A blog about all things pertaining to Trent Lott, Leadership and Blogs.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Film Review

I generally enjoy a good film, but usually not as much as this fine tape of my teaching experience. The brilliant cinematography zooming in and out, the careful editing which only left me with about 10 minutes of un-taped over lesson, well ... it is what it is.
A few notes:
1) my voice is really annoying, I hope that I don't sound nearly this irritating in real life.
2) I'm not that bad a teacher. I thought I spoke clearly, had decent poise, and the students seemd to be engaged.
3) At one point while trying to decide who to call on, I started saying "uhh ... uh ..." this is the kind of thing you would probably only notice watching yourself on film, and it must stop.
4) You notice the kids in different ways on film. I never realized before that Greg keeps his hand raised for nearly THE ENTIRE LESSON.
5) unfortunately, my dear colleague taped over much of the lesson, but the portion I was able to watched seemed to be informative and well organized.

all in all, watching myself wasn't the harrowing experience I expected. On the other hand, I would like to do this again someday. I think the most valuable feature of this excercise is watching the way you move and speak, something we rarely have a chance to do.

End of Month 1

When I look at the title of this "blog" entry I find it hard to believe that only one month has passed. College seems light years away, although I suppose graduation was only about 36 days ago. I'm glad that things are moving so quickly for two reasons. Keeping busy and being constantly exposed to new things marks a fulfilling life in my book, and more importantly, it means that I am actively picking my challenges, and can thus ensure that they are the important ones.
People in all positions and lifestyles either drift helplessly towards unintended adversity or pick battles and intentionally face 'em head on. We get to choose. As a teacher pulling my hair out during the year, I might be inclined stop at times and feel regretful that I didn't go into ibanking or consulting or something. The point is with a cushy job and a fat salary, people just encounter other reasons to have headaches or feel unsatisfied. I see it already with my friends. Teaching will be constant challenge and a strain on my energy and sanity, but it will be one of my own choosing. And by choosing my own adversity in life, I can make sure that this challenge, when faced, will yield something valuable.
Hopefully I will still believe this come September. I just need to keep in mind that everyone faces battles in their lives, the only difference is that some get to pick 'em and some don't.

One primary regret in joining this program: The unfortunate paucity of free weekends during the school year. Every day I'm in this state but not attending a flea market or yard sale seems another misdemeanor. I bet some angel is losing its wings right now since I'm sitting indoors staring into a computer instead of leafing through a fat stack of 45s. As long as I live in this state I will remain the proverbial mouse on a muzzle in the cheese distribution center.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

end of student teaching

Certainly the highlight of my student teaching experience came early last week. Walking down the hall, I passed by Michael, a student in one of the my friends classes I had visited a few times. Since I received a placement teaching Social Studies, I spent a few days helping out in a math class so that I might gain some experience with the subject I will be teaching in the fall. The small group contained only six students, but Michael alone made enough noise to make the number seem significantly larger.
Passing Michael in the hall, he called out to me: "Mr. G, I dreamed about you last night."
I felt a surge of pride that I must have so inspired this student during our few encounters, that now he's already dreaming of me. I could only imagine his slumbering eighth grade mind swimming with images of numbers, equations and math teachers.
"Oh yeah?" I replied, "What was I doing in the dream."
"You were a cell phone salesman, you were behind the desk trying to sell me a cell phone."
I smiled, trying to hide my disappointment. "Well Michael, if you keept acting up in class that dream might come true."
At least now I know I have a fallback plan.

Specific content aside, I made it into his dream. I wonder how much math he learned from me. I wonder if making an impact in a student's life and the conveyance of classroom knowledge automatically come as a package, andI wonder which is more important.
Does it matter that Michael was thinking about a teacher, a new positive influence in his life, even if he didn't remember much of what I taught him about dividing fractions?

I don't know if it should be seen an ominous portent or a compliment to my teaching style that the students back in my Social Studies class seemed to like me as well. I struggled valiantly to straddle the line between friendliness and professional composure. From my perspective the class was relatively well managed, but I cannot make any inferences for the fall from the artificial environment of summer school. Here I could straddle the line between friendliness and professional compsure without the classroom devolving into chaos, but I doubt whether this will hold true in the fall.

So I suppose in the fall I'll have to aim for a different place than kids dreaming about me as a cellphone salesman, but I wonder what the price of this will be. If my students view me as simply a repository of rules, mathematical facts, numbers and figures, I will deem my experience to be a failure of an equivalent magnitude.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Cold Calling is Tepid

