yesterday was a terrible day. as my teacher was debriefing me of the different challenges that i am facing in choosing which classes i will inevitably take over, my vision started to get edgy. no hyperventilating, but i was not focusing. i was overwhelmed.
the problem was, i had a class collapse on me. a very difficult class, and one whose scores on their interim assessments (progress tests we give every five weeks that don't count towards their grades, but give us an indication on where they are according to our standards, etc) were terrible. most, if not all, were feeling quite dumb. the class collapsed: loud, disruptive, inattentive, and above all, just all over the place with not following directions and other things. one of the kids left the classroom so upset, she cried. that class in general just won't have it some days, and others are far more balanced and easy to get together. the class collapsed.
all this, piled on top of a day of "is this the class i really want to tackle?" angst and indecision. i felt myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with the lesson i was teaching--modeled by the teacher for a block, and then taken over by me. overwhelming. i didn't have a plan, and barely time to adjust. i swallowed hard, and then came the next class.
is this the life of a teacher? venting session upon session came to me at any opportunity i clamored for: during grad class, to a friend (who i must call) (a classmate), to another friend, and advice given by my big sister. i organized myself a bit, and made a small pro and con list of things (since when am i so organized? i'll never know) that i know to be true about one class. i lay in my bed under the sheets, warm, except for a slight draft (my nose'd be cold in the morning, for sure). i rationalized to myself a few things, sighed, felt a little more resolved and slept.
today, i decided to take on a new tactic. i'm still experimenting, after all. i didn't raise my voice in the least. i didn't panic. i stayed at a low, steady decibal, and didn't dare raise it another notch. i told my first class (by the way, i haven't mentioned this, but my mentor teacher was out at a workshop in the library all day, and a sub was there. officially, i was told not to do anything, maybe, at most, set the sub up. i didn't do that. i don't know if that's good or bad. in fact, i held back the last block just to let the poor guy do his job. this is something i have to hold back on, for sure, next time. it ain't my job to take over like i did. but it just happened) that i had decided that i wasn't going to raise my voice at all, and i kept saying things like, "i'm just going to keep talking until i have eyes on me, until q. [one of the students] stops hitting himself with his folder, until i have silence." and it worked!!!! how? i haven't a clue. but with every class it worked. maybe it won't another time, but damn. anyways, the idea behind today was group work. i've never seen them work so well with each other. their groups were settled and working, reading aloud to each other in group voices, and working on every question needed. my toughest kids were the hardest workers. i'd like to repeat that: my toughest kids were the hardest workers.
it hit me: what these kids need is structure. they need clear directions, and an environment where they can work together. otherwise, everything just begins to fall apart. the lesson must engage them both as individuals, but also as groups. i think, if i can balance them between individual work and group work, that this thing will be more of a cakewalk than diving into the batter before it's mixed, like i thought yesterday. whatever that metaphor means. maybe it's not as easy as it seemed. it most definitely isn't. but what worked well was group work and structure--they picked team leaders who kept everyone in check and focused, and everything worked fantastically. i'm going to experiment soon with this. let's see if this can be replicated!