My kids are rockstars

Just sayin. It’s true. My class is full of rockstars.

This is my first week teaching. Here in Houston, I’m teaching 12th grade summer school for a month before I head back to teach my 10th  graders in McAllen. It’s been an interesting week, to say the least.

These kids fascinate me. There are times where they seem so shallow– only concerned about their nails (each one a different color), or their belt buckles, or who is giving who a hickey in the hall. And then they step inside… and things change. They’re bright, they’re curious, they want to learn.

That being said, it’s becoming more and more clear to me how much student behavior hinges on the teacher. On my first day teaching, my students started the day interested and engaged. Then, the fire alarm went off (this happens very often at my school. As in, four times this week so far). I think I handled that very well, all things considered– I made sure to take my kids out in an orderly fashion, to take roll outside and inside, and to get them all back into the classroom. This is harder than it seems- many kids will take off during our frequent fire drills hoping no one will mark them absent. However, it completely threw me off. There’s no other way to say it than that I panicked. Suddenly 20 minutes was gone and I was completely off schedule, tasked with teaching the students about word choice before the bell rang.

Suddenly, my teaching changed. I was talking constantly and quickly. I was giving students no time to answer before feeding them the answer.  I became completely totalitarian about my hand raising– I only have 7 kids, but somehow making them raise their hand before doing ANYTHING felt incredibly important. My bright kids were gone– replaced by surly, quiet little people who only wanted me to go away.

So the next day, I tried something different. we put our desks in a circle, and we had a conversation about the story. Just a conversation. But during our conversation, we covered context clues, word choice, connotation. they made connections, they made predictions.  it was, in a word, incredible. And even my “problem kid” (who is in fact just far too smart to be in summer school, but suffers from behavior problems) was interested, although he had a few inappropriate moments. It was the class of my dreams.

I’m trying to keep that high in my mind when I go into my class in about an hour. I’m teaching main idea today, but my texts are not as interesting as yesterdays, so I hope I can keep them involved.

Favorite quotes from yesterday:

“Miss, I like these stories.” So simple, but it made me smile 🙂

One of the stories was about a girl who wouldn’t eat. I need to preface this by saying that I DID NOT laugh when he said this, but I barely held it in when one of my students said “he should give her some pot. Then it would give her the munchies.”

How do you not laugh at that? The same kid compared King Louis and the peasants of the french revolution to a pimp and his… ladies. So inappropriate, but accurate, don’t you think?

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Induction time!

An awful lot has happened since my last post. Which is perhaps why my last post was so long ago! Right now, I’m about to go to bed on my second night of Teach For America institute. Institute takes place in your placement region, so a few days ago my mother and I drove 13 hours from El Paso to McAllen. (On a side note– all of my st. louis friends, many of whom are from the east coast, heard I would be in Mcallen, TX and had 2 reactions: 1)oh, isn’t it going to be scary on the border? and 2) at least you’ll be close to home. I’ll address point 1 later, but just to clear up point 2: Texas is ginormous. GINORMOUS. It took me 13 hours in the same state to get here. That’s like driving the length of Rhode Island… about 13 times.)

Induction is also our introduction to our region and to TFA in general. So while much of the time is spent in development sessions, a lot of it is also spent simply getting to know your fellow corps members. It has been an enlightening experience. Everyone I meet here with TFA is warm and friendly. They’re the kind of people that think in big ideas and the small details needed to accomplish them. They’re world-changers, really. It’s a little overwhelming– I do wonder where I fit in.

At a pre-institute pool party, I had a very long conversation with an ’09 corps member on his second year. He is, like me, a high school english teacher hoping to make it as a screenwriter later in his life, and an avid writer in general. He gave me pretty much nothing but excellent advice, but this stuck out to me. He asked me, “so when do you write?” and I was stumped. Other than here (and stuff required for school or TFA) I couldn’t remember the last time I wrote for fun. So I told him, “oh I’m sure I’ll write more when things settle down, we’ll see…” and he reminded me that “we’ll see” is just not good enough. I need to take the time out to write, if only just to keep myself sane. So I’m adding that to my goals for the next month. In the meantime, I’m taking all his advice to heart and I’m excited for what the future holds.

On another note, I went by my school today. The staff is wonderful, as is the campus. Also, I’m officially assigned to English 2. I was going to be in that or English 1, so now I’m definitely placed. Also, I may have volunteered to coach cheerleading. It happened very quickly. It’s hard to tell.

T-2 days

…Until I’m in McAllen!

To do (and do and do and do…)

There is so much to be done before TFA institute. It feels as if I’ll never get it all done. less than a week to go until I’ll be in Mcallen with all of the wonderful people I’ve been talking to online. They’re my reassurance– I sometimes wonder how people entered into this TFA world before facebook. I feel as if I’m already friends with many of the people I’ll meet in Mcallen, which is incredibly comforting. In the meantime, I’m trying to finish all of this, whicvh I’m being alarmingly last minute about:

  • TB Test (half done– 72 hour check on wednesday)
  • TFA pre-work
  • Classroom observations (on thursday)
  • unpack from the St. Louis move
  • Repack for the Mcallen/ Houston move
  • somehow become an adult??

When I went to get my TB test the nurse asked what I needed it for and I said “teaching high school.” She asked me, incredulously, how old I am. Fail. I should probably start wearing some makeup, it might make me look a bit older  than 12.

What a depressing post, huh? I’ll leave you with something cheerful: