When I got to Wellstone on Tuesday, I encountered one of the teachers I work with. She told me that they were having standardized tests all morning. Um, surprise? What will I do all day? So I went to the volunteer coordinator, who told me to go to one of the classrooms where students who didn’t have to test would be “doing homework or something.” Fine, at least I don’t have to sit in the hallway all day.
The teacher in that room decided to try to teach something instead of just letting the kids watch movies or dink around. The kids were mainly Spanish speakers, and the teacher found a story written in English and Spanish. The students took turns, one reading English and one Spanish. They didn’t all have strong reading skills in either language, but they got through it.
I had never worked with this teacher before, and it was fascinating to see someone who could get and hold the students’ attention and selected a lesson they would attempt even if it wasn’t graded. (There was some whining and stalling, but not too much. Honestly, I would have probably stalled, too–I can’t stand busy work and don’t like to make students do it.) This guy is a good teacher.
After lunch, they had their morning classes in the afternoon. (As someone who loves routine, this made me CRAZY.) One of the classes had a substitute teacher. It was…an interesting contrast with the teacher from the morning, if you get my meaning. The lesson was above their heads, the students didn’t want to sit still after being tested all morning, the directions were unclear…I literally ran out of that room when the bell rang without stopping to put on my coat.
So, how do I become more like the first teacher and less like the second? She was at a disadvantage, since she didn’t know the students and couldn’t access the lesson plans. But still. There was no control of the room. When the lesson didn’t work, there was no flexibility to change. That is exactly what I don’t want to be, and I think the fear of being that type of teacher kept me from seriously considering this as a career possibility until recently. Experience is going to help, but until then…off the top of my head:
- Comfort in public speaking
- Having a lesson plan and a backup (especially a game or something)
- A loud voice
- Not backing down when disciplining (for example, if I ask for someone’s headphones, I damn sure better get them)
- Engaging the students in the lesson, especially the social leaders
- Reading the room and knowing when to change courses