No matter how carefully they’re constructed, teacher-ed programs cannot fully prepare you for your first year in the classroom. You just have to experience it, eat a few mistakes, and make adjustments until you figure it out. That said, life is easier when you understand one very important fact:
Kids’ behavior is not about you.
You have to address disrespectful behavior, but how you address it is up to you. When one of my students does something out of character, I find out what’s going on before I respond. Continue reading “Chapter 39: It’s Not About You”
About 11 years ago, I worked with a young teacher at an interest-based digital-media magnet school who was struggling to get her sophomores to write. At the time, I oversaw part of the magnet program, and I nudged her to think in terms of our school’s theme.
To that end, I asked her one question: “Do the kids text?”
Of course they did, she said. All the time. It was driving her nuts; we were supposed to confiscate their phones if they used them in class, and for a while, that seemed to be all we did all day.
Continue reading “Chapter 37: Texting with Antigone”
When I taught math in Tulsa, one concept my freshmen really struggled to understand was the difference between positive and negative integers. They simply could not get their heads around the idea that -5 was not the same thing as 5, and I despaired of ever making them understand it.
We added and subtracted. We graphed inequalities on number lines made from yardsticks and chalkboard paint. I constructed a walkable number line and had them wander back and forth to solve problems. We wrangled with those integers every day, in every way I could dream up, to no avail: Some kids caught on, but some still would get to the end of a lesson and say, “Isn’t minus three the same thing as three?” until I was ready to pull my hair out.
I decided the lesson would be more memorable if they were emotionally invested in it, so I brought in a bag of Starbursts and started handing them out, a few at a time, with instructions to wait until the end of class to eat them.
Continue reading “Chapter 36: Positive or negative?”
Last week, I spent an entire blog entry singing the praises of my boss and telling y’all how much I trust her.
I wasn’t lying. I do trust her. I enjoy her visits to my classroom. I have a good time with her. But there are moments when I really don’t want to see her, and Thursday morning was one of them.
Thursday morning was my semiannual observation.
Intellectually, I know my boss isn’t going to torch me on an evaluation. That’s not how she operates. She sees me doing cool stuff with the kids several times a week and consistently praises my lessons. But I had a bad experience with an evaluation my first year teaching, and 22 years later, it still bothers me.
Continue reading “Chapter 34: Weighed in the Balance”
My superintendent joined us for a calorimetry lesson while one of my students recorded the event for posterity. Or Snapchat. Or something.
My superintendent waits for a student to answer a question during a vocabulary game.
My superintendent joins my sophomores for a tactile lesson on literary conflict.
This is my boss. She and I get along well. Part of that has to do with her: She understands what I’m trying to do, honors most of my requests, and doesn’t lose her mind if we disagree occasionally. Part of it has to do with me: I understand what she’s trying to do, honor most of her requests, and don’t lose my mind if we disagree occasionally.
This balance is simple, but it requires some effort. Some people won’t talk to administrators unless they’re in trouble. That’s a recipe for disaster. I’m not saying y’all need to be BFFs, but if you chat with your building administrator regularly, you’ll understand each other better when conflicts arise.
Continue reading “Chapter 30: Professional Relationships”