Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 11, 2011
Obviously, the biggest issue of the day was breaking the news to the students that their teacher was gone and I’d be filling in, at least through Christmas break. There was a fair amount of jaw-dropping and questioning while I tried to keep them focused on the work to be done and moving forward.
Thankfully, the two English 10 classes were scheduled to break into groups and discuss The Whale Rider so I could wander from group to group and eavesdrop. My two World Lit classes were watching the end of Shutter Island and then talking about reality vs. fantasy which was a theme from previous works and the movie was used as a transition to the next work.
I also spent the day sifting through the few notes I was left to figure out what I needed to know and do before I went into free fall, that is, teaching without a net on Friday. I also met with the Special Ed faculty to be brought up to speed on students who had various accommodations. I also got some strong advice from the teacher who I will be working with when my student teaching begins in January.
I spent the evening building a PowerPoint presentation on Cervantes and Don Quixote to introduce the World Lit kids to the excerpt.
The third English class was stunned, even though they already heard the news. They were a self-aware bunch, telling me how concerned they were with not being ready for the mid-terms (beginning on January 17) and how far behind they were in comparison with others. It was also clear that this group in particular was struggling with The Whale Rider, confused over the names, relationships, and narrators.
I gave the World Lit kids a writing prompt to get started, largely so I could see their writing for myself and have something reviewed and returned in a quick fashion, clearly signaling I am not following the patterns of my predecessor. They seemed to appreciate the PowerPoint which got us into one of the world’s great literary works.
My other English class spent more time talking about the book.
I graded during study hall and kept drafting notes as to where to take each class between now and the Christmas break. It’s like when I ziplined in August; I felt lots of fear on the short platform but the thrill of exhilaration once I began moving. Lots of concern at my desk but lots of adrenaline when I was in the classroom.
Because I was out the night before, I arrived in school at 6:30, copying materials I would need over the next few days and rushing to mark up the second class’ prompts. As it was, I ran out of time and marked them up as the kids drifted in to start the day.
I then experienced every tyro’s worst fear. I asked questions about Don Quixote in the hopes it would stimulate a conversation and we’d have a rousing conversation about literature. I asked a question. Silence. More silence. A hand. And over the course of the next 48 minutes, the same three people responded to my questions which I zipped through in record time. I then vamped, talking about what I recalled of the story beyond the first chapter, expanded on the themes, and did whatever I could to have a meaningful class.
Over lunch, I got terrific advice from a teacher on how to handle the second World Lit class just in case and her words of wisdom came in quite handily as the conversation petered out halfway through, but far more successfully.
I used two PowerPoints another teacher had prepped, belatedly introducing the two English 10 classes to the Maori and the world of The Whale Rider. One remarked, “I don’t think we’ve ever had a PowerPoint in this class before.” It gave them plenty of review and I could clarify confusing points for them. As promised, I also took one class from chapter one through eleven so we were clear where we were supposed to be and it was appreciated.
It was clear to me by this time, they were starved for a teacher to, you know, teach. They were paying attention, asking questions, and while they may not have loved the book, at least got it.
I spent all of yesterday prepping my World Lit classes with more about Don Q on Monday and then preparing my unit on Fairy Tales which I’m designing to be more fun and interactive for the students as we head into the holidays. I used my notes from my grad elective on the subject as a framework and am building class by class.
It’s exhausting but fun. Once I polish this stuff tomorrow, I will actually be days ahead and can allow myself to breathe as I walk into each class.
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