Fooling around with block schedule

For most of the ones reading this, the term block schedule is relatively old. Although, as long as I can remember the school I teach at has been on a six or seven period day with classes roughly around fifty minutes a piece.

We have toyed around with the idea of block schedule for years, especially should we or should we not do it. This year we have finally made the decision to go for it. Starting at the beginning of next school year we will be running on an alternating A/B block schedule. Which will look similar to something like this. With the exception being 85-minute classes and lunch would be during 3rd and 7th block. 80-min-block

This decision did not come lightly, and many discussions and personal opinions went into this important plan. Some of the biggest challenges to the block schedule have been we have always done scheduling this way, and we should just continue to stick with what we know. Here lies the problem with the majority of educators. We are so afraid to get out and try something new. Why? Is it fear we are not going to be good at it?

This past week we tested out a modified block schedule, and I am proud to say I was scared of the unknown, but you know what I loved it. I never felt rushed when I was in my lesson. My students and I could get into actual activities and FINISH them without fear of the bell ringing. I could evaluate my students as they were in their groups and check for understanding. I would chalk this up to success.  Below is the schedule we tried this week.

block-scheduleAs I spoke with the students and other teachers, of course, I had mixed reviews. Mainly the ones who were not sold were ones who did not prepare for what was coming. Others just thought lecturing for 90 minutes would suffice.(News flash! Kids don’t like that these days if ever!) It could be that I want to be the best I can and to improve my craft every day, but the time for “winging” it is not in this day and time.

If you are a teacher and are on a block schedule and you need help looking for activities or ways to teach I would suggest what one of my colleagues Brandon Eldridge (who is a contributor on this site.) recommended chunk your lessons into three or four parts. Brandon has taught under block in a previous school district and enjoyed doing so. He shared a lesson plan that could be used within our classes during our PLC time. It helped me with an understanding of the concepts.

Also, I have found an excellent PDF that Russell County Schools in Jamestown Kentucky has put together about teaching on the block schedule. You can find it here.

If you are new to teaching on a block schedule, please do not be worried about if you mess up. The best teachers are the ones who have a growth mindset, and if you keep this in mind, you will do great.

We will be returning to the block schedule a few more times this semester for us to become more familiar with this schedule. I will keep you updated on the goings on.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

JD

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Leave the Ego Behind

Most of the ones who will read this are Educators and will understand the struggle of which the following post may reveal. For the past couple of years I have looked at my test scores and have been proud of them and what my students had accomplished. How was I to know the wake-up call I was about to endure.

I am an educator in the state of Tennessee and most Tennesseans have heard of the new testing process that has replaced the TCAP EOC to now TCAP TNReady. If you are not familiar with the whole TNReady debacle then you may want to look it up here. But that is a whole other story. What I am here to talk about is me and my performance on the TNReady test.

As mentioned earlier I have had decent test scores over the years. To say I was an outstanding or all-star teacher may be a stretch for me but I would like to think of myself as middle of the road according to the Value Added measures our State uses. So naturally, I went into the 2015-2016 school year very confident in my ability to prepare my students for the test that year. I had a few new tricks up my sleeve, I read a couple of books to get me pumped up for that year. All in hopes of having another good year. Then the tests came, and the scores were delayed and delayed again. I was not fretting over this because the State of Tennessee said our scores would not count although, I was really excited to see how I would stack up.

Finally, the end of November came around and the test scores from May had been released, I jokingly said I can not wait to see the one( Tennessee scores teachers on a 1-5 scale.)  Until I actually looked at my score, and I was an ONE? This can not be I told myself and I thought well I was a one so all of my other colleagues must be as well. I went down the list of my fellow U.S. History teachers asking them how they did I received the responses of; Five, Five, and Four. Now I was thinking this must be wrong there is no way I am the lowest effective teacher in our department it just cannot be. I kept thinking long and hard about what type of excuse I would have to give to all of my fellow teachers such as, the kids knew it was not going to count so they did not try. Then I had a meeting with myself to reevaluate what I had done over the last year.

I was beyond hurt, I just did not know how to handle myself. My ego was truly demolished at this point. So what did I do? First I realized I was the one to blame for my student’s struggles,  no one else. I then went to each of my fellow teachers and apologized for my scores and I told them I felt I was doing the right thing, and what they were doing was wrong.I did not change my approach with the new standardized test and they did. I went with a more overarching theme. I felt so foolish. The next step I did was have a sit down with my seniors(I teach 12th-grade History of Modern Music) many of them I had last year, and I told them to “grill” me and tell me what I did wrong. And guess what? they did, and it hurt, it hurt bad. I did not realize they hated the method I used with them, they were being nice all last year. One student told me she could not wrap her brain around the process I was trying to use, one in which I thought was easier.

That weekend I went home and I racked my brain, I went over and over what my students had told me and I put together a plan of old and new, creating more of a story with my students. So far my results on tests have been improved, but we shall see how the results will be at the end of the year.

My hope in writing this piece is not to let you know how I am changing the way I am teaching, this is more on how we as educators let our egos get in the way and only see our way of teaching. There are so many ways we can teach our children, but we are the ones who have to step aside and see what is best for them. I have taken the approach with my students this year as I would my six-year-old daughter and my 10-month-old son. We as educators should treat every child we have in our class like they are your own. Better yet ask yourself if my child were sitting in my class how would I want them to be taught. Thank you for your time in reading this I hope it will become and inspiration to you.