Thursday, April 3, 2008

grumble, organize, and middle school

I don’t think I can learn how to organize like some people do. Never have. I am a firm believer in entropy and the laws of superposition. That is in other words, things fall apart and what is on top is newest. I guess the key for your personal organization is if you can find stuff and use the stuff you need. I have tried, different color folders, stacks for this and that, could never find stuff that way. I can find stuff on my computer, if all else fails use the search function. The only thing really in my filing cabinets is notebooks from different projects.

Part of the issue is I am ADD and have dyslexia, a difficult combination, and a deadly one in the middle school world, or at least what I see as a middle school world. The reason bring up middle school is that one of my children, who also has ADD is going through seventh grade right now, and I see what he is dealing with and remembering what I had to deal with.

I went to a 7-12 school back in the 70’s. 7th and 8th grades were the junior high at the start, I liked it. Generally it was the same as high school; you were responsible for yourself and did what you needed to do. When I made it to 8th grade, they turned it into a middle school. We had team meetings, did all sorts of touchy feely things. I thought is was stupid and took away from my learning. I just wanted to be left alone. We had study skills and had to keep our notebooks a certain way. I am more of stuff things into the book and use it when I need to. We had to use the little notebook reinforcement stickers on all of our loose-leaf paper, and got points off if we did not. Our notebooks were collected and graded! This I could not understand, my way of taking notes worked for me, it may not be the same as what works for you. I was getting good grades, and this notebook keeping was distracting from my learning. I was more stressed about keeping my notebook in order than learning. We had reading handouts, but we were to take notes about the reading on another piece of paper and put them in some other section of the notebook—that made no sense and still does not, I take notes on the reading on the papers itself, still do even on electronic readings and WebPages.

I remember one time in social studies class we were given a reading to do which the teacher considered advanced. It was taken from a magazine, which I read often. We were to underline in BLUE words we did not know and then on another paper we were to write the words and define them. I had no words underlined. The teacher, moving in for the kill asked me to define words as she picked them out of the reading, I did and she got madder and madder. What did this teach me? Not one whole heck of a lot. I don’t remember much from that class, except that incident.

After teaching high school for a few years, I took a job in a middle school. This was a difficult transition for me. The first time I met with my team of teachers, we were to write our supply list. The others wanted different color notebooks and specific color pens, crayons and the like. They did not understand when all I wanted was the kids to have “something to write on and something to write with”. One of the teachers explained that she liked the students to have four different color folders for her class, as we were on a four day rotation, red for day one, blue for day two, yellow for three and green for day four, she felt this helped their organization somehow. I think one day was spelling one reading one grammar and one whatever. I can imagine the mess I would be in if I was one of these kids.

I can understand the idea of transitioning from elementary to high school, but there were teachers in the eighth grade doing the same thing. When do the kids learn to be responsible? I understand for some students it is necessary to check that they have written their assignments in their book and initial that it was correct, I did that for students at any age if the parents asked me to do so, but at the beginning of 6th grade we were to do this for each student, so there goes 10 minutes of teaching every day. Do we put off the sink or swim until 9th grade, the first time some of these kids learn that if they don’t do the work they fail? Having taught 9th grade for several years, it came as a shock to the students that if they did not do the work they would have to take the class again. In the middle school we chased the kids down to do makeup work, I never liked that, a communication between the teacher and parent should have taken care of the student doing makeup work.

That was a divergence.

Not what I wanted to write about. My son as mentioned above has ADD, just like his dad. He has organizational problems and an IEP, which discusses the use of technology to help with his work. I bought him a little voice recorder/mp3 player; with the knowledge he was not to put anything on there except voice recording of his assignments. He has gone through several assignment books this year and they do not work for him. This seems like a good idea. One teacher does not like it, she wants him to use the assignment book, and this makes no sense to me. I want him to find what works and use it, not to be forced to use what does not work for him.

We need to nurture the students learning styles, not force them to try and fail a way that does not work for them.

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