Mr. Jones' Class Blog
My Dystopian LifePosted by Jarrod Jones on 4/9/2020 3:40:00 PM
I’m not much of a dystopian guy, however, I’ve read three teen dystopian novels in the past year. One, I actually kind of liked. Animal Farm and 1984 are a couple of classic dystopian novels that I really like. But all-in-all, I’m not much of a dystopian guy.
According to literarydevices.net, "Dystopia is a world in which everything is imperfect, and everything goes terribly wrong. Dystopian literature shows us a nightmarish image about what might happen to the world in the near future. Usually, the main themes of dystopian works are rebellion, oppression, revolutions, wars, overpopulation, and disasters."
I can’t help but think that the circumstance we are currently dealing with is similar to a dystopian novel. However, COVID-19 is real. It’s not fiction. And because of it, our world has been turned upside down. I’m pretty sure no one is comfortable with this situation. Every industry is suffering from a new abnormal normality. And the educational system is trying its best to handle the situation. Most teachers, students, and parents are all in unchartered territory...without a map for navigation.
I am currently writing my first novel. I desire to write mysteries and realistic fiction, however, I aim to also write something outside of my comfort zone. If I wanted to write a dystopian novel, not saying that I would, there is plenty of material that I am witnessing every day in our new world in which I could glean. But soon, hopefully, there will be a real resolution to our present conflict. It may not be soon enough, but I‘m sure it will come soon.
In the meantime, I will try to stay as positive as possible.
Even though this is my birthday month, I will have to celebrate it in an unorthodox way. I had big plans. Unfortunately, due to our social distancing ramifications, I won't be able to have that golden party. This is my 50th after all, so I was planning a big shindig. A big bash. Actually, that would have been unorthodox. I am very much an introvert and to have even 50 people at an event that I planned would have been so much out of my character. So in essence, me having a big party, with fancy dinnerware, in an elegant dining hall, with a bunch of people clad in their very best would also be a dystopian novel in my world.
No matter what your book of life is, stay safe!
Spring time. A time to grow!Posted by Jarrod Jones on 3/5/2020 3:30:00 PM
Spring is my favorite season. Mainly because it marks the end of cold weather (or at least that’s the idea), and the breaking of warmer, crisp weather. It’s also a time when flowers start blooming and colors begin emerging. There’s something poetic about seasons, and I especially enjoy the opportunities to bask in the blue skies, yellow flowers, and the big, bright golden sun.
And of course, spring marks times of a good amount of rain. Those days are not as beautiful as bright sunny days, however, rain is vitally important to the vitality of nature. Nature depends on the rain just as much as it depends on the sun. Every living being has a dire need for sunlight and water, either directly or indirectly. Nothing can live, flourish, or thrive without them. They work hand-in-hand with one another. Plants and flowers need the sun to provide energy to power the process of photosynthesis. Trees need water to replenish the world with oxygen and to cool their own leaves which helps move nutrients up the trees. This is also needed for photosynthesis.
I look at the sunshine and the rain in a similar way that I look at reading and writing. Reading and writing are both needed for minds to grow rich.
It’s difficult to be an efficient writer without being a proficient reader. Being a proficient reader means that one can not only understand what they are reading but they also know when they are not comprehending the text. Proficient readers can classify and analyze the purpose of reading a particular text. Proficient readers are able to recognize what they are thinking and why they are thinking about what they are thinking.
When a reader is aware of their own awareness, they are able to grow as thinkers, and as a result, can grow as readers and writers. Just as the sun and rain help nature grow naturally, reading and writing help us grow and become better readers and writers. It sounds redundant, but it isn’t. It’s a reciprocal cycle that must flow just as nature flows and lives from the sun and rain.
Spring is the season of new beginnings. Spring is a perfect time to grow and learn more. Spring is the perfect time to sit outside on a sunny day and enjoy a good book. Or sit inside on a rainy day and write something meaningful. And let the thoughts that you develop become something that helps bring lovely things to your atmosphere and even into the hearts and minds of others.