I attempted cold calling technique last Friday in my Seventh Grade Social Studies class, and met with only lukewarm results. Jessica spends much of each class burrowed deep in a hooded sweatshirt. She does not interact with other students and hates ... absolutely hates being called on in class or participating in group activities. A few days earlier I had them working in groups discussing ancient Chinese philosophies. Jessica, in character, sat in a defiant slump with her head about level with the top of the desk, refusing to contribute. Another time the teacher, in the bewildering half-joking manner which she conducts much of the class, asked Jessica whether the entire class should be provided with a "word bank" for the next test. The other students all shouted and urged her to say "yes" but Jessica sat quietly without answering. Finally, after a few tense minutes, the teacher pressed her for an answer and she replied, "you all can do it without a word bank, I don't care." She didn't care for two reasons: she doesn't care about her classmates, and she was sure to ace the test regardless. She completes every assignment, performs well on every test, quiz and homework, but participate, she will not.
On cold calling day I knew that she would be a problem, and sure enough, when I came to her she sat serenely, impassive, silent. All the other students, a boisterous, eager group, enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for their names to be called, but Jessica was unmoved. I pressed her for an answer, which she finally whispered and we continued with the lesson. I felt as if little was gained. I often make a point on calling on a wide range of students, but in the past tended to leave Jessica to her self. Now I found this forced "drawing her out of her shell" to be anticlimactic, a pyrric victory which just wasted class time or perhaps more closely resembled a battle on a day when all thesoldiers slept in. I demanded, she whispered, and we moved on.
The demands of the teacher are many, and certainly students must be educated in more than just specific content of the subject area. Perhaps this will change as I grow more confident as an instructor, but I felt that I could do little more for Jessica. She completes her work and I know that she learns a good deal in class, but I found myself helpless to instruct her in things such as proper social conduct or being cheerful. Perhaps I just don't yet have the right lesson plans, methods or experience to do so or maybe her introverted character poses an insurmountable obstacle. Whether I get better at this in the future or not, I do know that more than cold calling will be needed to warm her up.

Thoughts on Reluctant Disciplinarian

I will look back upon this summer fondly in many respects, but I will never remember it as a period of compliant computing. With my laptop uncooperative once more and held hostage by a computer repair guy with hair far too long for someone his age, I find myself banished to the computer lab and lamenting the no food rule strictly enforced. (One note in favor of Lord of the Ringsesque computer repair man - he did lend me a computer last evening so I might write my focus paper, had it internet capabilities as well I might be content).

Reluctant Disciplinarian - I found the book entertaining and bearing a good deal of sound advice, but left me wondering about a question I've harbored for some time. Here is this young fellow, Mr. Rubinstein, who went through the TFA boot camp and arrived at school thoroughly unprepared for the experience that lay ahead. Only after a good deal of time spent in the trenches was he able to achieve some mastery of his craft and begin assembling the thoughts and experiences which resulted in his book. Herein lies my question? Was he not prepared at all through his summer training? How come it seems that everyone listens to hours of sage advice readily dispensed by veterans (always seeming to be sorely missing the classroom and more than eager to give you one more lecture). Through my student teaching experience, classroom instruction, talking with folks and reading books such as Reluctant Disciplinarian I find myself under the impression that I've come a long way and learned a great deal. After reading a book like Reluctant I also begin to wonder to what extent this is true. I was moved by the author's apology to his first year students, and his words "I'm sorry I didn't allow you to shine." Is this necessary for all first year students? I would like to think that all my training has left me somewhat well equipped to enter the classroom, but I can't help shaking the suspicion that to some degree, year one is necessarily a "learning experience" producing only meager academic accomplishments. I have no doubt that I will emerge from this year a "somewhat" seasoned and moderately successful educator, but will I also find myself apologizing to these students, my unruly guinea pigs?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

speechless and blogless

Home internet at last! Finally I can begin my blog the way nature intended blogging to be done. Not sitting in the computer lab frantically posting my deepest ruminations before our seven minute break runs out or the weird short computer lab guy comes around and shifts my thoughts to the vicissitudes suffered by short males of our species. Here I can relax and enjoy the spacious accomodations provided by the gods of southern living (although the devil has begun exacting his toll through the swarms of gargantuan bug-life and "support our troops" bumper stickers which currently surround me)

Perhaps I can call it a benefit that I chose not to initiate any blog postings until now. I've passed through so many considerations and internal debates which all seem somewhat meaningless now. How to relate to such things as corporal punishment, the lack of relevant sexual education, the question of whether I can exact any change within the confines of the current educational, social and economic system, as well as the personal questions of my very purpose in joining the program and what kind of society I now contribute taxes towards, these all seem tangential by now. If I dwell for too long and give these topics all the consideration they require, I doubt I could last very long. So I begin this undertaking with a pledge to myself. I will strive to the utmost not to lose myself in bigger questions, however much concern they may cause me or my peers. Teaching must remain for me first and foremost a job, and a job that I have committed to and must complete to the best of my abilities. I have no doubt that the byproducts of this "job" will include opportunities my own personal growth, the chance to help a handful of individuals and possiblly even to provide some minsicule contribution to society, but these results must never become my goal. My goal is to walk into the classroom every day, to teach a good lesson and to perform all other duties required of a successful teacher. If I can do this, and keep my mind off the "big questions," I think that I might not only survive, but might even realize some of the very same ends which I dare not dwell upon any longer.

In other news, tomorrow the hog has his first checkup with a local veterinarian. Hopefully we will find some cure for his dry, itchy skin. If not, I hope that at least this condition will not affect the quality of his bacon. I would hate for my last memories of Minibus to include the adjectives "gamey" and "unflavorful".