Students are placed ‘at risk’ when they experience a significant mismatch between their circumstances and needs, and the capacity or willingness of the school to accept, accommodate, and respond to them in a manner that supports and enables their maximum social, emotional, and intellectual growth and development.
A dramatic Shakespearean response to every situation
When something bad happens:True is it that we have seen better days.
When something REALLY bad happens:O woe! O woeful, woeful, woeful day! Most lamentable day. Most woeful day That ever, ever I did yet behold! O day, O day, O day! O hateful day! Never was seen so black a day as this.O woeful day! O woeful day!
When people say that something is wrong because the Bible says so:The Devil can cite scripture for his purpose.
When my girlfriend abandons me for food:FRAILTY, THY NAME IS WOMAN!
When someone doesn't thank me for holding the door open for them:BLOW, BLOW, BLOW, THOU WINTER WIND! THOU ART NOT SO UNKIND AS MAN'S INGRATITUDE!
When I burn something while cooking:MY CAKE IS DOUGH!
When human stupidity frustrates me:LORD, WHAT FOOLS THESE MORTALS BE!
When someone says I'm going to hell for my sins:NYMPH, IN THY ORISONS BE ALL MY SINS REMEMBER'D.
When I'm broke:My pride fell with my fortunes
When someone turns the light on after a period of darkness and blinding light ensues:OH, SHE DOTH TEACH THE TORCHES TO BURN BRIGHT!
When someone disagrees with me:THERE ARE MORE THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH, HORATIO, THEN ARE DREAMT OF IN YOUR PHILOSOPHY.
When I argue with my girlfriend:The course of true love never did run smooth.
When I'm embarrassed:MUST I HOLD A CANDLE TO MY SHAMES?!
Someone says "Good Night":Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.
"Really? We have to think?"-Students. "Uhm, YES."-Me.
"Students have a right to think, and teachers have an ethical obligation to teach them to think and to provide them with meaningful content to think about. Schools and districts are responsible for creating cultures of thought that will empower students to engage in academic disciplines and American democracy." (14)
It is my responsibility to make the curriculum I teach my students both relevant and thought provoking. I find this interesting because often times I question my motives when planning or day dreaming about my future classroom. I wonder if I try to make things relevant simply to, as my sophomores would say, “Have swag.” I realize after reading this chapter that I absolutely agree with what Plaut has to say about my responsibilities as a teacher. And, if I really believe that all students have both the ability and the right to learn (which I like to believe I do), then Plaut’s words resonate even more. I think it is interesting the gap between what I read good teaching is and what I see in my field placements. No offense to the districts I have worked in or the teachers that I have had the privilege of working under, but I don’t think that they necessarily think of teaching as a democratic responsibility. I think if more teachers thought this way, as students being our future in a more realistic sense, we would take our curriculum planning more seriously, and maybe others would look at our profession as more than just a glorified type of babysitting.
" This study makes it clear that high schools need to teach students how to think in order to make then ready for college and the world." (15)
I get so frustrated with my high schoolers. With middle schoolers, I can pose a question, wait for a few moments and someone will at least tempt to answer. They will take a wild guess, an educated guess even…with my high schoolers, you would think that there are crickets in the room. You would think that a sea witch stole their voices and we were all in The Little Mermaid. There is more whining and complaining about the fact that they have to actually use their brains to form a question than I have ever heard about anything in their lives. I wonder who taught them that they didn’t have to think? Who taught them that, if they waited long enough, someone would give them the answer? I think about the fact that many of them are not prepared for the real world and I get really sad because when I spend the extra 15 minutes to poke and prod them to think…they do a really great job. During my unit I am planning on having them work in small groups. I am hoping to eliminate their learned helplessness by creating a culture in which my students HAVE to think.
Today we did a poetry explication as a district assessment. One of my seniors said, “Miss Pierce, I don’t know how to do this. Right now my brain is thinking about fun, not about this stupid poem.” She continued to call me over throughout the course of her explication and ask me reaffirming questions. She was unsure about what words meant and wanted to ask me if her answers were right before she even attempted to type them in a word document. I was getting frustrated, thinking, she is so paralyzed by having been fed the answers for so long, she cannot even construct a sentence without me affirming that she has created the correct answer. What a disservice we have done to these students…who can currently vote, but cannot think. Awesome.
