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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Last Day

Today is the final day of classes.

I had my final evaluation last week. (Not too bad, though there are some areas I will need to improve.)  My principal asked me how I thought the school had done this year. I told her that I usually think of a school year in baseball terms.  There are wins and losses during the season and pluses and minuses during the school term. So I think of whether or not we had a .500 season. Some years, I feel finished on the losing side or below .500. Sometimes it's a wash right at .500. This year I feel we finished at about .600.  We had more gains than loses.

Our gains came from learning new teaching techniques through the "Marzano method" that actually seem to have real potential for reaching our students.  I also think that our students have started to take learning seriously especially since they now have to pass several of the state exams to be able to graduate. We had 8 seniors fail to get the needed requirements, something noted by this year's juniors.

Our losses came from the fact that we still have problems with student behavior, particularly absenteeism. I think that, at least in my class, doing a better job of establishing classroom procedures will help with in-class behavior, but to deal with absences, we have more systemic problems. These absences are often caused by single-parent homes, health care concerns (for students and their siblings), drug abuse, in short, all the problems attendant to poverty in our culture.

We are optimistic about our students' test scores this year. The preliminary data looks promising. If we do show gains, our students will gain confidence that they can succeed if they attend to what goes on in class.

We will have many new teachers next year. We are losing some good instructors. We are also well rid of some "dead wood" who don't want to pay the price to get with the program.

My plan is to prepare for next year right away.  I want to have my procedures, my syllabus, my goals well in hand at the beginning of the year.  So this will be a working summer (along with some vacation leisure time).

It's been an interesting year. Next year will be even more so.

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