Dear Geography Family:
It feels great to finally send the first email of the year! After wrestling with MS Office Outlook, dealing with district server issues, updating and revising distibution lists, and finalizing grades for the progress report, we are ready for our first Family Update.
Let me begin by saying how much I admire this group of students. On the whole they are fully engaged in class, asking great questions, respecting each other’s opinions and stepping up to this challenging class.
This BinghamsPlace gmail account will serve as my main outgoing email client throughout the year, it just works so much better than the Outlook interface (sorry Microsoft!). But don't be surprised if you receive an email firstname.lastname@example.org in response to any contact form submissions from the class website. I check my school mail often, but many students and parents choose to use the following resource to email my personal email directly:http://www.binghamsplace.com/contact-me.html, after all, the website is designed to be the best tool you and your student have for staying on top of Pre-AP Geography.
I know there is some grade panic out there. I understand, and I am sympathetic and aware that you may be concerned. I am also very proud of this year’s group in the way they have worked to meet the challenge. While you may not see improvement, I certainly do. The adjustments to open ended questions, fast pacing, elevated vocabulary and a college level monograph are not easy, but the rewards are meaningful – and long lasting. This is not a school experience that will fade from memory once the final is taken! My goal as an educator is to help students reflect on the process of learning, not their grade. I want students to learn what study and reading strategies work for them, to identity strengths and weaknesses in their own writing, but mostly, to practice the critical thinking skills that will help them succeed in college.
As for grades, you will soon see a series of fairly straightforward quizzes that engaged and organized students will have little trouble mastering. At the end of this marking period, the hurricane tracking chart is a test grade and frankly, is an easy “A”. These should pull your student’s average up considerably. In addition, there is extra credit available on the website to offer a little insurance. I know it’s tough, but I’d like you to try to take the long view of this semester and the goals we have of improving analytical thinking, success on the End of Course Exam and college readiness. We have made a strong start.
On another note, we’ll be extending our conversation about human identity and group membership to the next level in the coming two weeks. To do that, we will look at the events leading up to, during and after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. I believe students need to be engaged on an emotional and ethical level in addition to an intellectual one. This adds meaning and context to the academic experience. I have taught this unit several times in the past and students find it thought provoking and relevant. If you would like to know more about our readings and the PBS Frontline documentary, Ghosts of Rwanda, you will find them on the website here http://www.binghamsplace.com/identity-membership--community.html including a complete transcript of the film.
As always, thank you for the privilege of guiding your student’s education. I take your trust seriously.