"We talk to them about how they should act maturely, be responsible for their behavior, and not be influenced by negativity, but rather choose a path toward success. Rarely are students given ample opportunities to practice meeting these expectations." (31)
Today we did a poetry explication as a district assessment. One of my seniors said, “Miss Pierce, I don’t know how to do this. Right now my brain is thinking about fun, not about this stupid poem.” She continued to call me over throughout the course of her explication and ask me reaffirming questions. She was unsure about what words meant and wanted to ask me if her answers were right before she even attempted to type them in a word document. I was getting frustrated, thinking, she is so paralyzed by having been fed the answers for so long, she cannot even construct a sentence without me affirming that she has created the correct answer. What a disservice we have done to these students…who can currently vote, but cannot think. Awesome. I have asked my students to do something but have not given them the time to practice what it is I’ve asked them to do.
It’s interesting how, after twenty-three years of life, I still have the ability to discover so much about myself in just three months. Throughout the last three months, middle schoolers have brought out some values and qualities in myself that I never knew existed. I have found that I value the knowledge of my roles and responsibilities. I value the completion of goals and the feeling of accomplishment. I have found that I am observant, caring and empathetic and I have learned that these qualities both shape me as a person and, more specifically, as an educator. I want to know exactly what is being asked of me where ever I am. What is my role? What are my responsibilities? What part do I play in the community I am a part of? How can I serve and model authentic caring and enthusiasm to all around me? In the classroom, those who have taught for a while may say that my role is to simply to teach. I am, after all, the teacher. However, if it were that easy, I don’t think that the field of education would be where it is today. A dear friend of mine recently shared a quote with me. The quote is by Fred Buechner. He says, “Your place is where the world’s greatest need meets your greatest love.” It is all about a blend of these two things for me. What do my students need? What is my greatest love? I really found the balance of these two things to be extremely challenging during my experience in the middle school over the past two months. I believe that every student has the ability to learn. I also believe that it is my responsibility to do anything and everything within my power to make learning happen for my students. I am constantly watching students, observing their behavior in class and with different assignments so that I can analyze their needs. What am I providing for my students that is aiding them in the learning process? What factors am I able to control with their learning? How can I do something differently in order to get the best results from my students? These are all questions I ask every day when I am writing lesson plans. I think about how I phrase everything I present to my students. I think about how they interact with one another and how they interact with me. I have found that the belief that it is my responsibility to cater to each students’ need, to be close to my heart after taking a class on inclusions. There it was brought to my attention that there are such a broad arrange of needs in any one classroom and although it is my responsibility to take my entire class to point A to point B or C, I cannot possibly do so without catering to individual needs of my students. Also, due to my struggles to please those around me, I have found that I have an incredible work ethic. I had no idea that I was willing to work so hard to achieve the goals I set before myself. I am able to reflect on what I have done, make changes and try again. I am flexible, knowing that I will constantly have to learn and grow as my students and this field learn and grow. I am willing to take a look at myself: my attitude, my creativity, my education, my communication, my relationships and see how I can makes changes in order to better both myself and the effect I have on my students. I found that I find great value in the ability to be comfortable. I believe that when I am comfortable, I am willing to take risks and show my students and coworkers my authentic self. I have a need to feel safe in my community and I believe that my students have this same need. I have also found that in order for me to be comfortable, those around me have to feel comfortable; they have to feel safe. Because I am a very intuitive person, I am constantly gauging the energy in each room I enter. I want to know how the words and actions I portray, can create a specific mood or environment in the classroom. This reinforces the value I place in a powerful sense of community in my classroom. I know I will need to build this environment in the beginning of the year and have opportunities throughout the academic year to reinforce that community. I have the strengths and ability to do that through empathy, care and I found that it doesn’t matter what age of youth I am working with, that I have the ability to relate to them. I have a personality that is easy to get along with. I make people feel like they belong…and I like that. Along with this ability to make people feel like they belong, I am all about second chances, forgiveness and letting students know that today is a new day…everyday is new and that they have the ability to start over. I am a positive person and show students that everyday by smiling and caring. In my development as a teacher, I know that I will continue to learn and grow. I am curious. I want to know what resources are available to help me help my students. If I don’t know something, I am on the web, in the library, researching and doing whatever possible to get the information, gain the skills I need to assist my students.
