Where My Line is Drawn

So after being in the classroom for about 8 weeks (holy cow, it’s been 8 weeks!!) I’ve finally run into my first absolutely true struggle with students.

A class of seniors, second track students who are by no means incapable or unintelligent–in fact they are some of the most intelligent young people I’ve met so far! Not that that is a long time, but it’s long enough! ūüôā Actually! It’s my counterpart seniors to the fourth period class I talked about in my previous post! And, in fact, the day this all began was actually the same day I described in my last post!¬†

This day was the starting point of what I foresee to be the rest of a very rough semester for both the students and me. 

Frenchie was out of the room at the curriculum planning meeting we had both been in all morning, and an email went out to teachers with prep during 6th period to find coverage for her. In this email there was news:

“The student teacher will run the class. You just need to be there as a presence.”

…oh…okay…that wasn’t MY plan, but why not? At least that way both senior classes would be in the same place for the next class period. Sure.

 

So off I went, without Frenchie to be the commanding presence in the room. My first real time on my own with the students.

Piece of cake. These students know me, they recognize that I’m one of the teachers in the room, so this should be no problem; it’ll be just like any other day.

Wow. I could not have misjudged them much more than I did…

 

With¬†Frenchie¬†out of the room, the students decided to take advantage…as if I was a substitute teacher and unfamiliar to them! I had to fight against students talking, I had to swallow my frustrations and the urge to scream. Trying to maintain the great relationships I had already begun building with many of the students in the classroom, I tried to stay calm and collected, not putting anyone on the spot or making anything feel forced. I let them read in small groups, for heaven’s sake! The same activity that had gone¬†amazingly with fourth period was deteriorating and chaos for sixth period.

I ended up having to yell more than I really like to, making eye contact with those students who I hold to higher expectations and pointedly asking them, “Are ya kidding right now?”¬†

Somehow I managed to get through the whole lesson, like walking across a scalding hot and rocky beach barefoot, but we got through it.

The next day,¬†Frenchie¬†ran into some of the students from that class who, unprompted, expressed their astonishment and amazement at their classmates’ rudeness and disrespect. That made me feel okay, because ¬†at least I knew that it wasn’t just me that felt floored by their behavior.

 

What did I learn from this situation? Well, I’m still learning from it. A week later. I’m learning that I¬†cannot take the misbehavior of students personally.¬†
I learned that they don’t take me seriously because they recognize that I’m, really, not much older than they are. In fact, one student turned to me and made a point to say, “my siblings are older than you.”¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†…..oh…okay…
I learned that I need to start being stricter…meaner…less lenient with them.¬†

 

So far, one of the most important lessons I’m learning as a student teacher: where my line is drawn.

In My Opinion…

In the high school English classroom–and even middle school! Why not??–I think the most important tool to use is¬†inquiry.

Asking questions helps to broaden the scope through which our students look at a concept, a word, a work. These questions help students bridge gaps between text and reality; cultivates discussion and the bouncing around of ideas across the room, from one student to another.

Today, I was observed for the first official time, and could not have asked for a better lesson for my supervisor to evaluate me on. My 4th period seniors, the ones “infected” with

SENIORITIS

were asked today to read the second chapter of Aldous Huxley’s¬†Brave New World. They of course read the first chapter yesterday, so we reviewed, and they nailed it.

I split the class into three groups, each group reading a section of the chapter that was only 2-3 pages long.
(They’re seniors, so I know they won’t read a whole chapter, even if I bribed them to.)
Within each of these sections, the students were asked to individually react to the text with questions, comments, immediate responses, etc., and the questions could either be personal/individual or could be a collective group question.

After so many minutes, they discussed briefly each section within their groups and volunteered at least one person to come up to the front of the room and explain so we all had knowledge of each portion of the entire chapter.

They decided to tag-team while at the front of the room. It was kind of awesome.

Then came the discussion and questions.

We began a discussion about

The discussion stirred up a lot of questions and realizations for the students, ultimately bringing up topics of gender norms, individuality and independence, racism, class-ism, pre-schooling and parenting…they did a beautiful¬†job exploring a very important central theme to the text.

Of course, as my supervisor and I had discussed afterward, I should have been less inquiry-based in my leading of the discussion, and could have had even richer discussion around socialization and what it means–what it does for society, but hind-sight is 20/20, as they say!

Basically, it is discussions and moments like this that really support my philosophy that an English classroom runs on discovery and exploration, both of which cannot survive without inquiry and discussion.