Monday, September 26, 2005

Dakar, Senegal

I can’t believe the government. I can’t believe that something as simple as love would be so complicated. My fiancé was denied his visa to come to states in the beginning of August and I had to travel to Dakar, Senegal to rescue him. Luckily, we were successful and they gave us the visa in five minutes. While I am thankful, having to take off the time from teaching was awful. It was a big decision—but after consulting a lawyer and knowing if he were denied a visa the chances of him ever coming were almost impossible-- I had to go. To hear them say “yes” and have all my problems and worry dissolve in a second was well worth it. We left the embassy in shock and we kept wondering if it was just a joke or some horrible mistake! I am so happy—no more long distance telephone calls, or worrying—the love of my life is coming!

Returning to Africa for the second time was amazing. I missed the smells, even if it wasn’t Mali. My fiancé and I went to Goree Island—one of the main slave ports in West Africa. It was a very powerful experience—I taped the whole thing and I can’t wait to show my students (they were so excited that I was going to “Africa”….). I saw tiny rooms where they housed women, children, and men to be shipped to places like Mississippi. The door “Aller sans retourner” (leaving without return) is something I will never forget—the door that drops right into the sea. Being in a Dakar made me think so much of Mississippi—how much has really changed? What are the chains that are still invisibly attached? I really can’t express all of my feelings in writing because the ideas are so visual to me. I am working on a video—the first time I have touched video since I started MTC. The connections between Africa and America—the “transatlantic” (Paul Gilroy for any lit nerd) are something I have to explore more. The music, the poverty, the solidarity, and the misconceptions. I am hoping I can have something meaningful to show my students—to start a unit on Africa…

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Is it really Inductive?

The pros…the cons
My students are very used to deductive instruction—perhaps a little too accustomed to it. As a new teacher, I feel as though deductive teaching is the first thing I reach for, or strive towards-- I am still trying to make sure I get everything into my lesson. However, I believe that deductive teaching can be quite boring and trite (when used over and over). But, then again, some students feel very comfortable with this method—since it is something they are familiar with and they can experience success this way. Depending on the objective, there are moments where deductive instruction is essential (and just makes sense) and there are moments when other strategies “work” more efficiently.
Inductive instruction is very good for explaining the odd, or the exceptions to common rules. It gives students power and the ability to take measured risks (good risks!) with the aid of a teacher. They become the inventors of the rules, or discoverers of those odd exceptions—their contributions “make” are the lesson. However, they can “break” the lesson—if they just aren’t into the material or students aren’t comfortable making guesses, predictions, or hypothesis.

In my room…
I have used a lot of inductive instruction for grammar (you have to have something to spice it up!). Sometimes, I find it hard to follow all the way through—letting the students really find ALL the answers and rules. I think this happens when not enough of the students know basic grammatical concepts to help them make those “educated guesses.” However, I have been most successful when I was halfway through a unit and I was presenting material they had a good frame of reference fresh in their minds. It was pretty great when they presented ME with the rules for singular and possessive nouns. The real trick or challenge is setting them up for as much success as possible. Even though I try to this every lesson, the planning and steps becomes very important in inductive instruction. Once in awhile, a lesson becomes inductive all on its own—when I realize that my students don’t understand a concept (I assumed they had in previous grades or at least should have had). I know it doesn’t “count” as inductive, but there are moments when the learning experience of a lesson turns out this way.

In my classroom, deductive or direct instruction occurs when concepts are particularly hard or very new. I am very sad to report that I use it more frequently than some the other strategies. Especially at the beginning of the year, I used direct instruction a lot. However, in middle school, especially in sixth grade, I feel a pretty heavy burden to prepare students on how to be student—takes notes, listening skills, answer questions, etc. With direct instruction, I can provide a forum for them to practice these skills on a day-to-day basis. As I said, students are probably too familiar with deductive teaching, but they do not always understand how to be active within this format. That is the missing link with deductive instruction—it doesn’t have to be passive. I know, my sixth graders need to be shown how learn from this strategy. They don’t do anything automatically and along with every new objective they are learning—they are also learning how to interact with deductive.

Both deductive and inductive instruction work well for me—I think variety, creativity, and thoughtfulness lead to their success in the classroom.