Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Institute reflection guide

I found my post-Institute reflection from this summer, and reading it again at the end of the year may have helped me to re-focus. I was terrified of starting Teach for America in Chicago and later teaching in Jacksonville, but this is how I felt after I had made it through five weeks of "teacher boot camp". I'd like to share it here for anyone who wants to read it.

I came into Institute practically terrified of…just about everything.  Even before being accepted into the corps I had started to hear horror stories of Institute and tireless work, no sleep, and demon children our for blood.  I heard that we would cry everyday, and while some said that that was expected and it was OK, others simply quoted “a sad teacher is a bad teacher.”  Thank you for preying on my worst fears, I would think.  It’s not like my nightmare is being the most ineffective, sad teacher in Chicago and later Jacksonville…  No, I am of course supremely confident in my inexperience and lack of teacher skills. Please continue telling me how hard I am about to fall on my face.  I was worried, maybe understandably.   But then something wonderful happened:  Institute started
I was so consumed with figuring out all the intricacies of living at IIT, navigating the L, making sure I didn't miss my bus (whoops, guess I did a bad job of that one), and trying not to miss all my sessions, that I was surviving Institute, even succeeding in it, simply because I was forced to look at everyday minute by minute, session by session, day by day. 
I have had some horrible days here.  Days where I bomb my lesson by teaching to the wrong objective or executing bad classroom management or missing my bus or getting my schedule switched at the last second or finally “breaking the seal” and crying at school (and then later into my macaroni and cheese at dinner).  Oh, did I mention all of those things happened on the same day? Yep.
Institute tried to break me – but because I had tensed myself for battle, I was ready for it.  And despite my penchant for crying when I get frustrated or overwhelmed, I spent all but two days here dry-eyed.   I took every day as a new challenge.  Each new lesson plan was another chance at inspiring my kids and teaching them something they had been told they “just can’t learn.” I hope that this mindset carries over into my region, because as of right now, it is saving my life. 

It has. It did. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

card tricks against humanity

Sometimes teaching can make you want to tear your hair out. And other times, it just makes you laugh.

Early this year, one of my students asked to use my deck of cards after he finished a test.  (Being a probability/statistics teacher, I always have a deck of cards. It is especially helpful when it is revealed that your students don't know what a spade is or how many cards are in a suit - and in that case, how can you be exasperated when they can't determine the probability of drawing an ace? You can't. Exactly.)
I said yes, sure, just be quiet and keep them to yourself. I watched him practice card tricks in the back of class, and later collected the tests.  Several days later, I cleaned out my desk drawer and discovered that all I had left of the deck of cards was the flimsy box they came in. And two jokers, of course. Also directions to some card game no one ever plays.

Bottom line: they had been stolen. 

Well...the student had neglected to return them. I'll put it that way.  This happens daily with pens, pencils, folders, calculators and basically anything else I leave on my desk.  I mentally cursed the student for taking them, and promptly forgot all about it.

A week or so later, I had to correct the student several times in class for doing magic tricks; he used pencils and coins and paperclips, and yes, playing cards.  But I honestly did not connect the dots for a very long while. Obviously they were the same cards, but I was so busy with teacher life that my teacher brain refused to put 2 and 2 together. Which is ironic, because I am a math teacher (and getting really good at quick mental math).
 I called his mother and told her about the magic interrupting class,and she assured me he wouldn't be doing it any more. And for the most part he didn't.

Anyway, here's where the story gets funny.

I talked to another one of his teachers, and we discussed his class performance, behavior, etc., and she told me he was still doing magic tricks.

"Really?" I said, "he stopped doing them in my class. I called his mom, and since then I haven't seen him do it once."
"Yeah," she said. "I called her too. But he's still doing it. She said if I see him with the cards again to take them from him and not give them back."

I laughed, with amusement, and a bit of relief.  After months, I would get my cards back! Nice day. Wouldn't even have to go to the dollar store. I started to tell her they were really my cards - thinking she would get a kick out of the story-

"So I took them," she continued, "and went to the trash, tore them in half, and threw them away. Every last one."

I realize after a second my mouth was still open to tell my story. and the smile is frozen on my face.

"I realize it was a bit much, but I was sick of those magic tricks. And his mom told me to take them, so..." She smiles.
I laugh weakly, and murmur something about it getting old and it was probably a good thing. heh. heh.

Looks like I have to go to the dollar store after all.