Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 21 2012

Lundi gras remnants.

The morning is an anxiety identical to that experienced almost every day last year: the impossible gut feeling that something is wrong, the absolute uncertainty that you have any control over any part of your environment or day, the pressing ache of wanting to fix it and not knowing how, the disorientation.

Arriving at school is a trouble-maker asking you if you’re on duty for no real reason. This seems minor but means something else: when a student asks a question with a simple answer s/he already knows, it’s because they want an excuse to talk to you. They just want to say hi. They want some personal connection and it is well beyond flattering, has become for me a way to ease any wrong, any ache, any anxiety.

This morning I arrived basically delusional: that old worry that I am incompetent, that I don’t want to be there. But with 30 solid minutes to myself during my prep (such a rarity!) I forced my “luxury weekend” mentality out and focused on my kids. It was actually pretty amazing to be so disoriented when I arrived, because it helped me empathize with the kids. If I feel this messed up, they’ve got to feel it and have way less of an idea of how to take care of it.

So how’d I take care of it?

Detachment, in the personal offense sense. I refused to let my students’ actions get to me; guarenteed consequences for their offenses, and used the office much more than usual. I typically have one write-up every week or two. Today I had four in a day– and my attitude wasn’t thrown. And I wasn’t just preying on kids.

I’ve been working on Economy of Language (haaaay, Teach Like a Champion), and I think it might be kicking in. By far the hardest technique for me to use, today I pretty consistently responded to student behavior with silence, but honestly felt like they understood what I meant.

My M,TLD was in the room for thirty minutes of gold. It was the class with the highest homework average last week (93%) and when I showed them the tracking they flipped in the most respectful way possible. They navigated through the Do Now, and when we got to writing our rough drafts (this actually happened in every class) every single kid wrote.

This is insane.

Last year, I don’t think I ever had a day where all students wrote for the entire amount of time expected of them. Today, in every class, students were on a mission. I’m not saying the writing will be excellent, but I do believe the vast majority of students have two to three solid body paragraphs for their essays. And, the biggest indicator and biggest change from last year to this, is there are so few questions. Students might ask how to spell “phase” like Ayda did today, but students know what to do. Better: They’re doing it.

(Well, mostly. There are still those four write-ups who will unfortunately spend tomorrow in In School Suspension.)

(Real life recap: the disorientation was the result of a weekend spent like this: Friday night in Little Rock then sleeping in Conway, Saturday morning arriving 20 minutes late to the eight hour grad class seminar then leaving an hour early to drive nine hours to New Orleans, Sunday morning and afternoon meeting a whole slew of strangers through NOLA and staying out until 4am lundi gras, yesterday driving six hours back to Dumas and making the excellent executive decision to go to bed at 10 and ignore all work until this morning.)

One Response

  1. els

    Oh to be a second-year. It seems like you magically become non-psycho over the summer. Or your skin grows 3 sizes in thickness. Whatevs. Yay for invested students and having them be SELF-MOTIVATED!

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