Care to Collaborate?

I think I need Hermione’s time-turner.

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So, here’s the deal: due to circumstances far beyond my control, I’m going to be the only English teacher at CHS this coming year.  That means that I have to teach all four years of English, freshmen to seniors, and will have no opportunity to offer any elective classes.

I need to figure out a way to do that without wanting to kill myself by winter break.

I think I have a plan, but I want to get some feedback from people who aren’t inside my own head; my fear is that I’m not seeing the big picture and what I’m planning will implode before Halloween, and I really can’t have that.  Here’s where you all come in; would you think about this and let me know if there are any major flaws in the plan?  Then, would you think about how you might do it if you were in my situation, and make any suggestions you can to make the plan better, more efficient, and – dare I say it? – fun?

Okay – so if my math is right, and I’m not certain it is, but let’s just run with it, shall we? – if I take into account holidays, workshops, and “special” days like all-school activities and conference days, I figure there are about 16 weeks in a semester.  That means that I have four, four-week “blocks” of time.  My (very nascent) plan is to map out four different units that I will rotate through all four of the classes.  For example; let’s say I start the freshmen with a unit of poetry, the sophomores will be reading a novel, the juniors will be watching films, and the seniors will be writing (I have no idea how the actual plan is going to go, but I DO know that the first thing I’ll hit the seniors with is writing; the babies need to get a start on their college essays, so the first unit in all my senior classes is essay writing.  Really, that’s the only thing about all of this that I know for sure).  Then, after the four weeks, everyone will “move over one,” so the freshmen will start writing (probably response papers), the sophomores will get some poetry, the juniors will read a novel, and the seniors (who were probably fried with all the essay writing and application submitting) will get a little break with some films.  After four weeks, everyone will move over again, then once more at the end of the semester.  In the second half of the year, I’ll have four different “modules” to run through.

Does this have any chance of success, or am I optimistically kidding myself?

Here’s where you overwhelm me with input.  What do you think the eight units should be?  I know for sure that we need writing, novels, and public speaking sections, but literally everything else is up for consideration.  I love teaching film, so I’ll want to have at least one unit of that, and I have no objection to repeating units; in fact, I’d rather the kids read more than one novel in a year, so I’ll probably do the novel unit at least twice.  I’d rather do more reading than almost anything else, but how do I get more than one class reading without burning myself out (because I’m one of those teachers who reads with her kids, and I don’t know if I can teach four classes at the high school, a college writing class, and two yoga classes in two different venues, and read more than two novels at once).  Is there any way I can do a collaborative unit (or two, or three) with the art teacher?  How do I work field trips or hands-on, out-of-seat work into these mini-courses?  How do I plan due dates so that I don’t have four classes’ worth of work to grade at once?  How do I figure out how to get the kids to work harder than I do?

I’m reasonably sure I can pull this off, but I want to make sure I maintain the standards I’ve established in prior years; I want to keep the classes rigorous and energetic, and heavy on discussion and collaboration, but I need to figure out how to do that without burning myself out.

I will graciously and gratefully accept any and all help, advice, observations, and recommendations any of you has to offer, and thank you.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Care to Collaborate?

  1. The rotation idea is superb and it works. I’ve done that before (small school). One thing I did was to insist that students read independently throughout the school year. I gave points for various books and also allowed students to approach me with their choices that I could quickly evaluate and assign points. For example reading The Scarlet Letter was worth a lot more than reading Hatchet, obviously. Students kept journal entries on their books that I could scan at any time. Journals are kept in bins in my classroom so they don’t get *lost* at home or wherever. Also, I collaborated a lot with the history teacher. So many good novels have tremendous historical value. Just a thought. But when it comes to field trips… good luck! I guess schedule the trips for the days you don’t want to teach! Ha!

  2. I am so sorry not to be more helpful, but damn. That would make me want to kill myself before Thanksgiving. Good luck… :-P

  3. Terry

    Hi Ms. Chili! I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for re: advice/observations. But could you tie your love of film with, say the novel unit? That is, maybe one unit on books that were turned into movies, and then another unit on the movies themselves? As far as making the students do the most work : ) could you include filmmaking as part of their project(s)? Either little films or even just scenes from books you’re reading? Or writing screenplays based on books (or, heck, even poetry–)? As far as collaborating with the art teacher, maybe you could further the connection between conveying “things” through visual arts versus the written word. Maybe make them recreate an emotion they felt through a poem in an art project? (I think you once said you work in a arts-heavy school). And of course field trips could include museums and I would think in your University Town they have a good film revival house/art house. Anyway, good luck!

  4. You can definitely do this! I would suggest a short fiction unit, so that you’re doing the same kind of reading and analysis you would get during a novel unit, but the differing styles and shorter length will seem “easier” and more exciting. There’s a great anthology of the best short stories from this century that would give you plenty to work with, but also there’s a LOT on the Internet! I would also think the poetry unit would be a great place to collaborate with visual arts: so many great poems written about paintings, so many ways to marry images and metaphors, and ekphrastic work is so rewarding! Could be great way to get some art gallery field trips in too! Good luck, and keep us posted!

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