Deconstructing the Chaos

Chaos is my word of the day. Actually, I believe it deserves more than that. Chaos is my word of the month.

I am at a point of transition in my life so naturally, there is chaos. I am leaving Rhode Island in a few short weeks and even though I have been trying to push this fact aside, I feel the uncertainty weighing down on me with the humid air of these summer days. I am moving back to my home state of New York where I will be attending the University at Buffalo for a masters in education. I am excited to start a new chapter in my life, but the unknown is always a little daunting. Sometimes I prefer to address what awaits me in New York as Ted and Marshall in How I Met Your Mother do by saying “that’s future Kelsey’s problem.” And with this attitude in mind, I have decided to focus as much of my attention as I can on the present.

Narrowing the present down to a class I taught today, I will continue to weave my thoughts together with the themed thread of chaos. Today was the first day of of my media education class for the URI Ram First Star Academy. This academy is designed to help foster students in the state of Rhode Island prepare for college by attending classes on campus for the month of July. I am co-teaching the class with an education student from URI who has been lovely to work with so far.

Our class started at 1:30, but we met at noon in the curriculum materials library on campus where we would be teaching to ensure everything was planned and prepared as needed. We went over our lesson plan and chose who would be leading each activity. Then, we got the Smartboard out and made sure it was working properly. It took three librarians and two instructors to figure out how to get a tool bar to display and how to write on the board smoothly. We pulled up all the web pages ahead of time and practiced doing the activities we wanted to do with the students. All the finicking before class panned out. When we used the Smartboard everything went smoothly and we did not have any technical errors, which is a rare thing!

This is my second year teaching these students so I had some sense of what to expect. As soon as the students stepped in the door there was a sense of commotion. To start with, I showed them a brief Animoto video of photos they had posted on the secure Facebook group we have as a year in the review opener. After the viewing each student said one accomplishment they had this year. Some took it more seriously than others, and those who did were applauded by the class.

Next, I went over what we would be doing in class this year, which is creating websites and learning to do research (online & offline) and there was actually more of a positive reaction than I expected. Some students asked if they could do videos, music or photos and I told them they could incorporate such things in their websites. I mentioned working in groups which raised some complaints, but this was expected since collaboration was one of their struggles last year.

For the next activity they wrote down three goals they wanted to achieve in First Star and the media class this year. All of the students completed the task, but I was discerned by one student who became rather frustrated about writing. She said she makes mistakes writing and does not like to. I want to address such a frustration carefully moving forward. By the end of the activity there was a negative vibe about the room and I was slightly fearful of having everyone hating the class on the first day.

Our next planned activity was to have them get in groups and write lists of class rules. Going off of the negative feedback from the last writing activity, I decided to shift gears quickly. Instead of writing a list, I instructed the groups to come up with a bad class behavior scenario they could act out and say how they could prevent it and resolve it. Each of the three groups went in front of the class and performed their skits. While the groups were presenting all the students were listening intently and the room was the quietest it had been since their arrival. The scenarios were well acted out and it was fascinating to see some of the students who test the teachers take on the teacher role. It was good to see that at the very least, the students know what unacceptable behavior is. While they were presenting my co-instructor wrote down their responses and we are going to pose the class rules next time. After they finished, I used the quiet moment to my advantage to point out to them how quiet it was. I spoke about there being a time to act and a time to listen and knowing the difference.

After that activity we took a ten minute break. When they returned I introduced the Media Education Lab ‘smartphone’ which is an update from the ‘remote control’ they used last sumer. I was happy when several of the students remembered the ‘remote control’ from last year and asked if we were going to watch a video when I brought it up showing that they also remembered our past activities. I pulled up a youth produced website from a student of mine in a different class and had students come up and read/review each page of the site. Then a student came up and answered each question on the back of the ‘smartphone’ by marking evidence for their response on a web page. We saved screenshots of their drawings as we went along.

To get them moving around again, we did a four corners activity where students were put into four groups and asked to defend a certain perspective given to them. The question was: how much access should teenagers have to the internet? The given perspectives were: open, limited, none and regulated. They had some difficulty grasping the idea, but did better when I let them take their own perspective on the issue.

We ended class with reflection on the day. I brought up sandwich feedback which was an important component of last years class and the students remembered the format which is positive, something to improve on, positive. Several students gave feedback and one student in particular gave a silly answer at first, but then asked to go ahead and I was really pleased with his second attempt. He said: “a positive is that we are all here together again, a negative is that we have some trust issues with each other, and another positive is that we are like family and we have to remember that we’re close.” I thought this was a real positive note for the day and ended class on that.

We got through everything in our lesson plan and finished a few minutes early! There was craziness, but it was also evident that there has been progress since last year and lots of hope for this year.

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