I Love Teaching Because....Posted by Jarrod Jones on 2/6/2020 4:10:00 PM
Why do I love teaching? That’s an easy one. I love teaching because I enjoy passing on knowledge to others. I enjoy seeing the faces of young people when they learn a new concept. I love it when students get a kick out of improving on their previous test score. I love challenging students to do better than their best each day. I love it when I’m standing before twenty or so twelve and thirteen-year-olds, teaching my little heart out while about eight of them are paying more attention to the air than to me. I love it when twelve and thirteen-year-olds think hiding someone else’s notebook or cinch sack makes the funniest episode of Middle School Maniacs ever constructed. I love it when twelve and thirteen-year-olds stick their fingers in their nose and quickly (but not quick enough) stick said finger on their tongue. I adore when students are more squirrely than actual squirrels in my back yard.
Wait; why do I love teaching?
Well, teaching is not all flowers and rose petals. But it is a box of chocolates. That reminds me: Don’t forget to send my oldest daughter her Valentine’s card and gift and don’t wait too late. That mail system going up towards the Chicago area is slow as chocolate turtles.
Teaching is a box of chocolates because you never know what you’re going to get. Every kid is different….almost every day. When you think you got one of them pegged, they go and do something totally different than they had done the day before. And sometimes that’s a good thing.
I can’t help but think about how one student has struggled to turn in work all year, but recently told me in the hallway that he finished an assignment. His big bright smile made me smile, and I gave him a big thumbs up. It’s that unpredictability that keeps me on my toes as a teacher. Probably one of the most predictable traits of young teens is they are unpredictable.
I’ve been working with teenagers in multiple capacities for over twenty-eight years, in churches, in community centers, in juvenile detentions, and schools. The funny thing is that in each of those capacities, I saw many tendencies from twelve to seventeen-year-olds that were eerily similar even though the sets of kids in these different settings came from vastly different backgrounds. Now, of course, the students at the juvenile detentions were there for a reason, and I did not see the propensity to steal, rob and break the law from the kids in the other settings, but the one thing I can be sure of: they all just wanted to be kids. When it was all said and done, they were kids, and they did what kids do.
So why do I love teaching? Being able to help mold and shape young minds by motivating them to do their best in school and be the best people they can be. So that kids in the community, in churches, in schools don’t end up being kids in juvenile. So that kids can take something from me and multiply it a hundred times over and become overwhelmingly successful. For all the success stories that I’ve been able to witness. That's why I love teaching.
Teaching is not what I do; it’s what I love.
A Cheesy 2020 ReferencePosted by Jarrod Jones on 1/9/2020 2:45:00 PM
I’m sure many people are penning the overly-cheesy “2020 Vision” for insights into this calendar year. I vowed that I wouldn’t use that phrase for any conversations or thoughts, but it’s just so darn irresistible. So, here we go…
I remember a little more than ten years ago, I was sitting on the porch with my wife and my kids just enjoying the beautiful summertime weather. We were shooting the breeze listening to the cars and birds competing with each other to see, which could make the most melodious sounds. The birds won by far. For some reason, our conversation resorted to our vision and how my wife and oldest son could not see certain addresses imprinted on many of the houses on our block without their glasses on. I found it astounding that they were unable to see the numbers clearly. I never thought that I had great vision until I realized there were people in the world who could not see the most apparent objects without a blurred film distracting their sight. Those address numbers were as clear as day to me.
Fast-forward a few years later, and then, low and behold, my vision began to mirror that of my wife and son. I started getting worried, and after a trip to the optometrist, I became an instant candidate for eyeglasses. My vision was failing right before my eyes. I needed glasses for distance and reading. I was a mess.
Now, as I reflect on how with time and age, my vision has been flailing and failing, I realize that true vision can be more mental than physical. Synonyms for the word vision include perception and mental image. You don’t have to actually see something to have a perception of something. A mental image is what you “see” in your mind.
