The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 14 2012

Big Win, Big Loss

Day 67: I attempted my first-ever Socratic Seminar today, or at least what I think was a Socratic Seminar. The plan was for kids to discuss the question, “What does it mean to be alive?” I gave my kids an interesting text to read, put them in a circle, gave them some handy sentence starters – “I respectfully disagree” – and sent them off.

And you know what? It was AMAZING. Hearing my sixth graders react to each other in meaningful ways to discuss a challenging question put me on a huge teacher high. Everyone was respectful and professional, completely living up to my challenge to act like the college and law school students who typically use Socratic Seminars. Reading their reflections after, kids said they enjoyed hearing each others’ opinions, and listening to all of the different perspectives. Lastly, it’s pretty damn cute to hear a sixth grader pull off, “What the speaker said resonates with me.”

In short, I have never seen my kids look older and more mature as learners than they did today. We’re definitely breaking out the Socratic Seminars more often in the future.

In unrelated news, JR withdrew from school today. I knew it the moment the principal called all of her academic teachers to the office. Upon hearing the news, I crossed my arms protectively and tuned out most of the details, turning instead inside my head. If you’re just tuning in, JR was the biggest behavior issue in the 6th grade, but she was also the student I saw the most, spent the most time with, and had given the most pep talks to.

I’ve decided I have three reactions to this news. First, I am disappointed. I truly believed she could turn it around. I don’t know where she’s going next, but it’s somewhere I can’t help her, and that powerlessness is immensely frustrating. Plus, while I love all of my students – I really do – I poured a particularly large volume of love into this student.

Second, to be completely honest, I’m relieved. JR might have been a little better behaved for me than more most, but she was still a handful who routinely disrupted otherwise on-task classes. Today, 6B was perfect, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it happens again tomorrow.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I feel 100 percent sure that I did everything I could to support JR. I honestly believe I could not have cared more, done more, loved more or helped more. As disappointed as I am that JR is gone, I am proud that I did my best to support her.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

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