I want to change lives. I want to make each young person that I come into contact with feel valuable, worthy and accomplished. Today, I had to make a mandatory report to DHS due to some confidential information written in a student journal. DHS reporting is not something that makes me nervous, as I have had the opportunity to work with young people for a long time. In my professional role as a life coach at a local non-profit I have been trusted with information like this before. However, no matter how many times I have listened while a young person tells me about something that should have never happened to him or her, the nausea never goes away and the tears still flood my eyes (although I have gotten better at never letting them show until after the student has gone). Since beginning this teaching experience in January, and starting to work through a novel that has very heavy content, I have found some of my biggest fears are very closely tied with some of my biggest goals. I am very concerned with the moral of each and every student that I come into contact with. I want students to trust me, to feel that they have the ability to learn and grow in the safety of the learning community that has been and will be created in my classroom. I want students to be able to jump knowing that when they land there will be some cushion for them to fall onto. While these goals continue showing themselves, the fear of their comfort, their safety and well as the learning community’s growth as a whole keeps me from diving deeper into issues that I feel are important to discuss. It is extremely difficult to walk into a classroom and hold both care and concern as well as absolute authority. This is a balance I haven’t found yet. I want to smile at each of them, create a special bond with each of them but that is hard to do when I am also the one to send them to detention or give them a failing grade on something they did not put their best effort forward on. Today, after I made the call to DHS and talked with another teacher, I realized that although making reports to DHS is not the most fun part of being a teacher, it is a big part of the responsibility. When the student wrote, “Mrs. Pierce Only” on her journal entry, she was deciding to trust me with a precious secret. She felt safe enough to let me know. So, as I held back the tears and filled out paper work, I knew that while I’m still working on becoming a better teacher, the battle between my biggest goals and biggest fears is worth fighting, even if she is the only one whose life is changed by it.
I have to remember that I am my worst critic, with the exception of my CT of course, whose thought provoking questions have really helped me grow. I spent a few hours last night perfecting a lesson plan in which I would put students in groups of four. Each student would have a task: to find a quote that shows either thought/feeling, action, appearance or dialogue of Melinda. I had planned on placing students with varying abilities within groups and felt that letting students interact with the text in a group setting would be a great change of pace for them. I want them to enjoy what we are reading and I feel that if I spend too much more time on guided reading activities, that they will loose their interest in what is going on with the novel and also in the class in general.
Upon my arrival at the school, I asked my CT a few questions and after we got to talking, ended up throwing out the original plan entirely and going more toward a more traditional approach. I spent my prep. period typing up the procedure portion of the new lesson plan and perfected some things that he and I had discussed in an earlier meeting about an observation he did on me yesterday. We discussed that my transitions are taking a considerable amount of time during class and because of that, I am not using the time allotted to have students learn the maximum amount of time possible. We also discussed classroom management. We discussed that I have no problems getting students to be quiet but that he is not always convinced that they are engaged. I took this news to heart and immediately started thinking about how I could engage all 33 students in my class. A weakness that I have discussed with my CT previously is that I am used to being able to have one on one interactions with students and there just is not time for this during class. I really just need to take a deep breath and know that I will not have all students engaged at all times. However, I’m not really a fan of this. I think about things like class size and wonder if I would be able to keep 20 students engaged or 10. I wonder if I had been at the school since September if my presence would be more powerful and the learning community that I had built would enforce a better learning community. Because I value personal relationships I have a hard time not knowing how each student is doing at every moment during class. This causes me to be easily distracted because I go student by student asking if they understand and how they are doing. I also get caught up in trying to herd 33 students through an activity and I’m unable to read their facial expressions or stop and feel their energy. I want my students to get a balance of both academic success and personal growth within my classroom. It’s hard when I don’t feel like I am giving them this opportunity.
