The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 25 2012

Aluminum Butterflies

Day 35: There’s nothing like the first lab day of the year to get your heart racing. Forget the bull in the china shop. I’d say 25 12-year-olds with bins of water and a bunch of aluminum foil is just as messy.

Now, that would be challenging in any context. But it also happened to be my weakest class. And they happened to be coming in from the procedures and structure-free zone that is gym class. And I happened to be getting a visit from the ED of TFA Massachusetts.

Well then. I suppose life wouldn’t be fun without challenges.

Last year, I remember getting the advice “fake it ‘til you make it.” The idea there being that even if you don’t feel 100 percent confident, you have to act like you’ve got everything under control … lest the kids realize your insecurity and pounce.

I hadn’t had to “fake it” yet this year. In general, I feel genuinely confident pretty much all the time. However, this perfect storm of circumstances was enough to give me butterflies. I stepped outside to pick my kids up from gym, took a deep breath, put on a big smile and said, “It’s lab time!”

And you know what? The class kicked butt. Aside from one minor abuse of my materials – aka splashing water at someone – the class was just about 100 percent focused and in control. They came in silently, checked out the directions for the day, ran an experiment to see what type of aluminum foil boat could hold the most pennies (by and large, the answer was the circular raft), and cleaned up efficiently. Somehow, those 25 12-year-old crazies managed to walk past each other carrying tanks of water over and over again with zero disaster.

It was about 10 minutes until the end of class when it hit me. This shouldn’t have been a surprise. Every time I’ve given my kids responsibility this year, they’ve owned it. My anxiety was all my own. My kids, per usual, came ready to impress.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
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