Education Opinion

Break for Refreshment

By Hanne Denney — November 27, 2005 3 min read
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Good news! I’ve had a couple of days off, time with family, lots of good food and too much coffee drunk while reading the entire newspaper. I woke up Saturday morning thinking about my classes and my students. My first thoughts were about the upcoming world civilization unit on explorers. So I must be refreshed. That’s why teachers need breaks! I’m enthusiastic again.

I teach special education high school, English and Social Studies. My schedule this semester is a little schizophrenic – I feel split in numerous directions. I teach a self-contained English 9 class first period. Due to scheduling issues and some students who really needed a class, I teach a concurrent English 11 self-contained class. Second period is either a self-contained World Civilization class, or a co-taught US History class, depending on the A day B day schedule. We teach on the 86-minute block, every other day schedule. Third period is either a planning period or a co-taught World Civilization class. Fourth period is either co-taught English 9 or my B day planning period.

To summarize, four different preps. But my co-taught and my self-contained classes aren’t always on the “same page” or doing the same activities, so although the information remains the same, the materials and planning do not. So I feel as though I have seven preps. With the co-taught classes I rely heavily on the general educator to prepare the content, while I work to provide support to students by modifying materials or preparing alternative assessments and assignments.

Co-teaching is not a perfect system. Since I work with three different general educators in three different subjects, I do not have planning time with each of them – or any of them, actually. Rather than sitting together and planning out each lesson, too often I am catching them in the hall to ask about tomorrow, or reviewing assignments through email. I like to lead the lessons and prepare materials for the co-taught classes, but it’s not always possible. Besides, if the co-teacher is doing six sections of the same subject, s/he usually has materials prepared. The advantage of co-teaching is that I can often modify materials to use in my self-contained classes. I learn a great deal from the general educators, and try to contribute something to them as well. I am qualified in both content areas, so that helps. I didn’t study Education in college, but I study history and language arts all the time now! Again, the advantage of being an older new teacher is that my life experiences (and years of reading) have given me knowledge.

So this Sunday I am planning lessons on the books Night by Elie Wiesel, Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I’m reviewing the Harlem Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, and the Immigrant Experience of the 19th century. This week I’ll be teaching how to analyze symbolism, write obituaries to summarize a life, the effect of writer’s purpose and tone, and how cross-cultural contact and scientific innovation change history. Plus some work on grammar, and how to write an essay question, and reviewing for a unit test. I’ll teach specific information to try to teach the big concepts -- tolerance of ethnic differences, recognition of socio-economic challenges, the effect of politics (and politicians) on citizens, the cumulative effect of historical events. Maybe I’ll even teach a little bit about life. Learning from the lives of people long in the past, through my life, to the students’ lives.

Whatever. I’m ready. I’m refreshed. I’m excited! I think I can make it to the December break.

The opinions expressed in Ready or Not are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.