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Lil’ Johnny

downloadWhen I was a student-teacher one of my facilitators used to forever give us scenarios with the fictitious trouble maker Lil’ Johnny. It was a source of great amusement and I must say it helped to spice up her class.

We all had, of course, had a Johnny before. And we had all pretty much already come to the conclusion that Lil’ Johnny was a kid with issues. Hey, who doesn’t have issues in this world today? Why would we think Lil’ Johnny was any different?

The problem, though, seems to be that 7 years after laughing and role-playing and scheming strategies in that classroom, I’m now faced with a culture that is almost completely alien to the one presented to me in that room.

I find myself daily in a classroom that wants very much to look like this. giphy (4)

It seems like instead of having one or two Lil’ Johnny. I’m faced with 45% Johnny’s and even some Lil’ Janes to compliment them. Which makes me feel like my classroom is

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It’s not a great feeling returning to the staffroom feeling like you’ve just starred in a scene from some world war 2 movie. You know the ones where the men are cornered in the trenches and can only throw the occasional grenade out and hope it hits the right target.

It’s ‘noice’ to imagine that all those fancy strategies like “Ignoring unwanted behavior” and “calling on the student once” or my personal favorite” waiting for the class to settle itself” etc. etc. etc, are always the answer. Unfortunately, they aren’t. Unfortunately they seem to be completely inadequate in the face of some of the cultural and social problems we have in the Caribbean classroom today.

(Yes, I’m singling out the Caribbean classroom because I feel like it is sorely neglected in the field of modern psychology, especially given all the pedagogues who lecture and self promote but do precious little to help us to establish the psychological base that we can work off of to better aid our students)

It’s enough to make a girl…rxf3oLt

Alas, that isn’t the answer either. Sigh, what is a girl to do? It was during a guilt trip my youngest tried his very best to lay down on me, that it occurred to me. A genuine, authentic eureka moment! Empathy as a classroom management tool!

Hold on, relax. It’s not as messed up as it seems.

I started with the class with the most and most outrageous set of Lil’s. I set up the class to do a cooperative learning exercise. Each group got an objective, an outline of their content and time to plan. I watched and listened, maybe cackled a little as some elaborate presentations were planned. Skits, lectures, song sessions, you name it, they planned it.

Then came the presentation day. And boy, did my babies put out. Some of them performed some works of educational art. I loved it, and for each act of greatness, there was an act, by the Lil’s spread among the groups, to disrupt the wonder.

Little faces turned to me in dismay, little hands were thrown up in exasperation. Until the biggest Lil in my class stood up and delivered a speech for good behavior so inspirational that even I was taken aback. Dude!! something might even have gotten stuck in my eye.

After class, a few of the Lil’s cornered me. I was made to listen as they said things like “Teacher wha mek dem sooooooo rude?” “Teacher ah so you feel every day?!?” “Teacher me sorry bad jack.” “Teacher nar do it again, me cyan teach nobody again.”

I chuckled, it was fun. A little revenge, a little life lessoning, and the next week even though there were some minor disruptions I never had to look at anyone like this…

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I find that with a little heavy complimenting, and a few sweets my classroom is a bit more civilized. It’s not pristine, I didn’t solve anyone’s life angst, but our learning environment might just be a little more heavy on the learning.

 

And for that maybe I might spend a little more time thinking of that class like this…

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What to do when there is nothing else to do?

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One would think that this face is the worst face a student can give you when taking a test. It’s not. It really isn’t.

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This is the worst face I can get from my students in the moments before collecting the papers after a test.

A little context.

For the last few weeks, I have been teaching the periodic table and periodicity. Not hard really, it’s a lot of recall and a few trends. Easy peasy. NOT

Why not? Because human beings do not generally absorb information simply by just being told. I know this, I can even relate. So knowing this and understanding that for the 22 people I have to teach this to, this whole education thing is a bore and thus not priority number one. I set out to make one of the most boring sections of my syllabus fun.

With skits and demonstrations, minimal lecturing, handouts, and practice exercises. By celebrating when the one kid in the class who hates me, the classroom, the content, the school compound, the lab and the world outside of football in general, interact with me and the class and is even leading the charge when it comes to answering the questions.

I’ve linked the lesson sections to that song that was soo successful in the previous section. Singing it in tandem with the lesson, having them relate relevant lines and explain why these lines are relevant. I’ve had them demonstrate physically the trends and reflect on the demonstrations. I’ve reviewed and felt completely justified in assessing.

I’ve even managed to get a few peeps out of the reclusive students who usually don’t answer and grabbed the attention of the new kid, who literally just joined the class last week (best believe there’s gonna be a rant about that).

