To Infinity and Beyond

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 07 2010

I taught kids today

Today was my first day teaching in the classroom, with real students (not other corps members pretending to be students) and a complete lesson plan with the objective: “Students will be able to evaluate absolute value expressions.”

It’s hard to know where to begin this post because there is so much to say. So, I’ll write “field-note” style (Yay anthropology!) and give a temporal breakdown of the day.

7:30-8:00AM Prepare room, review lesson plan and classroom management procedures.
8:00AM Class is *supposed* to start. Number of students in class at 8:00AM = 1 (out of 19).

8:20AM Ok, seriously now, students should have arrived by now. Number of students in class at 8:20AM = 5.

8:20-9:00AM My co-teacher teaches her lesson on order of operations. We decided to do this before introducing our rules, expectations, and consequences (both positive and negative) since there were so few students. (This was a bad idea– we knew we should teach behavior before anything else, but didn’t know what to do when the rest of the class trickled in.)

9:00AMĀ  There are now 15 students in class. It’s my turn to lead-teach (meaning I am acting as the only adult in the room, others are only observing), so I start by laying down our classroom management plan. And let me tell you, there was no messing around at this point. I was serious and was rockin’ the “teacher voice.”
9:30AM After a solid 30 minutes of teaching procedures and setting clear expectations (we’re told this is crucial to successful classroom management, and I agree), I finally begin my lesson and start to implement the consequence I had just introduced. As much as I would have liked my class to mirror the sample videos we watch on how to have excellent classroom management, this was far from the case. Students proceeded to answer their cell-phones, constantly talk while the teacher is talking, sleep, and flat out refuse to write anything down. Fortunately though, one of my strengths was maintaining high behavioral expectations, so things improved as students started to realize I was serious and would hold them accountable to the rules.
9:30AM-10:00AM The actual content of my lesson went okay considering it was my first day. The biggest surprise to me was exactly how far behind these students are. They are rising 12th graders who do not know that 1/2= 0.5 or that 2-4 = -2. I do not exaggerate. Although I have learned so much about educational injustice in this country and heard plenty of first-hand examples, it was saddening and completely different to see this reality from my own eyes. After grading my exit-slips (short assessments used to check understanding at the end of a lesson), I realized that the majority of their mistakes came from 4th-6th grade math content, not necessarily misunderstanding on the objective I taught.
I’ve learned a lot today and had an extremely helpful debrief session with my corps member advisor. Tomorrow’s lesson is on evaluating expressions with negative and zero exponents– I’m looking forward to implementing some of the feedback I received for improvement.

One Response

  1. Asma

    Thanks for posting your blog! Wow I am in awe of how well you handled the kids. Congrats and keep up the great work!

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About this Blog

A Teach for America teacher's experience.

D.C. Region
Middle School

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