The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 09 2013

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight

Day 149: Fourth period today was deeply unsatisfying, for two reasons. First, it was pretty much the most boring lesson I have taught all year. The Do Now was too complicated. There were too many guided notes. The guided practice was silent and low rigor. About 20 minutes in, I realized my kids hadn’t been released, and hadn’t had a chance to talk. No management issues, but zero life in the room as well. It was the kind of lesson I thought I’d left behind for good.

The second reason fourth period felt unsatisfying was that it came just after a meeting with my MTLD and mentor teacher about my teacher licensure. This was effectively 50 minutes of two people I respect telling me I’m great. The only problem was I didn’t really believe it. They were talking about routines that were on life support, and a sense of joy that I hadn’t felt in weeks. Fourth period’s dud made the praise seem all the more out of whack with reality.

And then, a funny thing happened. I resolved to change the script. Working with the same so-so lesson from yesterday, I upped the pace to keep it more lively. I cracked a random joke to teach the meaning of the prefix “a” – “If I randomly turned into a pink elephant who spoke Japanese, that would be atypical.”  And I pushed students with higher-level questions, despite the low rigor of the objective on distinguishing between biotic and abiotic factors.

After school, I had a long talk with our administrative assistant. She caught me hunkered over my computer around 6:45, still at school, planning a lesson on limiting factors in habitats. We spoke for a while about how tired we were, about how challenging the year had felt at times. And then, she told me that when she thought about teachers who gave their all, who did everything in their power to help kids, she thought of me.

It’s been a long year. It’s easy to feel fried, and trust me, I’m fried. But in that moment, I felt so incredibly validated. I’d like to think I have a bunch of strengths as a teacher, but none so powerful as my drive and desire to be better. Today too teacher-directed? I just re-wrote tomorrow’s lesson to release students faster, and give them a chance to actually think like ecologists in the field. Today too dead? I added a slide about how I want to inject more praise into class, and let my students know when they are doing good work.

I’m going to wake up tired. I will remember that I have more planning to do, more grading to do, and papers for grad school to write. But I will go to school anyhow, and I will do my best. My kids deserve my best, and I deserve to be proud of my work.

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