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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 15 2012

Livin’ on a Prayer

I have mixed feelings about being halfway through Institute. On the one hand, it’s been an incredibly stressful experience where I don’t get enough sleep, always have work to do, and struggle daily both in and out of the classroom. But on the other hand, I’m surrounded by incredibly supportive and amazing people who know what I’m going through and really have made the process as enjoyable as possible. Plus, four weeks simply isn’t enough time with my students and I wish I had more time with all of them. In the end, I’ll definitely be sad to leave Institute, but I would probably think twice about signing up to go through this again…

Wednesday was the halfway point of Institute and Friday was the halfway point of teaching. On Tuesday, we were surprised at lunchtime by being told we could go home earlier (normally I’m at school from 7:30am-4:30pm). We came back to the dorm for “Totally Free Afternoon Day” (TFA Day…) and were treated to free Qdoba, chair massages, candy, etc. I was definitely dragging at the beginning of the week and it was a great pick-me-up. The Institute staff has really done their best to make us feel supported and as least stressed as possible by giving us random surprises, being really efficient at printing our documents and helping us in the copy center, and giving us inspirational quotes and candy every morning before we head to school. It’s definitely much appreciated!

Overall, teaching this week went pretty well. Classroom management is still a struggle; I have a few students in my class who I am still learning how to effectively manage. But, I pulled one of them out from class on Friday and talked with her for a while, and in the second half of class she was a lot better, so hopefully it’ll be upwards from here. As far as content goes, this week was kind of challenging in that I taught objectives such as long and synthetic division of rational functions and how to graph rational functions without calculators, but my kids pushed through most of it and did pretty well on their exit tickets. We gave our midterm on Thursday, however, which didn’t go as well — I had one student get a 100 (she actually has taken AP Calc before, so not sure why she’s in my class) but our average was a 72%. But, I’m confident that as I learn to keep my classroom more under control the rate of retention of the material will increase and we’ll see more consistent performance from the exit tickets to the assessments.

One of my biggest concerns this summer has been that I just don’t have enough time to get to know my students — I teach 2nd period, so I can’t hang out with them before or after class, and so I’m only with the whole group for 45 minutes every day. That said, I’ve been trying to speak with some briefly right after my class or after 3rd period before they go home. I’ve definitely started forming solid relationships with many of them but there’s always more to learn. For example, I spoke with one of the boys in my class for a while after class one day but then a few days later found out from another one of his teachers that he is living on his own and supporting himself, working two jobs every afternoon and not really getting any sleep. Hearing his story is definitely great motivation to keep my class as engaging as possible, and also to be appreciative of the six hours of sleep I usually get… (side note: my least-favorite feature on my droid is when it tells me “Your alarm is set for 5 hours and 43 minutes from now.” It never fails to be depressing.)

To close, I know the last two weeks of Institute will fly by as quickly as the first three. I’m looking forward to continuing to improve in the classroom and finding ways I can impact my students in areas other than their academics. I’m really enjoying being in Philly and can’t wait to explore more next weekend (this Saturday was kind of rainy so I didn’t get out much). On Friday I went on a walk at lunchtime and ended up right by Independence Hall — I had no idea I was so close, but you learn something new every day… and I’d like to think my students are as well!

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    Teaching, laughing, and (for the most part) loving life as a first-year teacher in Boston

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