Ms. W

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 26 2009

Top 10…

Top 10 Things I Want Right Now…on a Friday evening, eating dinner on my desk, watching the sun set over downtown Houston from my room on the 12th floor (pretty sure I have the best view on the block, btw).

10. An Ipod.  Yes, I’m waaaay behind the times with this one, and I feel selfish putting this near the top of this list.  But a little motivational music would go a looooong way on the bus to and from school, as far as preparing me for the day and calming me down, respectively.

9. Time to write more.  I’m a HUGE journaler, and usually I keep legal pads full of life stuff…I would not hesitate to say it keeps me sane…but lately there is not enough time to write down my thoughts, either in a journal or on this blog.  Unfair?  Unhealthy.

8. A way to fairly and adequately describe the experience of Institute to people who have never been here.  The best similie I can come up with is this: For all my Longhorn Band friends out there, or for people who have any idea how top-tier college marching bands work, the closest thing to Institute I can think of is what I will refer to with the utmost respect as freshman year Longhorn Band Hell Week…where the incoming marchers learn everything they need to know to start out the season (its a lot) in a matter of a few looooong stressful days.

But to compare this with Institute, multiply it by two.  Because here, not only am I learning what I need to know, but I am immediately having to apply this knowledge in my classroom to teach others what they need to know.  For those who are still following this metaphor, it’s Hell Week and Section Leader camp simultaneously.  Then, multiply your final result by five.  Because Institute is full-force 5 weeks, not just several days.

But, just like Hell Week, Institute is a TON of hard work toward a very tangible goal.  And as long as you can keep your eye on that goal, you can have a fantastic time learning everything you need to know.  TFA has done a great job of breaking down the art of teaching into a specific set of skills on a rubric that we’re constantly using to make ourselves more effective teachers.  Because of this, I am thoroughly enjoying identifying my strengths and weaknesses, and identifying ways to improve every day.  More like every hour, actually.  Tough?  You bet.  Worth it?  All the way.

7. A pedicure.

6. A relaxing shower.  Or at least one that only partially scalds my skin every day.  Usually places have problems getting enough hot water to supply a ton of people all showering at the same time.  Moody Towers?  I think they have a pipeline directly to the sun.  But it does add some comedy to my morning to hear the expletives in our community bath every time one of the toilets flushes, bringing the supply of cold water (which only slightly tames the Torrent of Hades anyway) to exactly zero.  It’s jump out of the way or boil, ladies.  Rest assured that I am now thoroughly practiced in the art of shower contortionism to avoid this.

5. Time to sleep?  I’m actually doing relatively OK in this department, but hey, it wouldn’t hurt.

4. Time for friends.   All my good friends here are fellow teachers–amazing people every one, with a massive amount of valuable information and ideas to share.  And I love that we can even make marathon lesson-planning sessions tons-o-fun!  But I still miss my friends from UT, and Hondo.  Transitioning into a new life is fantastic and all, but it almost feels like I was ripped from one scene and stuck directly into another, like a cartoon character on the drawing board.  It’s going to take time to re-draw a complete scene here, and find a way to combine the place I am now with the place I left behind in meaningful ways.

3. Time to go to the gym every day.  Sweating out the day’s stresses is the best way to gear up for another 7 hours of lesson planning.

2. Time in general?  I know there’s really no other way to get this much training in such a short amount of time…but man.  I thought I was good at being organized in college, but compared to a few months ago, my life is in organizational shambles.  I have no way to store all the papers I’m collecting (I feel like I must have personally killed at least half the Amazon by now), and I won’t be here for long enough more to justify spending already scant time setting up an incredibly efficient organizing system in my room.  Piles it is.  Good thing nearly all my time is planned for me.  No seriously, this is good….I don’t have time to plan it myself.

1. Currently, a way to keep my kids from going stir-crazy in the afternoons.  By the time I get them in 4th period for social studies, the last thing they want to do is learn about the principles of Texas government reflected in the state Constitution.  And their behavior reflects it.  And I don’t yet know all the tricks of the trade for keeping them in line and enaged, so I present the material as best I can…which is not good enough for them.  They’re brilliant kids when given the chance, and they deserve more.   Not saying I need to be perfect, but I need to know more.  A LOT more.

2 Responses

  1. Adrianne

    to keep the kids from being stir crazy, could you incorporate games into guided practice? some ideas are:

    -having them write answers on whiteboards and tallying up points (to make it less student vs. student you could have a class goal to get 30 points by the end of class or somethingand as a reward play a game for 2 min at the end)
    -have a dance/stretch break before your lesson

    good luck!!

  2. wearepennstate

    A tip for keeping them engaged- stop “presenting.” Some ideas:

    -Do a jigsaw. Split the new material for the day into 4 or 5 paragraphs. Break the kids into groups. Each group gets a paragraph. They make a quick chart paper poster with the main points. They present to the class. Depending on the age you have, you can circulate and help them. This can all be done in 20 minutes- they get 5 mins to read, 5 mins to make quick poster, then each of the 5 groups gets 2 minutes to present.

    -Do a guided reading- they read for 5, fill in notes for 5, go over it for 5. Set a timer to keep them on task for each part. Walk around and give lollipops to students who are being quiet (eventually giving them to all- lollipops keep kids silent). Then get your teaching hat back on and do GP with them.

    -Do a graphic organizer with 4 boxes- they get the material at stations. 5 minutes a station- there’s your 20 min INM. Take 5 minutes at the end- 1 minute to go over each station, 1 minute to have a student summarize.

    Hope these help!

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a Teach For America teacher’s blog

Region
Houston
Grade
Middle School
Subject
English

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