Today was an alright day. The lesson was on solving simple equations that only take one step. On the plus side, I taught a difficult concept with some success, and managed to remediate at least 2 people on yesterday’s lesson. Classroom management also went pretty well, and I managed to keep my struggling students in the game. On the minus side, mastery is still low, and only 5 of my 9 kids showed up. This means that any success I did have is pretty much wasted for the other half of my class that wasn’t here today, which really sucks because tomorrow is going to be another tough lesson.
Evidently, I need to work on holding the students more accountable for what they’re learning. I thought I was keeping the material pretty rigorous, but my summer mentor teacher (SMT) thinks I’m spoon feeding it to them. She says I need to get the students up to the board. Maybe she’s right, but from my perspective, it’s pretty close to impossible to remediate for the day before, teach a tough concept, and demand a large amount of independent thought on the students’ part in one 45 minute period.
That brings me to one of the toughest challenges of the classroom, which is squeezing the most amount of instruction out of my tiny amount of available time. It’s a continuous battle, but I’m getting better bit by bit. Every day is a 45 minute performance, usually half-improvised. This is as tough as it sounds, but it’s also surprising how hard it is to fit in everything that needs to be done.
I’m going to try to find a way to do what my SMT recommends, but due to the amount of extra time it takes to incorporate student participation, it’s in direct opposition to my need to expose the students as much material as possible. And exposure is particularly important. I have two fewer teaching days this summer than my most conservative estimate–school was canceled on Friday, due to a heat wave, and it was just announced yesterday that the final exam is a day earlier than the earliest I thought it might be. On the other hand, I desperately need to find a way to increase mastery, and more student participation might be the ticket.
On another note, back to my low attendance. The saddest thing is that you can never tell or assume why your students aren’t coming, because it’s easy to take it personally without knowing the back story. But we found out today from one of my student’s social worker that the reason she isn’t there is because her baby is ill and in the hospital. Keep in mind that this is a 4th grader. A week ago, another one of my students showed up without the rosy demeanor we’re used to seeing from her. We were perplexed, until we found out the reason she was feeling down was that a friend of hers had been killed the weekend before. And these are just the stories we know, in a class of 9. Who knows what goes one that we don’t know. Other stories I’ve heard from other teachers are far more mind-blowing. But, as much as you want to feel bad for these kids, you can’t pity them, because the world doesn’t pity them. At the end of the day, they’re expected to come out of situations like this and compete with everyone else.
I could write a lot more on that thought, but it’ll have to wait.