Stir Up the World

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 19 2011

the dawn of Ms. S

Today marks the beginning of Week 2 of Institute.  In other words, we’re 20% done with Institute, and if you include Induction, 1/3 of the way with our summer TFA training!  That’s great!

This week was really long.  But it was good, at the same time.  I learned SO much about lesson planning, classroom management, and investing my students.  “Investing” is one of those TFA words that I now find myself using more often than I’d care to admit.  In that vein, it’s hard for me to be completely invested in my class this summer (that’s probably because I haven’t met them — I’m sure meeting them will change everything).  I’m teaching the same group of entering 8th graders with one other math teacher and 2 English teachers, and we share a classroom and all of the decisions for that classroom.  It’s been like the ultimate group project, and the stakes are high.  We’ve all ended up compromising our own very specific ideas for our future classrooms, and some of it has been hard for me, because we’re doing things differently than I would do them myself.  So it’s easy to say to myself, “Well, when I have my own class, I’ll do this…”.  But I know I need to be grateful to have the support and collaboration of my co-teachers, and take advantage of that while I can.  Plus they’re amazing people.

One thing I did notice about this last week is that when you have as rigid of a structure as TFA enforces during the week, you don’t have time to think or feel a whole lot. But when that structure goes away, as it does on the weekends, all of those thoughts and feelings that you haven’t let yourself think and feel all week hit you very hard.

I had thought I was holding up so well all week — it was really hard to get up at 4:15 every morning, but I didn’t feel too tired for the rest of the day most days.  I even managed to go to the gym.  But yesterday morning was a different story.  It was like my exhaustion finally caught up with me, and it took me two hours to drag myself out of bed, a full six hours (wow!) after I normally got up.  And the emotions caught up too — they were mostly good, but all very extreme and it was a mood swing-y kind of day.

Thankfully I got a lot done, and I’m starting to feel more comfortable with lesson planning!  I need to practice and practice so that I get faster at them.  That’s the main reason I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep so far: it takes me too long to plan lessons.  But that’s normal, I guess, and that’s why they’re giving us all of these really strict deadlines: to force us to learn to lesson plan efficiently.

We had a nice little ceremony at my school on Friday, where we received our “Teacher Names”.  It was pretty cool, actually, even though all our “Teacher Names” entailed was a lanyard and a plastic nametag with “Ms. S” written on it.  We’ve all started calling each other by our last names, just to get used to it.

Today is church, calling my parents, rehearsing my lessons for this week, and hopefully meeting with my co-teachers about this week.  There’s a lot we have to do before the students come tomorrow, and that makes me just a little bit nervous.

Speaking of nervous: the students come tomorrow!!!  Eeep!  All we’re doing is teaching rules and procedures and giving a diagnostic, so it shouldn’t be too bad, but I still have my moments of terror.  I teach the last block of the day, and they happen to have lunch right smack dab in the middle of my block.  So tomorrow I have to supervise their taking a test that they’ve already been working on for an hour, walk them through the school to the cafeteria, sit and eat lunch with them, walk them back, and make them finish said test after they’ve had lunch.  That’s what I’m the most nervous about, and I’m prepared to do whatever I need to do (there might be bribery involved) to get them to walk to and from the cafeteria silently, because that’s when the rest of the school is watching them (and me).

Then on Tuesday I’m teaching Order of Operations.  I have a very scripted lesson plan and I plan to rehearse it a lot today, but I still have this fear that I’ll be up there talking and somehow I won’t teach the kids anything.  But I am grateful that you only ever have one first day of teaching, and every day has to be better than that because it’s not your first day.  Even if things go badly and the kids misbehave, it’s still not your first day of teaching.

Overall, Institute has been a good experience so far.  Though the sleep deprivation isn’t very fun, I’m spending all day each day learning and working with great people, and it’s all for the kids.  I’m sure I’ll realize that even more when I actually meet them.

This was ridiculously inspirational to me.  My principal showed it at the end of the day the other day, and it was a good reminder that we will get better at this whole teaching thing.  We just have to practice.  Everyone feels like they suck at lesson planning/teaching right now, and we’re not very good yet, but it’s important to remember that it’s normal not to be good at something right away.  We’re all such overachievers that we forget that, and we forget that all of the other overachievers are feeling the same way.

Hopefully that I’ll remember that this week, and I’ll feel “happy of myself” when I do make progress!

4 Responses

  1. Beth

    Good luck this week! Don’t let those middle schoolers give you any crap. :)

  2. samanthaebloom

    Hey! I am a 2011 CM in Chicago! It seems you are off to a great start! MY first day of institute is tomorrow! LOVED the video! Made me laugh out loud! Good luck!

  3. Gary Rubinstein

    Beware of PEMDAS. Worst math mnemonic ever since it leads kids to believe that 5-2+1=2 since the ‘A’ is before the ‘S’. Instead tell them that if there’s just adding and subtracting, go left to right. Have them practice that for a while. Avoid negative numbers. Then show that if there’s only multiplication, again go from left to right, so 12/2*3 is not 2, but 18.

    Then when there is a mix of the four operations, have them put a box around each of the ‘terms’ (separated by + and – signs) Then have them simplify each of the boxes from left to right. Then they will have a problem with just + and -, and they do that from left to right. Don’t worry about exponents and parentheses for one day. If they can all do 8/2*4-12/3*2+4*6/3 and get it right, you’ve accomplished a lot. Trust me.

  4. Gary Rubinstein

    meand ‘only multiplication AND DIVISION’

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June 2011
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"If one desires to 'stir up the world,' it is easy to be impatient with work for the sake of work. Yet no story's end can forsake its beginning and its middle." -Joshua Wolf Shank on Abraham Lincoln