This week has gone reasonably well overall. I’ve managed to go the whole week without any major behavioral issues or instructional train wrecks. Part of the reason everything was so blissful was that the schedule rotated this week and I teach first instead of last. The difference is night and day. When I get the students, they’re still drowsy, which isn’t ideal, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the rowdiness of 4th hour.
I feel like my instruction is going over a lot better, although there are still a few struggling students I urgently need to find a way to reach. There’s also one student who is both particularly quick with the concepts and particularly disengaged. This week, it’s been a major challenge to get him to show up for class. He normally walks in halfway through my class. It will be a major shame if he doesn’t hit his summer benchmark, but even more, it will be a major shame if he starts high school with this same attitude in the fall, because he has so much potential. TFA teaches us that ultimately, every problem in the classroom should be viewed as a teacher problem. So basically, there’s no excuses. My student is disengaged because I haven’t properly demonstrated the value of being invested in my class.
So even though my instruction has gone from poor to mediocre, I still have a long way to go. I’m a bit envious of one of my co-teachers, who seems to have a much better grasp on classroom management and investment than I do, and who is also a much more dynamic instructor. One of my students asked me on Friday why I was so dry. That took me aback just a bit, but really, that’s the least of my concerns.
Despite the fact that the quality of my teaching is improving, I’m still failing at teaching lessons that lead to mastery of the concept by all of students by the end of my 45 minutes, and I’m taking a not-insignificant amount of heat for it from my classroom observers. It’s intimidating that I can have 5 observers, and each one of them can generate a whole list of things I could be doing better, and every list would probably be different. Even so, I think that while my instructional delivery isn’t superb, I have my doubts that these student would master the concepts in 45 minute even if it was. After all, we’re trying to squeeze 180 days of instruction into about 18, and for some of my kids, it’s like they weren’t present in 8th grade math at all (which may well be true). But TFA tells us that everything comes back to the teacher, because even though some things may be out of our control, if we truly are doing everything right, we will reach many of the students who would otherwise be written off.
So really, what it comes down to is investment and remediation. I’ve got to get my struggling students invested, which means that I need to convince them that they can do the work (which I know to be true) and that there is value in it. It’s going to take a lot of extra work on my part and on theirs to make it work, and they’ll only do it if they’re invested.
Two more weeks left…