The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 31 2012

Best-Laid Plans

Day 38: There’s a great line that goes, “Want to tell G-d a joke? Make a plan.”

I know kids get loopy after long weekends, especially unintended hurricane-forced long weekends, and especially when any friends of theirs in neighboring towns still have school off. So, I tried to plan. I created a vocabulary review foldable, and planned to talk for no more than a couple of minutes so kids could get right to work.

Three times this worked. The fourth time … not so much. J in my last period class had been taken out of her 7th period class, and despite my best attempts to get her settled, she wasn’t having it. After I redirected her away from a crying friend in the back of the room, she was sullen, but doing the work. Then came the sucking of teeth. Then came the funny noises. Then came the talking to friends. Finally, I asked her to leave.

She was sent back from the office with no explanation, and was doing her work … Until her friend JV (the crying one) said out loud, “I hate this class!” J promptly responded, “I know, right?” Both gone, immediately, and told they weren’t returning. JV is more than a little dramatic, and the crying began again in earnest. When the girls came to see me after school and I let them know I was calling home … well, it wasn’t pretty.

Now, this story is nowhere near all bad. I had three classes that went perfectly fine. Plus, both kids will get over it. J even came to hang out after school. That’s teaching. Sometimes plans don’t work. Sometimes kids are kids.

I’ll finish with one moment that I took as a metaphor for teaching in general. IC, whom I have written about before, finally came to see me to make up his quizzes … more than a little bit encouraged by the principal. After about 90 minutes of off-and-on work, including about 30 straight minutes of actual productivity somewhere in there, he had brought his average up from a 37 to a 53. Not passing, but much closer.

At the end of the day, I printed a picture of the two of us from last year, with “BOSS” above his head, and a congratulations at the bottom for the 16-point jump in his grades. When I encouraged him to show it to the principal, he crumpled it up and started to walk away. After about 10 steps, though, he slowed down, un-crumpled it, and read it again as he walked out the door.

A teacher reaches out, a student rejects the motion, but leaves the door open just a little, leaving some sliver of hope. That’s teaching in 10 seconds or less.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher


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