The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 20 2012

Call On Me

Day 12: I’ve already said that with a strong start, I’m able to sweat smaller issues than I did last year. I’m not asking for silence; I’m asking students to track the speaker. I’m not wrangling kids into desks; I’m asking for professional posture.

Today, I ran into a small issue that, for some reason, felt like a big thing. I had a wonderful 6th period, featuring 24 6th graders – several of whom have less-than-angelic reputations – chorally reading a “Big Goal Pledge.” I thought it was so amazing that I could talk kids into doing that, I pulled out my cell phone and recorded a video.

Later, however, I discovered that three of my stronger students were frustrated that I hadn’t been calling on them. They were upset because I was calling on two students a lot, nearly every time they raised their hands. These students who I was calling on were some of those heavy hitters, students who had been struggling in other classes due to volatile personalities.

I knew exactly what I had been doing. My thinking was, if I could invest the most challenging students and engage them in class in a meaningful way, the rest of the class would follow. For the most part, that’s been proven true. However, when S, a student I respect a great deal, was clearly disappointed at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but second guess myself. 15 years ago, I was S, a straight-arrow straight-A hand-raising fiend. And I LOVED participating in class. I would never have wanted that to be taken away.

My challenge for tomorrow, and likely all year, is to walk a more nebulous line than I could last year. Yes, I need to invest my most challenging students, the leaders for good or bad. But I also need to remember to see an entire classroom, and to see myself in my students. S, much like the 12-year-old me, is not about to start a riot in Science class. That said, she deserves my respect and attention, just as much as any heavy hitter.

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