I have this thing where I make connections with kids fairly easily. When I was a senior in high school, I only went to school for half of the day. Every afternoon/evening, I worked at an after school program at the elementary school. I spent anywhere from two to four hours with the same group of kids over the course of the academic year. I would help them with homework, my collegues and I would play gym games with them as well as board games and other activities. There were a few of the students that I connect with on a deeper level than that of simply supervising and it just so happens that returning to the same school district six years later, I recognize many of them sitting in the desks of my classroom. One student in particular sparked my attention. During the first few weeks of my placement he sat, his posture resembling a limp lazy toad, at the back table of my classroom next to one of the smartest, most attentive student in the school. Limp lazy toad student was practically swimming in his Carhart jacket and his blond sandy hair matched the jackets color. He kept his head up by perching it on the palm of his left and and kept awake (most of the time) by blinking slowly and every so often, liking his lips. When I would check on his progress through an assigned activity there would be nothing written on his paper and his responses to my questions stayed generally the same, “I don’t know how to do this,” “Wait…I’m confused.” I checked this students grades and was saddened when I saw a 37.2% in Language Arts. I began to ask Mr. CT-man an annoying number of questions and when I felt like he was beyond annoyed I journeyed to the Special Education department to annoy the pants off of someone else who might help me understand the student who seemed to “not-understand” anything in class. I learned quickly that the student hadn’t made much progress in reading since I’d left him in this small town almost 6 years ago. My heart sank when I heard that he probably never will learn how to read and because of how big our classes are and how small our budget is in comparison, this student doesn’t get the one on one explanation or attention he needs most of the time. I walked away from the meeting with a set of goals. (1) Make him smile: in my opinion a lot of the limp lazy toad attitude could be quickly changed given the opportunity for a fresh start in the class everyday and that could be shown through a smile. (2) Make him feel like he has the opportunity and ability to succeed: for the next few weeks I sat next to him during down time and gave him incremental goals. I would say something along the lines of, “Put your name and date on the paper and when I come back I will check on you.” I would give him a few minutes to do so and then would reward him with a high-five or nice comment and then say, “Okay, now three sentences. I will go check on everyone else and when I come back I need to see three sentences.” His limp lazy frog posture changed and he was completing assignments. My third goal was to get his grade up. This student was used to “failing” but the problem was that the standard he was being measured with was not accurate or fair in comparison with his abilities. I began to modify assignments based on his ability and at one point offered him the ability to make up his missing assignments now that he knew he was capable. Today, this student walked into my class smiling. He had a pencil, his journal was filled out and he made jokes with me before the bell rang. His grade in my class is an 89%.
Middle School Winter Placement: Day #2 January, 4th, 2011
“This is Miss Pierce,” Mr. Dimmel announces to a room full of teachers. Okay, so there were seven of us, but that is a full room of teachers at this middle school. “Kalin, you can call me Scott, which I know is weird for you since for your entire high school career, you referred to me as, ‘Mr. Dimmel’.” It was true. He was Mr. Dimmel to me, and I had spent the four years of high school dodging his recruits to the girls basketball team and the government assignments in his Sophomore US history class. Now, we are colleagues. Sitting next to him is Mr. Cots, who taught me sixth grade math, another one of my poorest subjects. But, sitting next to me, is a kind face whose warm hand touches my arm and offers some comfort, “I’m Emily, hun, it’s so good to have you here,” she says, and I’m okay. We talk about six students in today’s SST meeting. The students are struggling with a range of difficulties from being caught smoking marijuana in the girls bathroom last trimester to possibly suffering from spectrum disorder. I don’t say a word for the 45 minutes, I just listen. I jot down some notes, hoping to do some google searches later on ‘Spectrum Disorder’ and ‘Oppositional Defiance Disorder’ and I know that I would really like to check on these statistics that are being recited (something like, “10% of our middle schoolers are using drugs right now which is up from last year,” and things of the like). Today I was also able to put some words to the emotions associated with my placement so far. I’ve coined the term “culture shock.” I didn’t coin it for middle school, but more for the classroom I’ve been placed in and that I’m unsure what my roles and responsibilities are. It’s much like arriving in another country and not knowing whether or not you’re supposed to throw your toilet paper in the toilet or the garbage can…I also am surprised at how comfortable I am with the students and uncomfortable with being unsure how my CT will like my comfort level with the students. If that makes sense. I want my CT to leave the room and let me do my thing. Today I told him that I wasn’t ready to teach a little blurb of the lesson. I think he might think it’s because I am nervous about teaching. Really, it’s that I’m nervous that he is nervous about my teaching and I would rather not make a single person in the room feel uncomfortable. That’s no good for anyone. I found somethings that I enjoy about my placement already. I like how my CT and the other 7th/8th language art teacher collaborate and lesson plan together so that all of the 7th and 8th graders are getting the same curriculum. I like that my CT has a large vocabulary that he uses with the kids. I like that he has control in his classroom (although I’m not sure I like the method he uses to gain that control just yet).
