There is so much that goes on around it, but school clearly takes up the biggest part of my life here. I teach four classes: Eighth grade, and one seventh grade. I also tutor Andrea twice a week--she is eight years old. On Saturdays, I teach eight, nine and ten year-olds how to speak English.
The first bi-mester is over (thank GOD) and things have settled. I have immersed myself in a huge project with the seventh graders. We have joined a program called Out of Eden (https://outofeden.s3.amazonaws.com/ooe_curriculum_overview.pdf). It is a program out of Harvard that traces the footsteps of a man named Paul, a journalist who is walking the path of the early migration across continents 200,000 years ago, from Ethiopia to the tip of South America.
This is the ultimate critical skills activity. Since I have never taught seventh graders before, I have come to a conclusion that problem solving is not their forte. Help me MIS, MIS, MIS..... they chant. I try so hard to make kids that they need to learn how to find the answers. And that finding answers takes time, patience, confidence in oneself. Critical skills works the most when the teacher does not know exactly how to do the project that is set forth. For all of you traditionalists out there, I can hear you gasping at this thought.
I have spent the last three weeks trying to get the class code for the website to work, and every time I think I have it, something goes wrong. One day I was so frustrated I walked out of the classroom and told my technology partner that I was giving up. I was going to get the textbooks out and have the students start on page one and do what they wanted to do for the rest of the year.
After my hissy fit, I decided to breathe. Things are much better when I breathe. I am not sure why I forget that so frequently. The textbooks are still safely tucked away in the cabinet collecting dust. Last Friday, I took the four smartest, most organized students in the class and got them to figure out with me how to maneuver their way through the Out of Eden website. Fortunately, that was a day that the site was working. They created avatars, described themselves and posted their profiles. Then they talked to student partners in California and Illinois on the website. Success with four out of 20 seventh graders!!!!
Fast forward to this week. The plan was to have those four get into groups to help the others on Monday. Chaos. The site did not work... MIS.. MIS...(that's what they call me). Tuesday, I decided that they would put their devices away, and I would walk them through the site using the projector. WOW!!! I showed them one milestone on the site. The theme is feet and footsteps, so when they asked about the emphasis on feet, we talked about what we could learn about people when we looked at their feet.
Most of these students do not believe that Paul will make it to the end of his journey mainly because he is way too old (40 or 50). He will get sick... The students are also a little worried about putting information on the site because they feel vulnerable. A student from our school community was kidnapped a few weeks ago (returned after the ransom was paid). This is not uncommon in Tampico. I told them about how safe Peterborough was. They were shocked!!!
(The other day I compared Tampico to the town in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where there are no children. You never see kids out and about on their own. My friend Antoinette who has two children is happy that they have the club, so that they can run around freely in a gated area that is safe. )
So today we got onto the site!!!!!! We have learned that you can do very little on an iphone and an ipad. I have always known that kids do not know SHIT about technology because they do not read instructions. However, they are learning fast. Today, I separated them into groups, told the experts to help the students who were not on the site yet, and then I watched the magic. They kept coming up to me saying MIS, I can't, Mis, I don't know how. Finally, I stopped the class and said, "You need to understand something. I am not the expert. The experts are those four students who have already done this!!! After that they started problem solving. Look MIS... I am writing to this person in New York... Someone wrote back to me.. look at the map that I made of my neighborhood, read my profile... I changed my avatar.
Finally, we can start. Are they going to be able to pass the same multiple choice test at the end of the bimester as the other seventh graders? I don't know. Is that important? I don't know. Are they meeting the common core standards? YES. Are these seventh graders becoming better citizens, yes. This is a baseline all students should start early in their educational careers. The common core is a good initiative, but I fear that those who do not understand it, will destroy this generation with standardized testing. We are failing this generation as teachers if we do not teach them to work together, problem solve and feel good about it in the process.
I did not have a plan when I wrote this blog. I just looked at the title I started with--nice metaphor