I have used it so much, I think I wore it out

Published November 5, 2013 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I have a lot to do this month.  It’s likely that I always have a lot to do, I’m just conscious of it right now because my personal life seems to have swooshed my problems to the other side, lava-lamp-like (Of course, I know this means that it will all come swooshing back to crush/drown me.)  but right now, I’m focused on the deadlines that are looming in front of me.

The first thing on my list is applying for the Teaching Fellows program.  This is a program that won’t start until the summer but will eventually lead to getting my teaching certification while thrusting me into the world of urban education and making me employable.  Well, more so than those diplomas and credentials do. (I made a Facebook comment that I should have gone to clown college instead of Grad School. The CHAIR of my GRADUATE COMMITTEE remarked, “It was clown college. We just told you it was Grad School. That’s comforting.)

The Teaching Fellows thing is the first deadline. It’s next week, but I sat down and started working on it today, and once I started, I had to keep going and now my brain is tired.

Here’s some of the questions with my responses:

Nearly all fellows are hired to teach in ‘high need’ schools that are located in low-income communities. Why do you want to teach specifically in a high need school? What challenges do you expect raising student achievement in your classroom and what experiences have prepared you for overcoming these challenges? Knowing these challenges, what steps will you take to prepare for your first year of teaching in a high need school, and why?

I want to teach in a high need school because I believe that every student is important and entitled to the best education possible. I anticipate the challenges in high need schools to be motivation and socio-economic difficulties. These can have a negative effect on the learning process. ( Um, yeah because if you have to fight your way past a crack den and try to keep your school supplies bullet free while you listen to your stomach growl  you might be less than motivated.  I know, I can only fix one problem at a time.)  I am fortunate that I come from a family that places high value on education and I know how a strong support system can help motivate and encourage a student.  To prepare for my first year of teaching in a high need school, I would do some work in understanding the learning environment both past and present. This will help me find the foundation on which to build as I begin. Understanding the environment will also help me to remain flexible as I face the ongoing challenges of working with students. (I wanted to make some Futurama Gumbercules references, but I suspect that no one would appreciate my whimsy.) 

I have faced a number of personal challenges in the past several years including a brain hemorrhage. (And of course, there’s the whole best friend dying thing and husband having a baby with his girlfriend thing. I consider those challenging, but technically, they didn’t interfere with my learning process. My will to live process, but not learning.) This gives me a unique understanding of   slow and reluctant learners.  I have vivid memories of struggling to be understood and frustration with my limited abilities.  This past experience will help me empathize with students.

You are a first year teacher in a high need school, with two months left until the end of the academic year. You implement fun and engaging activities in class and offer tutoring 34 times a week; however, one third of your students failed the last grading period. Several of these students consistently break established classroom rules by listening to their iPods, not turning in work, or engaging in offtopic conversation. Many of your students worry that because of all the distractions in class, they will not be prepared to pass the endofyear standardized exam, which is required to move to the next grade level. You reach out to your principal for help. The principal states that other teachers with the same level of experience are more effective and you assure her that you already reached out to them, as well as more experienced teachers, for advice.

The most likely causes of challenges in this situation are classroom management, lack of focus and motivation.  The students in a this situation may have misinterpreted the flexibility afforded in engaging activities as a relaxation of class rules.   To address the challenge of classroom management, I would ask a teacher to actively observe the class to critique my management skills and to offer me an honest critique. This will serve the dual purpose of giving me a clear understanding of how I am perceived and to also show students that everyone is accountable for the quality of their time in the classroom.  To address the lack of focus. I would rearrange the classroom on a regular basis and get the student’s input on where they work best, E.G. Alternating time near the window or closest to the door,etc. This serves to make the student aware of their input on their learning environment. If this works well, it might be possible for students to have headphones on if it fits in with school rules and helps them concentrate.  Each student will have a different motivation for their education.  If this has not yet been established, I would have the students take a few minutes to plot out where they would like to be in one day’s time. Then show them the steps they would have to take to reach this goal.  If they want to pass the English Quiz, what will they have to do? Will they have to study their notes or re-read the book, or work with someone on a review.   Breaking down the simple steps to reach any goal will show the student what investment they need to make to reach the desired outcome.  This type of activity would also show me, the teacher, how the student perceives the process.( I wanted to include an example of asking someone out for a date or trying to dodge bullets on the way home. I want Paul to hang out with me. Paul only likes hoochies. How can I get Paul to hang out with me without becoming a hoochie because my mother strenuously objects to hoochification?) 

The next deadline is the short short story contest hosted by Writer’s Digest. It’s only 1500 words. Then next thing  is, of course the three remaining romance stories on this contract.

Somewhere in all of this I might actually become gainfully employed. It’s wearying.


2 comments on “I have used it so much, I think I wore it out

  • I am in the midst of applying to TNTP DC Teaching Fellows – I have read a number of mixed reviews on the organization and program structure. However, I want to weigh my options before diving in. What was your application process like?
    Where do you currently stand with TNTP?
    Any advice/observations you have would be greatly appreciated as I consider my application.

  • I haven’t heard anything yet, but I applied early. It is my understanding that the program here won’t begin until the summer. I have also read that the time commitment is major; 8-6 five days a week for four weeks. I’m not sure how that’s going to work. I’m just going to take one step at time.

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