Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 22 2011

First 2 Days as a Teacher

We started summer school yesterday and I officially became a teacher. The fact that I couldn’t find the time or energy to tell you even one thing about it on the day it happened speaks to what kind of day it was! My kids, though absolutely adorable, had a hard time sitting still for more than 30 seconds and wanted to tell me EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING. Worse, they could not draw pictures or write words even close to the level they would need to be able to complete my lesson. I think I had envisioned kids who were just beginning to write sentences but could manage a word or two and certainly a picture. I had envisioned first graders. My kids have just finished kindergarten, and not a single one of them is above grade level. For all intents and purposes, they are kindergartners, not first graders. And kindergartners are babies!

But today went 1000% better, because I could start from the mindset that they were babies and needed to be shown how to do most things. We showed them how to sit. We showed them how to raise their hands. We showed them how to answer a question. We showed them how to make a sentence (with pictures to fill in blanks in a sentence frame). Most importantly, we narrated and recognized students who were doing a good job, and we gave consequences (in the form of a temperature behavior chart–Hot, hot, hot! Major cool down! Super Scholar Temperature!) to those who needed to work on their behavior. And we were consistent.

All of this sounds simple. But you would not believe the difference it made.

Yesterday: One of my students was bouncy and fidgety and couldn’t sit still. Randomly, he raised his hand and told me, “I took longer to go to the bathroom because some boys made pee-pee and didn’t flush. So I helped them flush. I flushed three toilets!” Very nice, honey, but what body part do you use to see?

Today: One of my students managed to participate in group practice, look directly at the speaker, and nod his head that he understood yesterday’s lesson, ALL WITHOUT LEARNING ANYTHING AT ALL. He couldn’t tell you what the lesson was about. He’s managed to do this for all of kindergarten, because if you don’t go ask him directly, you’d never know he didn’t get it. His reading and math levels are thus incredibly low, and he sometimes is so shy he can’t make himself say the answer even when he does know it. I made sure he was in my small group today and gave him as much one-on-one attention as possible, checking for understanding every step of the way. We went through the problems together, we made our sentences, we read them together. Assessment time: guess who got 100% of his objectives mastered AND showed it in words and pictures, one of the only kids to do so? That’s right, my little Rock Star.

I’m very sorry if this is incoherent or nonsensically described. I’ve gotten 7 hours of sleep in the past two days. Institute is very busy. But I wanted to get this down, because the look on Rock Star’s face when I gave him a high five and he moved his temperature up to Super Scholar is what’s stuck in my overtired, mushy brain tonight. You should see a smile like that.

One Response

  1. debryc

    Congrats to your Rock Star.

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In which I muse about New Mexico, teaching, and life in general.

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