It’s week four and I’m absolutely bewildered by how comfortable I feel in my new teacher skin. The highlight of week one was coming up with my teacher stare, this week’s highlight is consistently (ok, maybe not consistently) using it effectively. I’ve begun to establish the necessary authority in my classroom to control behavior with my eyes…it’s like my own teacher super power! I’m still getting the hang of lesson planning and unit-structuring, but I’m proud to say that classroom management, which was once my greatest challenge, has become one of my stronger skills as a teacher. I’m nowhere near perfect, and there are days where I seriously want to tear my hair out and scream louder than my students (impossible I think), but I don’t have to think about it as much anymore and I can really focus on my lessons and gauge student understanding.
So here comes the next problem–now that I’ve been able to control my class long enough to figure out where my students are and what they know, I’m realizing there are a few students who I’ve failed to notice throughout the summer since they were always so quiet and to an outsider visiting my class would appear to be model students. Now I’m realizing they’re quiet because they don’t want to be noticed, are afraid I’ll call on them to read out-loud (which is very hard on them), and that they are consistently failing my daily quizzes. I wish I had the time to work with them after class, but the structure of institute prohibits me from meeting with students after-school, or from missing sessions to tutor students during lunch. I feel like I’ve failed these students…I feel like I can’t deliver on my promise to prepare them for high school and help them pass my class.
And then there are the students who have demonstrated growth. It’s really exciting to watch them confidently raising their hands, helping other students, and mastering my daily quizzes. They’re taking so much pride in their growth, and they’re fighting to be on my “historian of the week” board which I update every week.
I also feel like I’m starting to establish a really great rapport with my kids…we can joke in the halls, but they take me seriously in the classroom. On Monday I asked my eighth graders to share with me how they spent their weekend. I guess they’ve gotten way too comfortable with me because a couple girls started bragging about getting meeting up with boys at a hotel and getting drunk over the weekend. This was a class conversation, and I just cut it off by saying “Class, this is inappropriate discussion for school so it’s time to start on our lesson.” I’m wondering if I dealt with that in the most appropriate way. Should I call their parents/guardians and inform them? Should I have a talk with them about underage drinking, and its dangers? Anyways, who am I to give them advice on this kind of thing? I’ll admit I engaged in my own deviant behavior in the 8th and 9th grade, so I don’t want to be hypocritical. I keep thinking back to that and wonder if I missed an opportunity to discuss something very important…I hate the idea of my students, who I’ve really grown fond of, doing something that might endanger them. These girls are only 14, and I wonder if they have other people in their lives that they can turn to and talk about this with.
So it’s scary to think that I only have about 7 more days of instruction, and that this is my basis for teaching in the Fall. I really am starting to feel prepared, and I’m happy with the foundation that TFA has built for me here at Institute, but I also know that I have so much more learning to do. What will happen when I go from my class of 14 students, to over 30 (in one period, up to 150 the whole day!)? What about finding time to invest parents and other members of the family/community? I can barely manage to finish a lesson plan before passing out at my desk. I know this will come with time, and I’ve been challenged in the past by steep learning curves that at the time felt almost impossible to overcome. With those experiences I just had to tough it out, keep referring to mentors for advice, and over time things really did get easier. I wonder if this will be the same thing? I hope for the sake of my sanity, and my students’ achievement that it’s at least similar!
At this point I’m also not ready to leave my kids. As I’ve mentioned in just about all my posts, I’m absolutely crazy about them. They’re smart, they’re sassy, they’re funny, and they’re good kids. They also yell, dance and sing, and run around the class until I’m dizzy and exhausted from trying to manage the insanity. I feel like we have so much more learning to do together, me as a teacher, and them about history and all the other useful things I’m trying to convey to them. I will really miss them and it’s sad to think I won’t be able to have a great discussion about politics with D, or research extra information for CD. My funny interaction with C and T after class always make me look forward to after school dismissal, and I can’t stress how sweet A is. Today, C found me after school and announced “Miss, I know I’m your student of the week, but tomorrow I’m going to sleep in your class. I’m bringing a pillow and blanket and everything!” The hilarious thing is that this has become our joke…I know he feels a sense of responsibility with his new title as my student of the week, and he knows he has to be a model to his fellow students. So I’m going to trust that he’ll come in ready to learn tomorrow, and hope that he doesn’t bring that pillow because I might just steal it and sneak a nap during differentiated time which is against the rules…students, don’t tempt me!