Middle School Hero

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 28 2012

Day one, take two

After three weeks of teaching, things have slowed down just a tiny bit. I feel like the struggle just to keep my head above water has subsided and I’m starting to understand my classroom through a different paradigm. I’m not looking at my life in 45-minute chunks anymore and can look at where we need to be as a class during the week and during the unit. I’m already ten times the teacher that I was on August 3rd.

And that’s where it starts to get ironic. Because the better I get, the more I realize how far I have to go. I’ve been struggling so hard to climb the mountain of classroom management and content that I’ve been overlooking the looming range of data tracking, beuaracratic processes, calling parents, and unit planning right behind it.

I looked back on those first three weeks of school and realized that I was focused so much on getting through each day that I wasn’t doing enough for my students long-term. And because of that, my class was starting to resemble a failing classroom. My kids came to class each day not to learn, but because they had to. They just wanted to show up for 45 minutes so that they could get passed on to the next grade so they could do the same thing. Long story short, I had no investment in my writing class. They couldn’t tell me why writing is important or why they need to learn or why school is valuable.

So I’m starting over. Tomorrow is going to be day one, take two. And we’re starting over with a simple idea in mind: My students have stories to tell. Fascinating stories. And if they can become writers, if they can learn to enunciate these stories, then people will want to hear them. And that’s not just a ploy. I mean it. If you could understand these kids, you’d be drawn to them as well. And I’ve got to impress that idea upon them, that they can share their stories with the world.

Hopefully, this starts to draw my students into class. Right now they’re still tiptoeing around it, trying to see if they should stick their feet in the water. I want this week to push them in headfirst, to catch them up in the beautiful, manic torrent of narrative, to express and expose themselves, to become writers and people. I want them to realize how much they own this. It’s their education, their life, their movement, not mine.

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Chronicling teaching middle school English in OKC

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