I’ve often felt that I could not make it if I didn’t have my eyesight. But I am reminded by the fact that so many people can not only survive but thrive even without perfect vision. I realize now that vision is more about what you set out to do than what you see. It’s more about purpose. It’s about fulfilling destiny. And with that mindset, 20/20 vision for the year 2020 is more than just setting goals. It’s about reaching goals. It’s about seeing where you need to go and what you need to do to get to that destination. For my students and me, it’s about pushing through each school day and seeing a brighter, clearer path ahead as we focus on the upcoming units that will help us become better readers and writers.
So my cheesy motto for this 2020 calendar year is: Create a clear path of purpose with 2020 Vision in order to reach a destination of success.
Mental Break...Not BreakdownPosted by Jarrod Jones on 12/5/2019 4:00:00 PM
In three weeks, I will be able to take a mental break. It’s called winter break because of the season, but it’s definitely not the reason for the break. It is indeed in existence so that teachers and students can take a mental break; in my opinion.
This doesn’t mean that we are on the verge of having a mental breakdown, but without the mental break--well, who knows?
Teaching is a tough job. But learning isn’t always that easy either. For some, it may come a little easier than for others, but either way, it can take a toll on the mental capacity. Just as putting stress and pressure on our bodies with extended physical toll and exercise can break our bodies down, the daily toll of teaching and learning can do the same with our minds.
We rest our bodies every night when we are asleep (although I sometimes am wrestling with thoughts and ideas while asleep, equaling a poor night’s sleep), and our bodies are designed to crave that resting time. The same is true with our minds. When we are sleeping and resting our bodies, our minds are usually still working. So we have to make a conscious effort to stop our minds from moving 100 miles per hour. That is so difficult to do when you have to grade papers, create lesson plans, answer emails, construct emails, make phone calls, and teach lessons to 100+ students five days a week. And the majority of that work is done after you get off work while you’re trying to complete the numerous tasks associated with your household affairs and your family.
So, two weeks of not doing any of those required and necessary educational tasks is a mental break. Even if you still have to take care of those important household and family needs.
In my 12+ years of teaching, I’ve spent many winter breaks grading papers and getting things ready for the return to school in January. And while it is important to be prepared for the next semester, if I go back to school with my mind still fried, I will be no good to the students. So, I need to learn from my past blunders concerning this matter.
Yes, this is a break where students and teachers should have fun and spend valuable time with their family and friends, but it is also an opportunity to rest physically and mentally while recharging for the second part of the school year. So, I am looking forward to that time in three weeks...and counting.
Have a wonderful holiday season in whatever way you celebrate!
Give. Thanks!Posted by Jarrod Jones on 11/7/2019 6:30:00 PM
Of course, this is the month of giving thanks. However, giving thanks should not be the only purpose of November. It is also a time to give.
For me, giving is more important and more satisfying than getting. And although many kids may not admit that, I do seem to see a twinkle in the eye of a number of students when they do something nice for someone else. I’ve seen our students get completely out of control with our “jug wars” when they put change and in some cases dollar bills, into our team jugs as a competition to see which team or class could give the most money to give away for families in need. Out of control in a good way!
For some, it was about being competitive. But overall, I believe the kids really took pride and felt good about themselves that they were able to contribute positively to someone else’s holiday experience. And that definitely comes from the parents. I know many parents who make it a part of their family’s holiday to give to others, and I can see that the same spirit trickles down to your kids here at school.
Yes, we are all aware that twelve- and thirteen-year-olds can be selfish little boogers on a day-to-day basis. We know they can be all about “what can you give me?” But they also have hearts full of compassion, and they sometimes show that compassion in ways that can take us by surprise.
I’ve seen it in their writing. I’ve heard it in their discussions. I see it in their eyes. It never ceases to amaze me when I see a student drop something on the floor or in the hallway and walk away as if nothing happened and not pick up their mess; however; I’ve seen kids go out of their way to help someone else clean up a spill, dropped pencils, or fallen books.
Sometimes you just don’t know what to expect from kids. But I will admit, that I have come to expect kids to be real humans during the months of November and December. They have soft spots for others in ways that make you feel warm and fuzzy in these cold and brutal months. So for me, it’s not just about giving thanks for all that we are blessed with. That is important. But it’s just as, if not, more important to just give. And the more we do that, the more we can contribute to this world being a place where everyone would want to live with one another.