“Take me back to my own planet…BED.”
I wonder if it is normal to not want to be here. I really mean it. I mean, I would rather be anywhere than standing on this off-white-brownish carpet in my kitten heels. These black slacks make me want to vomit and paired with this button up shirt and lacy cami? Oh heck no, this is not what I want to be doing. My low ponytail is better suited for someone who knows what they are doing and, the fact of the matter is, that person is clearly not who I am. I know my CT is trying to be nice, but the fact is, middle school is not my thing. It was my thing at one point though. In fact, this middle school was exactly my thing…when I went here, almost 11 years ago. Gross. On any other day, I would want to be here. I would run through my mind picking ideas like flowers, wondering how I could inspire the students, how I can make them feel better about themselves and the world around them. Lately, however, motivation is nowhere to be found and in his place is desire. Desire has a lot of family but the one who has befriended me is desire to sleep. Or maybe desire to lay in bed? Anyway, they resemble each other and I think I met them both through my lack of ability to say no to my boss and others around me. Either that or social anxiety introduced us, I can’t remember which. I stand quietly in the hall next to Mr. CTman and he rambles on about the culture of the school. As bodies fill the hall way, I wish myself into my bedroom but alas, I am still here, on this godforsaken carpet. As bodies pass I can feel the awkward stage that each is in. One passes with more facial hair than my older brother can grow at age 27 and another scurries past as if he just left the womb instead of a school bus. I know this would be easier if I weren’t feeling as awkward as they are but as the last body passes my CT and I with an oversize sweatshirt and her hood like an umbrella over her head, I can’t help but wish I was her. I smile and say good morning. An hour or so later, I receive a small scolding due to saying, “Hey” and “You guys,” in my introduction speech where I should have said, “Hello” and “students.” Again, I wish for my bed. An hour or so after the small scolding, we make our way into the computer lab. I remember it being a lot larger when I was at the middle school but the basement hasn’t changed a bit and apparently, neither have the computers. My CT walks the students through an assignment on google docs and I wander around the room helping the students. Every time a student moves, I catch a whiff of B.O and I look around wondering if my CT or any other adults in the room can recognize the smell. Apparently, I am the only one who notices. When I take my seat, it takes me a while to catch on to what Mr. CTman is instructing the students to do so, I listen intently, pushing thoughts of a warm, fluffy comfortable bed, out of my mind. Mr. CTman speaks in a language I can only recognize a few words in. At least, this is what I feel for the first two minutes I listen. Finally, I understand the language. Mr. CTman explains, “You want to-James-go to the icon-Jasmine- on the bottom of the-Greg-page,” pause, “Thank you Nathan for not talking, now-Jesse- scroll the page…” Mr. CTman continues while I decipher each name he fits perfectly into his sentence. When the class period is over he tells them to put their keyboards “Where keyboards belong,” and says things like, “It would be a good idea to quit talking,” and, “I love that you guys are all sitting so quietly,” (when in fact they weren’t at all). I don’t want to be here…in this foreign place where I don’t know how to relate to kids or their teachers. I don’t enjoy not understanding what my roles and responsibilities are. I don’t know about this whole middle school thing. I just don’t. And while I know I will rise to the challenge, I also know that middle schoolers are: challenging. I want to have intellectual conversations, not see how many of their names I can fit into a sentence while I give them instructions. Maybe I’ll organize a deodorant drive…
Throughout my journey in the classroom, the interactions I have had with young people, teachers and faculty members have shown me what I value. What matters to me is what makes me who I am. It is what defines me as a teacher and is the well that I will continually be dipping my bucket into in hopes to give water to the young people I come into contact with in the classroom every day. Over the last few months, this is what I have discovered, what has been reinforced and what continues to surprise me: I value relevance in curriculum. I value direct interaction with youth in such a way that the lessons that I teach will be relevant to their lives and to situations they are encountering every day. I value passion. I value opinions and those who have taken stances on difficult decisions.
