Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jane...Get Me Off of This Crazy Thing!!!

As the 2009-2010 school years trudles through the first nine weeks, the drama starts. It's not as big as dramas in the past, but enough to put me in an odd situation about which I am uncomfortable. It involves The High School ELA Teacher.

Seems The Principal has been talking with The Head of the ELA Department about The High School ELA Teacher. It's not a mystery that high school students at ARSE (the Alternate Reality School of Excellence) have hated English for several years now. The Principal has decided it's time to see what the problem is...especially after she got called into the Senior class last year to regain order. Now, even at ARSE, with our generally behaviorally challenged student body, the senior class is the one about which you have to worry the least. The end of school is in sight, so they know to just keep their heads down and slug their way through the required work. But apparently last year, the end being nigh wasn't enough for them to keep from revolting.

So I, Mr. Asshole, somewhere along the line, got named the ELA Department Chair for ARSE. It's an odd situation to be in because the Department Chair imparts info from the Head to the teaching masses. At ARSE, there's me and there's the High School Teacher. For many years, we fell under the blanket of the local mainstream high school and middle school chairs. Also awkward, other than no other department chair has teachers "under" him (or her) who is at a different grade level. I mean, middle school chairs deal with middle school teachers, etcetera. But I'm the chair "over" one high school teacher. Need more awkwardness? She's been teaching 30+ years and I've been teaching 9. When she got hired at ARSE, I had been there about 8 months before her. I find it hard for a middle school teacher with less than 10 years under his belt to confer with a high school teacher with more than 30.

But apparently she hasn't changed in 30 years and since I've worked "with" her longer than ELA Head has, since she started just 2 years ago, I'm called in to consult. And since The Principal is a science girl, I'm called in to consult her. Since I'm the Department Chair, they have every right to call me in.

Because things came to head as interims came nigh. It came to The Principal's attention that all but one senior was failing senior English. So I was called in to help assess the assignments given to the senior class. I boiled down to finding out how much communication there was about the writing assignments, that very few standards were being hit, and there was no variety. A lot of time was spent on one text with several just standard papers.

So I was asked what I was advise the teacher in question to do. Read the standards. Some of the papers could have hit more standards by adding to the focus. Try some texts other than the classics: Something more contemporary. Hold class differently with Book Circles or something, but said she would need support. Don't just tell her to use Book Circles (or whatever) and leave. Say that they would meet again in a period of time to discuss what worked, what didn't, and how to improve it.

All the while I unashamedly ducked and covered. I've done my job by conferring with my bosses about the situation, but I'd rather not be seen as a part of this "conspiracy" if I can avoid it. It will turn very cold when it's learned I've been a part of the meetings about how to get her to change her ways. But I do have an interest because I've been told that if she doesn't change, then we switch positions and I teach high school and she teaches middle school. She probably won't, opting for retirement or a new school before teaching middle school, but I'd rather not risk it.

So this weekend I'm looking for alternative books for seniors to read. So I turn to you have any recommendations for books to get high school seniors to read? My only requirement, as per the ELA Head, is "...get them to read."


At 7:23 PM, Blogger Darci said...

My Sister's Keeper - Compare and contrast with the film, papers can be persuasive on a point of interest.

Life of Pi - different view of religion

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

You're kidding me, right? PLEASE tell me you're kidding me....

Okay, books for seniors. I've got a couple of classics mixed in, but most are more "recent" stuff. Let me know if you need me to put together focused questions or critical thinking prompts...

Frankenstein - Shelley
The Sunflower - Wiesenthal
A Christmas Carol - Dickens
The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne
Midnight's Children - Rushdie
The Secret Life of Bees - Monk Kidd
House of Sand and Fog - Dubus III
Suite Francaise - Dimirovsky
The Namesake - Lahiri
Pigs in Heaven (or pretty much anything by) - Kingsolver
Kite Runner - Hosseini
Breath Eyes Memory - Danticat
Beloved (or pretty much anything by)- Morrison

Really? I've got a million of 'em...

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Bodog said...

Nope, not joking...

Thank you for the suggestions. Over the weekend I raided a YA Best Sellers list to see what the teens are choosing and picked several that would be usable in a classroom and sent the list to The Head and The Principal for approvale. Some of the titles I added aren't current best sellers like Catcher in the Rye (always a good one) and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, one of Stephen King's few to not have cuss words every page.

But keep the titles coming, because I'm trying to be prepared for any "I Can't" excuse...


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