get bubble gum. When I told them that there is actually enough gum for every student, they went into a joyous uproar. Students were jumping out of their seats and whooping with their hands in the air. I could barely get control of the class again after I told them (to their benefit, I had crammed 110 kids into one classroom to give announcements and return their exams). Jon got a picture of the joy:
Thanks Erin for bringing a lot of joy on Friday to my students!