I value active listening. The least I will be for someone is a set of ears… the least. I have found that for many young people, troubles come because there has been a lack of validation. There has been a lack of some one in their lives to truly listen to what is coming from their hearts. There is a lack of an open space in which it is okay to say something simply to taste it’s words on your tongue or to ask a question in order to be prompted to ask another. It is in this facet that I value vulnerability, openness and honesty in both myself and my students. I do not enjoy unhealthy conflict and in it’s place I would like to create healthy community within my classroom. I value community where every one is heard and their voice is acknowledged. It is in this community that I care about comfort- mine as well as my students. Also, I value a willingness to become uncomfortable if it means that we are all learning and growing. More than almost any other core quality, I would say that I possess the core quality of deep care. I would say this because what I value over almost anything else is value itself. I want to bring value to the students I teach, value to their existence, to their inclusion in my class, in their community and the world as a whole. In order to present value to my students, I need to be heard, felt and understood by them. I need this form of respect from my students in order to offer the same respect to my students. I value the students who have slipped between the cracks. I want to care about the ones who haven’t been cared about before. I want to provide visibility to those who have been deemed: the invisible.
I want to be real with my students. I want to teach them that dreams and goal are real as are the struggles they will face when they decide to not settle for the life others have told them they have to live. I want them to see that they can implement change, that they can make the world a better place and that the true definition of success is being defined by them everyday. There will always be things happening in the political realm of teaching. I will not become hard hearted or bitter because of it. I will model this for my students and show them that there will always be something happening that you disagree with or that makes your life more difficult but, you always have the ability to overcome those things and continue striving toward the goals you have set before yourself.
I will be love for my students. On occasion, I will have the opportunity to be the type of love that rewards them for a job well done. I will be the kind smile that greets them everyday, the one that tells them that I will see them tomorrow. Sometimes I will be the tough love. I will be the one who doesn’t accept minimal effort. I will be the one that tells them to try again. I will be the kind of love that tells them that they are great but that they can be even greater. I will find what I am needed to be for my students and I will be it. ***
Something that I have also discovered over the past few months is that I will always be a work in progress. In my endorsement area, in the teaching profession, in a world with youth who are constantly changing, in a world that is always demanding new things and presenting new challenges. With that being said, I have a great list to beginning working on. With all of the large scale of things that I value, comes opportunity for students to take the small steps to achieve great things. Often times I find myself so lost in the great abyss of what could be in the future, that I rarely give my students the designated time or space to complete the baby steps across the abyss I just set before them. I am constantly reminding myself to slow down and to be patient but I, much like the middle schoolers I am learning from, need to be reminded of various things over and over again. I need to draw a line between friend, teacher, mentor and whatever other roles I have played in my life and decide what it is I want to be in the classroom and what my expectations are for myself as well as my students.
I am working on consistency. I feel that this is my biggest challenge. Different days determine what amount of chatter within the classroom I will tolerate and what the first warning is…or if there even is a first warning. I am working on what I believe to be accurate disciplinary actions and slowing down enough to think about what punishments fit what crime.
I am confident that there will be a day when I am able to solidify the values I posses, compact them with the things I struggle with and make a beautiful community of learners out of the experiences I’ve had. Like a great professor once told me, “We are all a work in progress. Be gentle with yourself.”
