This post is pretty much just a journal entry. Sorry.
Today I was observed for the first time as a student teacher. I have been observed before while teaching during my practicum experience, it felt like it mattered more this time. I am not sure why. I attempted to teach a common math lab lesson: testing the breaking weight of paper bridges with pennies in cups.
It was literally the worst lesson I have ever taught.
For some reason I was flustered that my university supervisor was there. I realized I hadn’t looked through the day’s warm-up for the kids, and had to wing my explanation. Our class discussion about how civil engineers test bridge materials began well, but then I forgot to show my introduction video. Then I totally and completely botched the launch for the lab. Labs are already loosely structured lessons, and to make it worse, the class is 30 8th graders that have never done a lab in this math class before. It was a new procedure for them and I totally dropped the ball on communicating expectations or the goals of the lessons. I realized in the middle of the lesson what I had done, but at that point it was too late to save it. I had students pass out materials before I had fully explained the project. I asked for quiet when they began talking and then tried to talk over them when they didn’t give it to me, which was implicit permission for them to talk in class. Rookie mistake after rookie mistake. I was trapped. At the end I was just ready for the bell to ring. I was so embarrassed.
I spoke with my university supervisor afterwards. He was very encouraging and kind, but I would much rather have impressed him with the first lesson he watched me give. He wouldn’t outright say that the lesson was bad, but when he asked me how I thought it went and I said, “It was a disaster,” he said “Well, it wasn’t the worst lesson ever. It just….wasn’t as effective as you wanted it to be.” (An under-statement.) However he was very kind to me and gave me as much advice as he could think of.
My biggest issue was classroom management. If I had a better handle on that, my botch of the launch wouldn’t have been as big of a deal, but because I couldn’t get the class under control, I couldn’t really get them to where I wanted to be. I need to be more assertive. I am capable of it, but it isn’t my first inclination. It’s an aspect of my teacher persona that needs cultivation. Part of it comes from wanting to be liked. It is definitely something I need to work on.
I finished 2nd bell feeling pretty discouraged, but it was better by the end of the day. I got two more chances to teach the lab during 4th and 7th bell. The strangest part of the day by far was actually how 7th bell went. That particular mix of students can be ridiculously difficult. Even my mentor teacher and all the other 8th grade team teachers at the school have a hard time with them. (They unfortunately travel from class to class together because of scheduling necessities–like a pack of wolves.) After the debacle that was 2nd bell and the so-so lesson 4th bell, I thought 7th bell would eat me alive.
But they didn’t. In fact, we got furthest in 7th bell. It was the strangest thing. Before 5th bell I had spoken to a student from that class, asking him to warn them we were doing a project and that if they wanted to do it then they needed to be prepared to behave well, hoping to give them a little advanced warning, time to mentally prepare and behave a little better. That might have been a small part, but I don’t even know if he spoke to the others like I asked. Another factor was that a particular student that is often an instigator had been removed from regular classes earlier that day and was in In School Detention. Lastly, the parent of another student–who happens to be a Cincinnati policewoman in a tough precinct–visited us for the day.
So it may have just been fear of tasering that made the class go so well.
(She wasn’t in uniform or armed.)
Because I had already taught the lesson twice I had a much better handle on the flow of it, and the students seemed to enjoy it. Just having 7th bell do so well negated all the frustration I had been feeling about 2nd bell. Now if only my university supervisor had been there to see it.