So when I got that confident face at the end of the test, despite years of experience telling me to go hide under my bed and not mark anything, I still strutted confidently to the staffroom to mark.

 

efb5431c91d587f5a6bcc998994d86d7.gif Literally me after marking. Because despite using varying methods, having them orally review the definition for electronegativity, discuss how and why it increases up the group, having a small mountain of written evidence that they should know, that electron shells are gained down the group and that valence electrons remain the same down the group. Despite having them correctly demonstrate the ease of ionization going down the group and relating it to the trend in ionization energy. In spite of seeing them correctly demonstrate and explain the shielding effect and how it affects ionization.  The vast majority of my students have told me, through their scores, that there was not enough information transfer for them to effectively navigate 20 multiple choice questions.

So now the question is, what to do next?

For now, the answer lies in an hour of sleep and a few episodes of Umbrella Academy. If anyone out there has any other ideas, please HELP.

 

Looks Like I’m Back

So after an extended break and lots of roadblocks and excuses. I’m diving right back into blogging. While I don’t want to detail the epic mess that has been life since I was forced to take a sabbatical, I do feel inclined to say I missed the hell out of this space and all of you.

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One of the reasons I’ve been gone so long is just an overwhelming sense of fraudulence. “What makes you think you can do this?” “Who would ever want to read anything you have to say?” My mind screams, even as I write this and kick myself, for thinking it, all the while being totally mortified that I’ll be screaming into the wind. Or worse, laughed or shamed off the internet as I know it.

I think my main motivation is that life has been kicking me in the ovaries, with much intensity for the last year or so, and this space and my readers have played a huge role in helping me feel human in the past. I’m hoping for that sense of community again if the community will have me.

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In an attempt to make space for everything, I’ve also tried to make a few changes. SO what do you have to look forward to?

  • The photo-fiction challenge is making a comeback, starting this Thursday, the 14th March 2018. Though it will be a fortnightly offering instead of a weekly one.
  • My Antigua. I’ll be publishing a series of monthly articles about my Antiguan experience and what being Antiguan means to me. This isn’t some sneaky way of getting y’all to come visit me, though that would be kinda cool. No. It actually came out of a conversation with a friend of mine about our dying culture, and how we perceive it.
  • And last but not least, I’m making my teaching journal public. Just rantings, or success stories or pedagogical theories that I usually would do but never have the heart to share. This is me trying to make all parts of me cohesive. Who knows maybe other teachers in my sphere will do the same and we can explore all the conversations that we all grumble about but never really talk about. Or better yet, teachers from other spheres will take pity on me and offer a little advice.

So all in all…

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After Irma Update

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Hi guys,

Hurricane Irma passed over Antigua and Barbuda late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. My family and I are safe and for the most part so are most of the people on my island, Antigua. We had a bit of flooding, some downed posts, and power lines, and damage to some structures but for the most part, those of us on Antigua got off pretty light all things considered. The Public Utilities Authority has been working literally day and night to get us back to a workable state and we are all grateful for that. As of now, some areas are still without service and some services are still spotty.

On the other hand, and a far darker and more tragic note, our sister island is wrecked. Completely devastated by the passage of Irma. No home, school, public building, or natural landmark has been left untouched, and with Jose threatening to hit, people had to evacuate to Antigua. It is a wonder and a blessing that there wasn’t much loss of life, and we all mourn as a nation for the life lost to Irma.

In light of this, we’ve been occupied on Antigua with the evacuation and relief of Barbuda’s community with Hurrican Jose threatening the islands. The Red Cross and other agencies, as well as private citizens, have been working to get supplies, emergency housing, and anything else imaginable for our people.

The #HelpBarbuda efforts have been going since hours after Irma passed,  The gentlemen of the Ticketing app have taken up the cause to foster and track donations from home as well as friends and family abroad. You can click the hash tag above or click the link following directly:

https://ticketingevents.co/helpbarbuda/

to see how far they have gotten, or to lend any aid you can.

We are still under a Tropical storm watch for Hurricane Jose, but in all hopes, it will continue to shift northwards into the ocean so that no more damage is done to the rest of the Islands in the chain, or anywhere else for that matter.

That’s all from me now guys. Thank you to those of you who reached out upon hearing Irma was heading my way. It means so much to me and my family to have so many people out there thinking about us and sending those positive thoughts. Thank you again, and I hope you are all safe and well. See you again when I can.

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Due to technical difficulty, there will be no Photo-Fiction Challenge this week. For some reason, my pictures refuse to load, but I will continue to work on the issue in hopes of returning the challenge next week.