Wednesday, June 6, 2012

To Focus or Encompass?

In starting the process of writing my grad speech a couple weeks ago, I reread all of the Class of 2012's discussion posts from last year.  Doing this helped me to develop some clarity in what I'd speak to them about, but it also helped me to see just a little bit of why last year was so special.

The answer seemed simple as I read:  Aside from one section of Senior Bible (which didn't even meet every day), the rest of my schedule, time and attention were devoted to the class of 2012.  I taught them in Bible, Humanities, and English.  Everyone in the class had me for at least one class a day.  Humanities students had me for two class periods.  Humanities students, when they were in my section for Bible, had me for three class periods.  It actually worked out really well for those students as they would come in for 1st period Bible, and could stay in my room till almost noon. 

I was reminded of this as I read through the Moodle posts and I realized that I put so much time and energy into reading through and simply responding to the Moodle Posts.  I wrote nearly 200 Moodle posts last year, offering my opinions on threads that the students had started, giving advice, attempting to share wisdom with them, telling stories from my life.  Each week, I'd tally their Moodle posts.  Each day, I'd go through and input the scores of small vocab quizzes they'd taken in class.  The point is, I put a lot more time and energy into the Juniors because they were my only full class.  That group was looking for a teacher to invest deeply in them as a class, and circumstances allowed me to make that investment.  They returned this investment with a high level of appreciation for me, and a high level of buy-in for the material that I was teaching.

I suppose the debate could go around and around, but I do wonder whether it's better for a teacher to teach more students for less classes (to encompass, as I'm doing this year), or less students for more classes (to focus, as I did last year).  On the one hand, I've gotten the opportunity to develop so many new relationships this year, and I feel much more connected to the high school as a whole.  On the other hand, none of the relationships I've built with my classes/students in my classes this year have been quite as deep as last year.   Does this affect the learning that happens in the classroom?  Even that is unclear--the freshmen class bought into my philosophy of teaching and my subject matter big-time, and I always felt like they received less of my attention than they deserved (not that I'd ever ignore them... just that the Juniors automatically got more of my attention by having me for larger and more writing-intensive classes).  Yet, the Juniors were much more hesitant to buy-in than their predecessors were and certainly much more hesitant than the freshmen.  It's easy to attribute that to my having less time to devote to them specifically, but there might be a whole slew of other factors that I'm not even considering.  In any case, I do wonder about that basic question: Is it better to focus (teach a smaller group for more time) or encompass (teach a larger group for less time)?  I don't have an easy answer.  I might be closer to guessing after I see how next year goes.

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