Saturday, July 9, 2011

My First Day of Teaching

Last Monday was my first day teaching. I taught a class of 4th graders how to make inferences from a story. There are about 600 TFA Corps Member here at the LA Institute and about 100 of us are at an elementary school in the Southgate neighborhood. We are split into collabs of 4 teachers each and during the day we each teach a lesson on reading, writing or math. I started with reading, obviously, and while prepping and delivering my reading lessons, I've been learning how to teach writing - which really scares my, btw.

Again, last Monday was my first day of teaching. I was the first teacher up for the day and the first words out of my mouth were proclaimed quite loudly, loud enough to jolt them upright in their chairs, "Hey, everybody!" Thus began a mini-lesson on our attention getting signal, followed by a mini-lesson on "carpet time" procedures, then the actual reading lesson.

I was able to play into my public speaking strengths in a way that I expected and I was able to maintain control of the classroom in a slightly better than expected way. Here are some excerpts of the observational notes given by two of the many people who coach and teach us.
"AMAZING! Are you sure you haven't done this before? You did a very great job for your first time" and "You are a natural! You have a strong command of the classroom and have obviously set your expectations clearly and reinforced with behavior narration."

It was quite a rush to experience my first day of teaching, but honestly, it went about as I expected.

Now the 2nd day was a bit different. First of all, we got 4 new students, which disrupted the classroom and threw me off because I couldn't remember their names. Secondly, the students were much more squirmy and talkative on their 2nd day. Thirdly, my "introduction to new material" part of my lesson plan was bombing and the kids weren't following me. For about 10 minutes, I was panicking. Panicking because I couldn't connect with the students and panicking because I wasn't sure how to respond to the talking.

But I was able to regain control of myself and the classroom. I started giving some behavioral consequences and re-thinking on the fly how to teach the idea of a "connection from the story based upon a character's personality traits." The rest of the time kept getting better. So to stumble out of the shoot, have my boundaries pushed by students, but recover and regain control - that was more satisfying than doing it correctly the entire way.

And one more idea regarding the TFA philosophy; TFA is completely performance driven. They choose people, like myself, who have been proven leaders but likely lack an Education Degree and assume that their leadership skills will translate into student achievement. While we are taught to craft lesson plans in an effective manner, we are evaluated not on how well we deliver the plan but on how well the students perform on the (end-of-lesson, end-of-unit and end-of-year) assessments. So the effectiveness of the teacher is based upon the success of the students.

I know that I'm good at public speaking and teaching. I'm going to have to grow in learning how to gather and interpret student-achievement data and how to make changes to my methods in response to student achievement, or the lack-thereof.

And one other note, on Thursday I was observed by one of the top instructors here at Institute, who has won some sort of national teacher award. My original Thursday lesson plan would've bombed without the help of a staffmember at Institute. As it was, that Thursday lesson and classroom environment were incredible and I was really into it. And that top instructor told me later that I did a great job and she even brought someone else in to observe me later. It was quite affirming.

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