However, I believe the second semester at this high school has started like it would for any group of students who are confronted with a new teacher. My presence, no matter how familiar, has been met with a sense of apprehension. The students seem cautious and wary of my every statement and inquiry. At the same time, I have begun to see some students testing my limits, or learning what "buttons" to push.
For example, the school that I student teach at has a very specific restroom policy: you may be excused from class twice throughout the duration of a semester to use the restroom. It is expected that students go to the restroom during break, lunch, or passing periods. However, a solid handful of students have already begun to ask to use the restroom, so much so that I have already made plans of what to tell a student when they ask to go for a second time. Of course, I remain nervous of garnering negative feedback from my students, but the goal of enforcing school policy should not be one of a dictator but of a leader with authority in the classroom; someone for the students to respect, not despise.
Another difficulty that I have already encountered is one of classroom management, or, more specifically, time management. The lesson plans that I construct with the help of my master teacher and fellow student teacher are very strong and mapped out in proper time constraints, but I often fail to take into account conversation-steering questions, unforeseen technical problems, and confusion on classroom instruction. What seems to me to be only 30 minutes or so in reality is a full 90-minute class period. Thus, I am already a bit behind on my instruction.
I have been told countless times that these issues naturally crop up at the outset of student teaching, and if anything these speed bumps have helped me realize that teaching is about 30-40% instruction and 60-70% planning. So much of what a teacher does occurs outside of class time, and if done well, pays off during class time.
Despite these setbacks, I have also had my fair share of small triumphs.
One such instance, which occurred yesterday, was an attempt I made to engage the students and capture their attention and funny bones. It was a Monday, and the students were notably weary from their weekend of recreation. The first few classes have been focused on the Enlightenment, an area of study not particularly captivating to a group of 10th graders. My solution to the sluggishness of the class was to introduce each Enlightenment thinker that we were studying with the appropriate European accent of the country from which they were from. The students for the most part marveled at my impression of the Italian Cesare Beccaria, but the class favorite was my vocal readjustment for the impersonation of the English Mary Wollstonecraft. There were smiles everywhere, and the group discussions were much more rich than they were for the pervious activity.
Stepping out of the role of a teacher and into the role of a performer was a breath of fresh air for my students. It was unexpected, funny, and hopefully memorable. This is essentially the kind of things students will remember: the teacher that talked in funny accents. Not: the teacher who stood in front of the class lecturing.
Through the ups and downs, I have enjoyed the process as a whole. I will keep this blog updated with weekly posts reflecting upon my experiences and how they may help me grow as a teacher. Comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated!