The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 06 2013

Worth It

Day 130: Normal Thursdays are exhausting. I have no preps, and by the end of the day, my brain feels like mush. So, clearly, it was a brilliant plan to schedule the health fair on a Thursday. Seriously. Just brilliant.

The day started with my two double blocks. Fortunately, I had no talking to do. At this point, kids knew what they had to get done to have their presentations ready by the end of class. That said, I spent each double block bouncing back and forth, solving 30 different problems. I pointed out missing components of the projects, I picked up scissors and glue sticks, I solved computer issues, I sent kids to pick up printouts in the library.

Normally, I’d have recess and lunch to hide and decompress. Not this time. Too many kids worrying about their projects, coming in to finish typing, finish printing and finish gluing.

If the double blocks were at least a little calm, the single blocks were bat-shit crazy. Both of those classes had less time to complete their projects in class, and figured that out with about 30 minutes of work time to go. This led, of course, to even-more frantic printing and cutting and gluing. One student, MS, turned to me and asked, “Why did we have only two weeks to do this project?!?” A week earlier, I might have had an articulate answer, but in my exhausted state, all I could do was shrug.

8th period is our “Gateway Project,” which is when the 6th graders do projects in teams. I manage the “Green Team,” which effectively manages our school’s recycling efforts. Normally, I can deal with the insanity of watching my sixth graders run all over the school seeking plastic bottles. This time, I asked the music teacher to watch them on the stage, and ran to the nearby taqueria for a taco and horchata. I was hungry, but more importantly, I had 10 minutes without kids. I’m not sure I’d ever felt more like I was about to fall over at school.

School ends at 3:15, technically. However, most kids stuck around, doing more work on their projects. Fortunately, I had most of the 6th grade teachers around to manage. That said, I was still running around like an idiot. I made sure the cafeteria was set up for the event, I procured laptops, I ordered pizza for kids (and then managed the kids selling and eating it). This went on until the event started at 5 pm. Thank goodness for adrenaline.

Finally, it was 5 pm. I paged all of the 6th graders down to the cafeteria, and told them to set up their boards. By 5:15, we already had a bunch of visitors, both parents and younger students. I told 6A and 6C they would present first, while 6B and 6D would be audience members first. With that, my work was essentially done, and I got to step back and see how the fair would unfold.

And you know what? It kicked ass. Every poster I went to looked amazing. Kids were speaking knowledgably about their work to groups of up to 10 people at once. Kids were running up to me, asking me to bring even more people to their posters, and I happily obliged. Kids were legitimately teaching people information they did not know; I had one adult come up to me and say, “I had no idea you could get melanoma on your eyeball!” (I didn’t either, actually)

There were so many awesome moments. There was a respiratory system group passing out no smoking cards to visitors, with one little girl holding hers up proudly for a photo. There was a group of girls (who hate me) passing out clipboards to collect questions related to Type II Diabetes, and asking me to bring more and more people over. There was the boy who showed up in shirt and tie, proudly presenting to his mom and four sisters.

The bottom line: It doesn’t get much better than kids learning, then teaching others what they’ve learned, and feeling as if their new knowledge has empowered them to act as an expert. Plus, the kids were actually enjoying sharing their good work.

The kids started filtering out around 6. I stayed until about 7:30, cleaning up from the event. I was exhausted, with relatively little idea what I’d be doing with kids the next day, and even less energy and desire to plan something. Ultimately, I would fall asleep with my fingers over my keyboard around 10:30 pm.

Still, all I could do was smile. My kids had killed it, and I’d set them up to do something really meaningful. Sometimes, it’s all worth it.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
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