Friday, December 18, 2009

Teaching at last!

I finally decided that I had to get into a classroom or go crazy, so I accepted the offer from Claremont Graduate School to become an unpaid student teacher instead. They were absolutely amazed that there are still about 6 of us with math credentials who did not land a job.

I am teaching at a good school with a great Master Teacher. I am observing and teaching one class of seniors who need to pass the California HS Exit Exam (CAHSEE) to be able to graduate, plus 3 honors Algebra II classes, which is sort of the opposite end of the spectrum. The teacher also has a class in AP Calculus BC, which I am technically qualified to teach, but I'm learning more just watching him teach!

Obviously the part you can't learn from a book is classroom management. This is much harder here than when I taught high school English and German in Denmark 15-20 years ago.) I don't know if Danish students have become like American students, or if the American students are just so much more immature than Danish students. I had reasonable success back then treating them as young adults; I just happened to know more than they did about certain things. We weren't even allowed to contact parents outside of parent consultation nights. Here it's expected. Admittedly, our students were on average 1-2 years older than in American high schools. Does that make that much difference?

One older teacher who is retiring this year told me that he thought the HS students now act like Middle School kids a generation ago (despite early onset of puberty.)  Is it because of parents who coddle kids? (I intimidated something like that in a teacher course and one parent immediately defended her parenting, saying that times were very different now.) I think the difference now is that we hear about every single incident that happens anywhere, so the world seems more dangerous. But I think it is more dangerous if the kids don't learn to stand on their own 2 feet, to take responsibility for their own actions (and learning!) and learn to think for themselves, rather than just think in opposition to adults.

At any rate, I have to learn to wait for 5 very long seconds to get the class quiet. I observed my Master Teacher doing it (after he had timed my "5-seconds" to 2!) 5 seconds is very long! But the kids get the message that you mean it. So I have to learn! I have also switched from writing on the white board (I keep saying "blackboard!") to using the overhead, because then I am facing the students. The Master Teacher uses "Equity Cards" to call on students, which I try to remember to do. I've got to learn their names - a total of about 115 students, not counting the Calculus class! In Denmark I never had more than 100. There is an electronic board in the classroom, which we can use to display PowerPoints, use the document camera, and a lot of fun things I hope I learn. But for the time being, it seems to be best to be facing the students! Once I learn Management, then I can try the fun stuff!

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