1. How do English
and language arts help prepare students for life after high school?
I know well that our students will rely heavily upon language in the future especially written but also spoken and texted. When I look at my role as their teacher then, I feel it's my responsibility to make sure they have the skills needed to be excellent speakers and writers and to know when to use such skills. Can they convey clear, concise thoughts? Kids tell me all the time they don't need to "know" how to write, yet when I ask them what they want to do when they get out of school they tell me one of two things: either "I don't know" or something where they don't realize communication is a must. For example, they don't realize that to be a plumber, communication is a must, for they must not only sell themselves, but their company, product and work.
2. How does
technology play a role in your classroom and how has it changed your teaching
"I'm letting the beast out of the cage!" I said when I told my students we'd use our cell phones each Friday to review prior to quizzes via live, online polling. You should have seen their faces. What's more you should see how serious they are about the polling and the explanation as we go over the questions afterward. It's been a great addition to the classroom, not only embracing the "enemy" technology, but enhancing how I teach. I don't know if I can say social media has become the demise of the English language especially since note writing has been around since the dawn of paper and pen; therefore, social media is no more responsible than note writing. We call it code switching; in my experience kids do know when to use a standard, more formal, English and when to use a more casual, colloquial style, but only because it's our job to teach it. Very occasionally kids forget to code switch, but it's not because they don't know the difference; it's because they are thinking too quickly or have a lapse.
3. Putting aside
your lesson plans, what is the most valuable lesson you want your students to
take away from their time with you?
I've worked hard to make the best use of their time. I don't want them to memorize for the test and then forget. I want them to memorize to remember. Take those skills away so that when you're in the same situation later, you know exactly what to do without really having to think about it. Go into auto pilot and prove you know it.
4. Any specific tips to help them get beyond
Here are a few examples: Did you know that if you used the [word] "lie" (as in reclining) correctly, most people would think you've used it incorrectly? So why even use the word? Why spend the time learning to use the word correctly when most of the world doesn't use it correctly anyway? Research has shown that to truly master a concept, one must practice the objective correctly 27 times or so. To write a decent essay then is not going to happen in one or two essays written a school year. To begin to use a new vocabulary word, you must use/encounter the word a minimum of six times. That's not going to happen if a student memorizes 10 words a week only to take the vocabulary test at the end of the week and then a "comprehensive test" at the end of the semester.
Kids ask me all the time, "Why do you teach us to use semicolons when I
never see them in any books that I read?" It's such a brilliant question.
But the answer to the question can't be answered until they understand the
purpose OF the semicolon, and that moment is one of the reasons I became a
teacher - to see students "get it." I teach all year, different ways
of joining two related sentences together beginning with the use of a semicolon.
Helping students recognize similarities and differences is another way to get kids to not only memorize, but also to remember. For example, drawing two houses to separate the two families for Romeo and Juliet is not going to help kids remember which side of the fence each character belongs. Have you ever noticed that each of Romeo's friends end with the same sound of his name? Benvolio and Mercutio? If I told you that Mercury is a poisonous compound, which of Romeo's friends would you presume causes more problems for the families? And if I told you benevolent means to be kind and giving, which of Romeo's friend is kind and tries to end fights? How do we help students remember that which is necessary to remember?
challenging is it to keep high school students focused and engaged and what
tips do you have for other teachers in your same boat?
It can be difficult given that we can't have they technology they're used to in the classroom at all times. Let's face it, not many kids have the where-with-all to read a good old-fashioned book, so we have to be really creative in our approach. Use technology as much as you can, stay current in the shows and music they like, go to school activities, and easiest of all, stand out in the hall and get to know them.