Well week one had some insane lows and a few highs, but overall, I learned a lot.
Teaching in summer school is so frustrating because I can tell my kids are really bright, but they have massive gaps in preparation. And I can’t help but wonder, “as quick as these kids are, how the heck did they get so far behind?” For a lot of these kids, all they really need is serious, hardcore remediation for maybe 2 solid months, six hours a day, led by a teacher far more capable for me.
As a teacher, I am failing badly, because the only measure of success is whether the students can execute the skill in your lesson objective at the end of the day. So far, I’ve failed every day. And unless I make a major breakthrough in teaching technique, I’ll probably fail every day next week too. What sucks is that it’s impossible to learn to teach without failing real-life kids. It seems almost unethical that I (and the rest of us) would be put in charge of classrooms, except for the fact that the only reason summer school even exists in Philadelphia is because TFA said they’d provide the teachers.
So, I focus on what they call in TFA my internal locus of control–the set of things I have power over–and I’m constantly reevaluating everything I do. It’s pretty easy for me to see what’s going wrong, but what’s going wrong, but what’s hard is knowing how to fix it. At the most fundamental level, I’m trying to make my lessons as effective as possible. I need to move from the point I’m at now, where about 20% of my kids master my objectives, to 100% mastery. That would be hard enough if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m trying desperately to improve on numerous other fronts (i.e. classroom management, student engagement, planning efficiency, and a million other things). Additionally, I have to fulfill my insanely long list of other responsibilities to my co-teachers, the program, and the outside world (which really seems quite separate, at the moment). I’ve got a lot of ideas to try out, so the challenge now is trying to steal the time away to actually implement them. It’s tough to describe how hard it is to sacrifice one of my 5 hours of sleep to design assignments that reach my students on their instructional level not knowing whether or not it will work at all, anyway.
I guess it sounds pretty bleak, but it’s really not all bad. I feel good about what I’m doing, even if I suck at it right now. It’s a struggle, and things have gone very badly at times, but God has provided me what I need when I need it.