Some days I feel like a better teacher than others. When the school year started, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, so I leaned on my collab teachers pretty heavily. The fact that I had two different collab partners helped me to see what a good partnership looks like vs a poor one, and a poor teacher at that. I noticed that the teaching style and situation in the second class reflected back on the students and affected them, so I started clawing to get more control and say in the class.
It was slow going. It didn’t help that I’d never taught high schoolers before, and was completing my student teaching within my own classroom, so I wasn’t sure of all the strategies and practices that actually occur in a classroom. The year and a half of grad school classes, however, taught me that his style of teaching is more suited for college-level students than tenth graders in a collaborative class.
Eventually, my persistancy and gung-ho attitude started changing the classroom situation. Or maybe it was my niceness and attractiveness (my collab teacher, Dwight, is one involved in my fan club). I started leading lessons rather than standing in the back, afraid to interject. The students started telling me “Thank God you’re in here,” and coming to me with all their questions. I even inspired Dwight to co-teach the way collab partner A and I do, which is a tag-team style… something he’d never done before.
Then came the ultimate change in the classroom. I casually mentioned one day to Dwight that I would love to teach The Hunger Games, hopefully next year. Rather than force me to teach The Bean Trees with him like he was planning for his other 4 classes, he took the steps to order a class set of the dystopian teen novel, just for our class.
I took it and ran. I planned the entire unit, tossing aside the Teachers Guide he’d ordered (and intended to teach entirely out of), and compiling resources from teacher friends, the Internet, and my own brain. I came up with a “Student Survival Pack” full of charts, questions, activities, and resources that would guide the students through the unit. What did Dwight do? Nothing. He failed to even finish the book until we were already well into the unit, and answered the guided questions along with the class rather than preparing ahead of time. I planned each day, made all the decisions, decorated the classroom, taught every lesson, and therefore take all responsibility for the successes and failures of the students and the unit itself (I plan to let him do this with Julius Caesar, which is his favorite, and I have no problems with this since I rather dislike it anyway).
So why do I feel like a good teacher today? We finished reading the novel on Friday, and watched the trailer for the movie yesterday, which I made the students write a response to. Almost every single one said they couldn’t wait for the movie. A handful have already bought the second (and third) books and have started reading, or are waiting for a copy to become available at the library. For a class of students who don’t like reading, this is pretty big. One has even become obsessed: He writes “District 14” on all his papers (there is no District 14, and the district where he lives is actually numbered 14), maps out the Districts in HALO, and talks about it whenever he can.
My goal when I became an English teacher was to inspire kids to read and learn to love it. While this is still a lofty goal and I have a long way to go on the second, at least I’m making headway on the first. That’s more than Julius Caesar ever did for anyone… all that accomplished was 23 knives in the back.