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”—Neil Gaiman (via lhuddles)
“To study is to uncover; it is to gain a more exact comprehension of an object; it is to realize its relationships to other objects. This implies a requirement for risk taking and venturing on the part of the student, the subject of learning, for without that they do not create or re-create.”—Paulo Freire from Teachers as Cultural Workers (via educatedtodeath)
My 7th/8th grade language arts class is analyzing the lyrics to this song and has been working on various activities over the last few days in relation to advice. I’ve heard the song before, in fact, my father played it at my grandfather’s funeral when I was in the fourth grade. I remember…
Whenever I hear complaints from students about how much they hate to read, I tell them to at least appreciate the book and savor the words. If permitted, the ink on the page has the potential to sink in, resonate, and leave an impression. One day the story may save their lives.
Today I left my student teaching experience almost in tears. Might I just add that I’m not sure that I enjoy the mixed emotions that this whirlwind of a career bring about in me? The day started out by running into my CT on my way to her classroom. She was rushing and handed me her keys, letting me know that there was a student waiting in our classroom but she was on her way to a very important IEP. She gave me instructions to grab him and go into our small school’s lab, to set up the computers and get the kids ready to do research on their senior projects.
I was feeling pretty professional as I erased the left over dry-erase instructions that the last teacher had written on the board, and went around the lab turning on computers. The feeling of professionalism and being “good at what I do,” left as a few students rushed the window from the outside of the building. I walked toward the window and teased my seniors, “What are you guys going to do, crawl through the window?” The boys responded with a “Duh,” and started attempting their climb. I protested and was explaining how ridiculous it was for them to want to climb through the window and what kinds of trouble I would get in if I even considered letting them climb through the window. Looking straight at one of the students, I saw his face get very serious as he gazed behind me. I turned and saw another teacher giving the “teacher” look to him and his friends. I told her thank you as I walked away from the window, feeling defeated and wondering if I would have gotten them to obey my instructions had she not walked into the lab. She talked with me and told me that as the years go by, I would develop the look I needed but right now, the students are going to challenge me because of my age and newness to the profession. She had a gracious smile and was very encouraging and I felt supported by her words, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had failed at my first real attempt to get the students to behave. I felt a little robbed.
The same group of boys filed into first period, goofing around and giving me a hard time. This behavior is conducive to our relationship and I gave the hard time right back to them as I told them that they caused me to get a “nice, firm talking to,” They laughed a bit and the period continued to be rowdy. I felt about 40 minutes into the period that I would need to walk out and gather my gumption before third period entered the lab. I was frustrated because it seemed like none of the students were taking their time in the lab seriously, and I know that their senior projects are a huge part of this year and getting them prepared to graduate.
At that moment, and even now, hours later, reflecting on it, an unsettling feeling grips me. Honestly, I think senior projects are dumb, and the whole topic makes me feel not good enough: like I can’t answer their questions because the stakes are so high and I don’t want to lead them astray…
Third period was much better because I was able to address the class as a whole before they begin. I let them know that if I saw them off task, we would walk back to the classroom and spend “my” time on something that benefits them in a more “language arts way,” I circulated throughout the lab frequently and I really believed that helped.
After class I talked to my CT about the IEP meeting, a student we had to send to student management due to reeking of marijuana. I left disheartened because but also encouraged because I was able to spend really good one on one time with quite a few students and develop rapport with some whom I haven’t really gotten to know yet.
Sometimes I worry that my leadership style is to “friendly.” I could use teacher terms, but I will stray from jargon.
Simply stated: it’s hard to see what kind of authority I will have in a classroom when I don’t know a lot of things.
For example: I don’t know what a good senior project is based on my CTs requirements. The woman is a genius…so why would you ask me when you could ask her and guarantee a better grade? Right…
"PIERCE!" one of my students calls me. With another, I discuss her nails- they are cute :)
I do help. I do teach. I do love literature.
It’s just hard sometimes when you are half in charge of things.
I love my CT. She let’s me take over the class and the blink of an eye, teaches me when I’ve made a mistakes and helps me laughs always. She is so smart and I hope that someday I will know as much about the school I work at and the subject I teach as she does.
“Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching’s great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor. It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn.”—Parker Palmer