Have a wonderful holiday season in whatever way you celebrate!
Me, the Introvert?Posted by Jarrod Jones on 10/9/2019 9:00:00 PM
I remember my first year of teaching. Those were the most nerve-racking moments of my life. I actually had to talk to the parents of students I was teaching. I had to meet those many pairs of gazing eyes with my own brown petrified pair. I was an introvert. I was a novice teacher. It was parent-teacher conference, and I was a sheep thrown to the wolves. And I lost.
I lost my voice, that is.
I fell ill.
No, it had nothing to do with the parents. They did not inflict me with acute laryngitis. I don’t think laryngitis is contagious. Well, actually it is, just not very much. I’m not even sure what I had. A cold, an infection. I don’t know. I just remember that my throat felt like a cement sidewalk, and I felt like I was a walking swollen red nose that could not stop running. And by the second day of conferences, I wanted to run right out of the cafeteria and never step foot in that school again.
But I went back the next day, the next night, and now twelve years later, I have had the wonderful experience of over twenty-five parent-teacher conferences. Some might not describe these conferences as wonderful experiences, but I have learned that they can be pleasant. Even though my first one was not pleasant because of my unfortunate condition; actually the next year, I had the same experience during the fall conferences, however, I have not had a scent of sickness since. I guess that the first couple of years of conferences I scared myself sick. And being an introvert, I probably talked too much. Go figure.
Now parent-teacher conferences, albeit are long days, are actually something I look forward to having. I look forward to connecting with parents. I look forward to having a fruitful and engaging relationship with parents throughout the school year. I have truly learned that great communication with parents is not only a necessity, but it is also a satisfying component to a satisfying occupation. Even for an introvert like me.
Shazam!Posted by Jarrod Jones on 9/6/2019 10:00:00 AM
Wow! Has this year gotten off to a blazing start or what?
You know, I recently watched a movie in my very sparingly spare time. Shazam! I remember watching this when it was a television show as a kid back in the ’70s, however, I don’t remember much about it, nevertheless, what I finally realized is that the superhero is not named Shazam. OMG! It took me forty-plus years to come to this understanding? His name is Captain Marvel? Or is Captain Marvel a she?
I just don’t get comics. My two grown sons have tried and tried for years to get me to understand what’s going on in that world. DC Comics. Marvel. I don’t know the difference. It’s like my boys trying to get me to understand WWE and that other wrestling federation. I’m totally lost.
I now know how some seventh graders feel when they first step into Hixson Middle School. Totally lost. But I’m also totally amazed at how fast they learn the ropes. Over the past three weeks, it seems like we have been moving lightning quick as we have progressed through our first unit. Sort of like Shazam….or Captain Marvel...or whatever his name is. Come to think of it, Freedy Freeman had a difficult time giving him a name as well in the movie. I think he even once called him Captain Sparklefingers. Either way, he was fast as a lightning bolt. And when you’re moving that fast at school, one could easily get lost.
As a driver of our classroom activities, I need to know when to keep my foot on the gas to challenge students, but I have to also know when to pump the brakes. I have to be able to discern or simply ask who is lost or who does not understand? I need to look at the data and determine who’s just not getting it and try something different, work with small groups, or give some students extra support. Because the bottom line is not how quickly or how slowly you learn, it’s about how well and how much you learn.
And just like the movie Shazam! when we learn together, we all win. Shazam divided his powers among his foster brothers and sisters and they were able to defeat the villain. And so far this school year, I’ve seen some students working diligently and selflessly with others as we have been reading our novel, Refugee. I’ve seen students share the wealth and the knowledge to make sure everyone is getting it and not feeling lost. This shows a great deal of community and working together, two important cornerstones in any classroom and middle school.
May We Speak?Posted by Jarrod Jones on 5/17/2019
For the month of May, as we close out the school year, a couple students will contribute to the final blog. This was an entirely voluntarily venture. It's always good to see how students have grown over their 7th grade school year, and there's no better way than to hear it directly from them. I hope you enjoy...
