Today was my first day of giving lessons. It was supposed to be an easy day. My cooperating teacher asked me to jump right in giving 3 lessons (2 preps) to get my feet wet on my 3rd day at my 6-week practicum. Wednesday was scheduled to be a review day since the 3 classes either had an exam or a quiz coming up. Each class is split up into 2 X 40-minute periods and Wednesday was also the day where each class spent one 40-minute period in the computer lab. So I really only needed to prep 2 40-minute lessons. No problem, right? All I needed to do was prepare a couple warmups, some review material for direct instruction, and some worksheets for in-class practice, you know, the drill-and-kill kind. It’s math and skill building, so there isn’t a whole lot of critical thinking involved, the fun stuff. Strangely, the day went pretty much how my marathons go.
The first class seemed to go relatively smoothly despite the fact that my cooperating teacher wasn’t in the room. She had a training session to attend for the first 2 classes, so I was paired with a substitute teacher, an experienced one who taught in the same school and, in fact, the same room. Before class, we chatted a bit and I said to him to feel free to jump in he sees that things are going wrong. He told me not to worry, that I’ll be fine, and all sorts of reassuring words. On the bus ride to school I played out in my head how each class was going to go down. I had this mental checklist of things to do and I visualized myself going through each of the items on that checklist. Then the bell rang and class started. And the checklist went out the window, nowhere to be seen again. Just. Like. My. Marathons. No matter what kind of pace I’m shooting for, things happen (mostly I happen) and the plan gets ditched. Today, by the time I realized I wasn’t going through the items in my mental checklist, it was too late to go back and get on track, so I went with the flow. Luckily enough, that worked for the first class. But that was luck. By the end of that class I was feeling okay about the day. Apprehensive, but okay; the kind of feeling I get during the first 13 miles of my marathons.
The second class. Oh man. Miles 13-20, the middle miles, are the toughest miles for me during a marathon. They are the miles where I begin to think “why am I doing this?” or “this is going to be the last one” or “this is completely stupid”. The second class was miles 13-20. Due to scheduling, we began that class in the computer lab, which isn’t a catalyst for structure. Once the kids get into socializing mode it’s had to reel them back in. So once we got back into the classroom, I’d already lost them and the next 40 minutes were pretty grueling. During the direct instruction, one of the kids asked why they had to take notes on something they already took notes on a previous day. Geez Louise, man, I said this was a review lesson! (I didn’t really say “geez louise”) Later on when the kids were working on a problem set, the same kid couldn’t solve the same kind of problems he balked at taking notes on. Dude, I know you’ve taken notes on the rules for arithmetic with exponents 3 times already, but if you still don’t know the rules, then maybe writing the rules a 4th time might help. That made me realize people are really good at recognizing when they’ve seen something, but not so good at realizing they don’t understand it. And again, everything on that mental checklist went out the window.
The third class is probably the easiest of the three to manage. It’s full of motivated kids taking a high school level class in the 8th grade. They’re motivated, but they’re still kids. And by the time I got them I was mentally exhausted. Two cell phones taken away, both much better than mine. Yup, they were miles 20-26. I’m exhausted, but slogging through it.
At the end of the day, my cooperating teacher and I came up with a plan for my next day of giving lessons. We figured that I need to concentrate on one aspect of teaching, and for me, that first thing is going to be organization. So I’m going to try not to worry too much about management, behavior, etc., and only worry about organization; i.e. making checklists, to-do lists, key points I want to hit, etc. I think that’s a good plan since it’ll help me not to ad lib too much.
The really strange thing about the day was that just like my marathons, I felt kind of exhausted, but energized. Maybe it’s the slight cold I’m getting over? Maybe the jitters of figuring out a new daily routine is subsiding? Maybe I’m getting over the fatigue of that 6-hour ultra? Usually, immediately after a marathon I wonder why I’m doing these things. By the evening, I’m looking at the race calendar and dreaming about the next one and how that one is going to be the Greatest. One. Ever. I’m sort of feeling that way tonight about teaching. Weird.