11 October 2008

The first of many

Last Wednesday marked my first day in a high school classroom as someone other than a student.
I am so excited for the rest of the semester, and next.

Placements began last week. I'm placed with one of my classmates at an area high school, in a ninth grade English classroom. I was slightly nervous, but mostly to meet my mentor teacher. I've been in placements before, so I was past the whole "nervous to meet the students because what if they don't like me?" stage. Plus, it's nice having someone else there with me. I was more excited than anything. Tired, too, because I get there at 7:40 in the morning. Welcome to being a teacher, I told myself, on that count.

We haven't really had much of a chance to interact with the students yet. The most talking to them we did on Wednesday was introducing ourselves to the class. That was more difficult than I thought it was going to be. We practiced a little bit in class earlier in the week, introducing ourselves to each other as we might introduce ourselves to a classroom of students. Once I was up there, though, I told them my name and then, it was like I forgot everything about myself. It's strange being called Ms. Very "othering." All I could think to say was, "I'm an English major at MSU, and I'm in my final year of studying to be a teacher. So, you guys aren't the only students here. We're all learning from each other." Cute, right?

After introductions, we observed the teacher, talked to her about classroom procedures and choices that she's made so far about seating arrangements, etc. in the in-between moments. I feel like we have more to learn from her than we could ever imagine. I was particularly amazed by the fact that, within the first 25 minutes that we were there, she had the class complete three activities. THREE. And in our teaching lab, we're freaking out about having to do one activity in twenty minutes. It comes with knowing what your, and your students are capable of, I suppose. She also pointed out to us that no amount of lesson planning outside of the classroom will ever be able to 100% predict what you actually can get done in the classroom. Her advice was to not get frustrated if you find yourself a day and a half behind in your lesson plans, because you can usually adjust yourself to be back on track in no time. This made me feel a little better about the fact that my otherwise successful lesson in lab the next day went over our 25-minute time limit by a touch.

I was also fascinated by seeing the different atmospheres in her first and second hour classrooms. Both classes are ninth grade, both are literature composition classrooms. They are completely different from one another in every other aspects. First hour seemed pretty tame. The kids answered questions by raising their hands every time, they quietly did their individual and group work when it came time for that. They were just quiet, in general, and in comparison to how I remember high school classrooms being. Second hour was...not like that. The teacher had told me, when I asked her if she had assigned seats, that she had actually let the kids pick their own. This had worked well in first hour, but second hour had already been rearranged once. After ten minutes in second hour, it was pretty clear why. It's not that they are a disruptive bunch. They just like talking. To each other. A lot. You can pick out, too,the kids who would probably find a way to be social butterflies even if you gave them their very own desk in a sound-proof box. It was this class, though, that was further ahead in the lesson plan than the other. Maybe it's because they get through the discussion-based portions more quickly?

I was so glad to be able to just observe in placement this past week. I can't wait to start working with the students, and to figure out with our mentor teacher where she thinks she can incorporate us into instruction. I think we needed that first day, a probably a few more, of solely observation, just to get used to how these classrooms work. Mondays and Wednesdays from here on out are going to be interesting, I think!

Signing off,

Almost Teacher

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