Last Bell - New Teacher Blogs
Beginners’ Pluck -- Extended online version from the August/September issue.
New teachers blog about fear and triumph.
The First Week
It was not what I expected. On four of the five days, I went home with a sick feeling in my stomach.
There were days I wanted to grab a student and slap sense into him. There were days I wanted to hug a student for getting the right answer. There were days I wanted to vomit after class and days I felt I could change the world.
Thankfully, the faculty is supportive—constantly checking in, nonstop empathy. But I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t scare me.
Can I handle them?
Can I teach them?
Can I make it through the year?
I knew this year was going to be rough. I just didn’t know what it’d feel like. After week one, I have some idea.
(Courtesy The Oakland Tribune)
Andy Kwok teaches biology in Oakland, California.
The Parents Are Coming!
I was quite nervous preparing for parent teacher conferences. As I was driving to school that morning I tried to go through how I could say to particular parents, “Your child constantly makes noises that disrupts the entire class” in a nice, appropriate way.
But as I went through the day, I gained confidence. I had prepared portfolios and that was extremely helpful. By midday I knew exactly which pieces of writing to show and how to reassure parents that although their child is struggling, I can see the potential.
It is interesting to see some students are EXACTLY like their parents. Some told me stories giving me amazing insight into how their child was at home. Others told me how my classroom looked nothing like the one their child came from in another country just a year before. It really made me think about how I could make learning better for these students.
(Courtesy: Fairfax Education Association)
Sarah Odachowski teaches second grade in Alexandria, Virginia.
My Former Projector
My “classroom” is actually the corner of the lunchroom with thin, poorly constructed walls separating it from throngs of boisterous, hungry students. On this day, I had a well-planned lesson and I was pumped. It was all on PowerPoint, I’m differentiating, moving up Bloom’s Taxonomy, there was a literacy component, there was even math—one of those lessons that makes a young teacher think, “Man, I hope my AP comes by today!”
As I started, a teacher opened the door and cut me off. “Good morning. Sorry, we just need to pass through,” he said.
As his students straggled through, I heard a loud crash and “Oh, s#!%!” Pieces of my projector flew through the air. Reactionary thoughts coursed through me. I was angry at the student who accidentally knocked it over, angry at the teacher who uses my room as a shortcut, angry at the administrators for sticking me in such a crappy classroom, angry at myself for not being more careful with this expensive equipment.
My anger quickly changed to fear—“I’m screwed,” I thought as I collected the pieces.
In three seconds, my students realized the moment to attack had arrived. “Yo mista, you can’t teach today, we don’t have to do nothing, right?” My fear turned to panic: I would have to improvise.
Since it was history class, I asked the students to write a primary source account of the destruction of my projector. They saw their descriptions were not at all the same—a nice segue into the lesson, and by then I had my notes ready to continue.
Little did I know that by the end of the day a busted projector would be the least of my worries…
(Courtesy: United Federation of Teachers)
Sam McElroy teaches high school in New York City.