My Year in Seventh grade has been great. I´ve learned about Dystopian books. I´ve read more books this year than any other year of my life. In ELA I've done an Argumentive unit and learned how to do Argument writing. In Science, I´ve learned about the weather and how the body works. I´ve even gone on a heart dissection field trip. In Social Studies I´ve learned about Medieval times and a lot about trade and the production of goods. In ELA, I´ve made many responses to stories or audios of books and wrote down my thoughts on it. I've also learned much more about the form and structure of my writing. Like when I'm writing a story or quick write, my form and structure are a lot better. I've also learned about imagery and what imagery is. Also, I learned about poetry and even author’s craft and how to spot it in a story. Also, how to spot a theme in a story and also different types of themes. I now know Academic language for writing about reading like how the bad guy in a story can also be called the Antagonist of a story. I have also written more than I ever have this year with so many jots and paragraphs. That is how my seventh-grade year has gone.
~ Braeden L.
ELA this year was definitely my favorite ELA year. We had many activities and games we played, for example, the sentence game. We got to have a ton of reading time alone, and with our reading groups. More importantly, I learned many tips on my writing and reading. My use of punctuation and spelling have 100% gotten much better, and my reading skills have been boosted. If you like reading, there is a lot of just reading time and some days that's all we do, just read. Many students get to sit in fun chairs and/or use pillows. Overall, the classroom is a great reading environment and it was just very fun.
~ Jacob "Jack" V.
Wax PoeticPosted by Jarrod Jones on 4/5/2019 11:20:00 AM
I’d heard the phrase many times but really never knew what it meant. In my mind, I thought it meant to have tremendous skill in using words or being able to write poetry with unique creativity. Actually, the phrase waxing poetic means being verbose, full of words. There can be a negative connotation associated with being full of words. It could sometimes refer to someone speaking so much nonsense that it smells like a pile of cow manure. It could mean someone just blabbers on and on and just wants to hear themselves talk.
However, I also believe that waxing poetic could mean just having something meaningful and powerful to say; just saying it using an exorbitant amount of words.
With April dedicated as National Poetry Month, we are diving right in with listening to, reading, and writing poetry. Poetry is not always young students’ favorite genre. Poetry can sometimes be difficult to understand as poets have a tendency to write what’s in their abstract hearts. It’s akin to a painter concocting a piece of work splattered with unidentified objects and indiscriminate colors and selling said painting for a zillion dollars. No one really knows what the heck is on the canvas, but we ooh and ahh it just because that’s what you’re supposed to do with art pieces that cost too much money.
Well, I tell students that what’s in their abstract hearts is priceless. Words that need to be spoken, written, sung, drawn, painted, acted out, instrumentalized...in whatever form that fits best, their emotions, their souls, their lives are masterpieces waiting to be shared with the rest of the world. And in ELA class, my job as a teacher is to help pull that out of them. Even introverts should have an opportunity to share their hearts because what’s in their hearts matter too.
A couple of things that make me cringe like nothing else is when students ask, “How many words or how long does it have to be?” or “Is this for a grade?” I try to hold my feelings inside when I hear these questions, however, I’ve been told that my facial expressions usually speak for me (I have to work on that). When students ask how long does it have to be, usually it’s because they want to make sure they can write as few words as possible, making it as short as it can be and still able to get a good grade on it. There are a few students who ask because they want to make sure they don’t write too much. Those are the students who want to wax poetic. They want to go above and beyond. They want to be able to squeeze every bit of their heart out into that writing piece and as an ELA teacher, that makes my heart smile. But ultimately, it’s not really about how long it is, the quantity, but instead, it’s about the quality. If you can say a lot in a few words, that can be more powerful than saying hardly anything at all with an abundance of words.
According to funwithwords.com, the world’s shortest poem is four words and five syllables. I don’t know if this claim is debatably true or not, however, whether a student is long-winded and loquacious or is a laconic person of few words, they all have something meaningful and powerful to say. And I hope as we go through this unit of poetry, they all find their voice and present those wonderful words in ways that express their true heart and feelings, because their feelings matter and are important to them, which make them important to all of us.