Saturday, June 23, 2012

Week 1 Institute - It's over?; Oh wait, 3 more weeks.

Howdy Y'all.

Yes, y'all is a southern thing but I've been enjoying the word for years. Now that I'm actually in the South I get fewer odd looks and more positive responses. Nice change.

It's been a week of Institute. We got our students, or as many of us (not me) call them, our "babies". I guess that's another southern thing.

On Monday, we were all very nervous because most of us had never taught before. Even those that majored in education, worked with kids in tutoring programs and those whom have student taught were nervous. Yet, it was an exciting day. We were going to put a face to the names we had tried learning for the past few days. "Tazarius" "Damarius""Briana" "Briana".... Is it just me or do all the names sound the same or are the same?

To say the least, it wasn't easy the first day to match up all the names. Those that sounded super similar were the hardest.

We gave a diagnostic test the first day so it eased our transition into the classroom. There was no real teaching, just testing to see where our students were in our content.

For me, the fun part were the activities my teaching team (the 4 of us) decided to do after their first exam in Math. Since I have given them that first test, laid down the law and monitored their efforts to complete the exam, I was also given the first chance to show my lighter side.

We decided to play a name game since no one had known each other previously and it would be a great way to lighten the mood while getting students out of their seats. Our game? -- The Zombie Name Game. Kids in a circle being chased by a zombie who wants whosever name was called. It was fun, especially once the kids started to warm up.

Unlike most teachers in our summer schools in MS, I teach everyday due to my subject and grade level (Entering 9th Grade Math). The next day, after our diagnostic, I had to teach at 8am. No, I wasn't giving another test... I was actually teaching. The true moment to see if I can help my students learn.

The hardest part about Teach For America and getting up in front of the classroom as anew teacher is that you want to be you're best, but you're a teacher in training.

No, my first day wasn't horrible. In fact, I think my kids learned a little about something, although definitely not all that I wanted them to learn -- or rather, they hadn't necessarily mastered the skills I wanted them to.

I was the first teacher that my CMA (Corps Member Advisor) had observed that week. After observation in the classroom, he holds a debrief to go over where I can improve and what I did well. Later that day, the moment came and boy was I nervous.

He shared with me that I have the respect of my students, they listen to me, and that I have a great presence as a teacher (teacher voice and all). Where I needed to improve was my teaching methods. Standing at the board to write out math problems with the kids? Ineffective. Standing at the board, writing notes for them, and not checking to make sure they are writing them down? Ineffective.

Yes, I felt like a failure. I wanted to go in and be a superstar for my students. Not for my own authentication of ability, but for the best learning environment for my students.

Best part, being the first observed and the first debriefed I was able to take everything my CMA said and build it into my lesson for the next day.

After that first day of teaching, which was tough emotionally (not that I was said, I just wanted to be so much better), the week was amazing. Everyday got better and better. My students became more engaged. Everyone (except one).

The feeling to know that your class likes what you're doing, that your class is learning (seen in exit assessments) and to have their respect; honestly an amazing feeling.

No, my classroom is not perfect. It's the furthest thing from perfect still, but it's improve immensely from the first day. Not only am I enjoying myself, but I'd like to think that my students are enjoying themselves and that they are learning.

Next week, I'm excited to get my students up and out of their seats more often. It's not always about lecturing about students... actually, it never is. It's about getting them moving so their brains get exercise and so do their bodies. If they're having fun, if they're competing, and most importantly, if they're smiling... they're learning.

Of course, there are always chances to have fun. For me, I have daily fun, but for a lot of people they aren't. BUT, by fun I mean going out or playing a sport. This past week we boring for me because no one else had the time to play volleyball or the likes because they "had so much to do." To be honest, I get all my work done early every day, with enough time to decompress or do something I'd like -- as well as taking a nap, and I teach everyday (unlike most of these teachers). I'd like to see my corps members grow this summer to the point where we all have an easy time teaching and making lessons so we can all have fun together.

Every Thursday my CMA group (a group of 12 corp members and our CMA) go out. Every Friday we go hard out at the "clubs" and bars. Let's just say my weekend starts Thursday and I have fun all weekend.

I'm going to try to break up these long posts by day, and make smaller posts from now on. It'll be easier to follow my own life and make it more interesting for all y'all to follow my timeline.

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