The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 12 2012

Roller-Coaster Thursday

Day 26: Try as it might, my day could not make up its damn mind. I felt like I spend the day veering back and forth between “brink of disaster” and “looks and sounds pretty much perfect.”

I teach a lot on Thursdays, so I’ll try to give the abbreviated version here. Periods 1 and 2 are the first double block of the day. I, my student who struggles the most, came late, totally missing my lecture, got to a second consequence, shut down, and I had to ask the principal to recover him from class … and yet he stayed in class, not doing much. Another struggler, M, tapped his way to a second consequence, then got a quick third for rocking his chair back and forth when I asked him not to. In the meantime, the other 22 students persisted through a tricky class on controls, stayed on task, stayed silent when asked, and generally nailed the lesson. I was so preoccupied with I and M that it didn’t hit me until the end of the class just how great everyone else had been.

Periods 3 and 4 are the second double block. The low point came when a student managed to puncture my stress ball, resulting in a clear, viscous substance oozing out onto the desk. One student, E, made a quick trip to the office when she could not, despite a reminder, pull it back together after the grand ball-puncturing. Some death stares and admonishing to ignore the gooey ex-stress ball later, I suddenly had a focused, on-task class. Again – I was so stressed I hadn’t even noticed.

Period 6 was frustrating; my two J’s continued a week-long trend of getting confused, then getting frustrated, then giving up on any prayer of learning the material, despite my best efforts to offer my help. I had one J move her seat to the back, where she stared at 5th graders at recess, and forced the other J to stay in her seat, where she made half-hearted progress. The trend continues; I was so preoccupied with these mopey ladies that neglected to realize until the very end of class that everyone else had been wonderful.

To summarize, this was one of those days when the forest looked very different from the trees. When I fixated upon the students who I didn’t get today, my day didn’t look so hot. But when I thought harder about the whole story, it really wasn’t that bad. No class got out of control. Most kids persevered through a tricky objective. Many kids showed leadership in their willingness to help classmates.

The lesson I’m taking away is to be proud of the wins. That’s not to say I and M and E and J and J and anyone else for that matter should be ignored. It’s more than those are five kids. I taught 93 others today. And I did a perfectly fine job.

Also, to wrap up with completely unrelated and quite awesome news, here is a direct quote from my Facebook wall: “Happiness is a touch football game with 6th graders, earned via the “tickets” I give kids for doing the right thing, narrowly lost by team “growth mindset” when its fearless quarterback threw a somewhat pre-planned interception to team “snapping turtles” on the last play of the game.” Reason number 473 why I love my job.

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