Wonderland Kansas City

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 25 2012

“Pre-Institute”

In preparation for this summer, I’m hoping to frame my student teaching internship in the context of the work I’ll doing at Institute, and ultimately the work I’ll be doing in my classroom for TFA. This is especially necessary considering I’ve been placed in ESL, but my licensure is in English and I’m currently in a team-taught Language Arts/Social Studies middle school classroom. Even though I’m only in my second day of student teaching, it has already been a profound learning experience, especially in regards to how schools function (even top-performing ones, like the one I’m currently working in).

I’ve learned that in teaching, you really never know what you’re going to get. I was a little worried at first when TFA placed me in ESL. I understood the need for great ESL teachers, but felt like I’d be a much stronger (and obviously more qualified) teacher in an English classroom. I wanted ESL, and had even been considering going into an ESL licensure program for my Masters (which I still get to do with TFA anyway). But I was unsure of how to translate what I’ve learned in my English methods class into teaching ESL, a subject that deals with similar content (e.g. grammar/reading/writing/oral communication) but completely different methods. While a lot of people want to write this off as a fault on TFA’s part, the truth is that many teachers get placements that they ultimately feel unqualified or underprepared for. As I mentioned, I’m in a standard student teaching licensure program, one that will ultimately qualify me to teach in any English class, from grades six through twelve. There’s such variability in the field of teaching that you never know what you’re going to get. And at the end of the day, whether it’s AP English Lit or remedial 6th grade English (I’ve worked with both), you have to rise to the occasion and be a great teacher. I was totally unprepared for this whole team-teaching with Social Studies thing, but here I am, and I have no choice but to make the best and learn from it! All in all, it will probably be for the better, since I’m sure teaching ESL will be cross-curricular anyway.

Moving on to a completely different learning experience, I purchased Teach Like A Champion and hope to read it throughout the semester. I want to turn these skills into habits right from the start, in hope that they come naturally when I start in Kansas City in August. I’ve only read the first section, about the “No Opt Out” method of holding students to high academic expectations. I read the chapter last night, and then made a little note for myself to think about it in the classroom today. As I sat in first block, I watched as my CT’s team-teacher practiced the EXACT method I had just read about! He asked a young girl in the front of the classroom to define a term they had been working on, and she struggled, attempting to guess but ultimately realizing that she didn’t know the answer. Instead of moving on to one of the many other students who had their hands raised, the teacher gave the girl a constructive cue (NOT a “hint”)–in fact, it was such a good cue that EVERY student had their hand raised. Still, the teacher made sure the girl got the answer, and once she did, he repeated it so the rest of the class could hear it one more time. I’m confident that in that moment–so brief, probably 20 seconds at the most–every student in that classroom learned. Now that sounds like teaching like a champion!

The moral of the story is really that I’m super excited about my student teaching, and super excited that I get to do this before my TFA experience. I really wish all corp members got a chance to do this, because I truly believe it will help me out so much next year.

2 Responses

  1. Ms. J

    Good luck with student teaching! I am student teaching in a 2nd grade classroom now in a low-income community. It is very interesting to see the challenges these kids face on a daily basis. Gotta love ‘em though! :)

  2. Malia O.

    I’m doing my practicum in a team-taught Humanities classroom (7th and 8th grade) at an inner-city school as well. I applied early for the 2013 corps so I’m curious to see where your TFA journey takes you–I’m anxiously waiting to hear back on Thursday if I’ve been accepted and given a region! I am (timidly) curious about working with English Learners and kids receiving services from Special Education personnel. Hope to stay connected with you!

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