Cold Front

I feel like just yesterday I was sighing with relief because it was Friday, finally. And now it’s Friday again, already… though I think this has been the longest and most grueling week I’ve had during student teaching. Maybe during this year? life?

I had my most pivotal observation this Wednesday, where my supervisor dropped in to observe a lesson from my unit. The kids were uncannily well behaved when she was in the room, to the point where they didn’t contribute much to the discussion of Guernica and Picasso. My already imperfect Spanish was cracking under the pressure. But overall I felt like it was a decent lesson, with a few adjustments to make before teaching it again to the second class on Thursday.

That’s why I was so shocked when…

*cue storm clouds*

…I met with my supervisor afterward and found out that I am nearly failing student teaching

So far, I have been observed 4 times–twice in person and twice via videos of my teaching. All those times have been at the middle school, since that is where I took over classes first. Those have gone well. I’ve gotten helpful feedback, and changed the things that needed to be changed. As for high school, I have only been helping out and teaching a few scattered lessons until two Mondays ago, when I started teaching my unit and took over both sections of Spanish 2. This hugely important observation is the first feedback I’ve gotten from my supervisor on my high school teaching. She feels that the lessons are not in an effective format, the students are not accountable enough, they are not learning enough Spanish, they are not understanding enough Spanish. What I’ve been teaching them is far above their heads, and I’ve relied too much on individual work and not enough on strictly guided activities.

As a result, my teaching is falling under the “unacceptable” columns in several areas. The problem was serious enough that she told me not to teach the lesson to the next block, not to teach over at the middle school that afternoon, but to sit down and completely rewrite the lesson for the following day, the rest of the unit, and (retroactively) the entire unit I’d already taught, before turning it in. She told me that she would have to see how it worked out before she could even decide if the high school portion of my student was even worth credit. If it isn’t, and I just have the middle school experience, it’s fairly certain that I will need to completely start over and student teach a different semester.

I was shocked. I knew there was room for improvement (this is student teaching), but based on all previous feedback, comments on my lesson plans for this unit that I turned in before teaching it, and my gut feelings about how the kids were doing, I thought it was “good, with room for improvement,” rather than “almost failing completely.”

It was not the first time I’ve cried because of this supervisor, and not the first time student teachers have “wept in her presence.” She reminded me of this as I was dripping like a leaky faucet, trying not to completely fall apart at the table with her and my cooperating teacher. She was my methods teacher, and I spent a lot of time not sleeping because I was agonizing over the assignments, crying, wailing, gnashing teeth, along with most of my classmates. At least once a week there was someone in tears in the hallway before, after, or during class.

The thing is, I thought I was doing okay. I’m glad I got corrected now; I wish I had gotten this feedback earlier so I could have gone in the right direction with this class. It’s not the negative feedback that is the hardest… it’s the fact that I was so blissfully unaware of how badly I was doing. It’s the difference between being a little lost and realizing you missed a turn a few blocks back… or finding out that you are in a completely different country. And I don’t want to be so lost, and so wrong, about something that I care about more than I’ve cared about anything in my life.

I spent all of Wednesday wrestling tears and completely revising my lesson plans and materials. The last two nights I have stayed at the school past dark, after the principal and secretaries have left the building empty and creepy, writing lesson plans, making copies, cutting things up, rearranging. I’m determined to fix this, determined to completely restructure this unit before turning in all the paperwork next week.

I taught my second completely brand-new lesson today. They have gone well. Not over the kids’ heads. Very structured. Keeping kids very accountable. Classroom management is better. I think I was a little scared of the high schoolers, because I’ve just been teaching the middle schoolers and I feel so much more confident there. I’m not scared anymore… maybe because I am much more afraid of failure. So many people I know have completely given up on teaching after student teaching, or halfway through. The thing is, I am still absolutely sure this is where I want to be and what I want to be doing. Even when I was completely devastated on Wednesday, quitting wasn’t an option. It’s still not an option. It’s going to be such a long weekend, and then a few more endless weeks.

My body, true to form, chose this week to completely crash. I could feel it coming for a few days, and yesterday the flu or whatever it was hit. I think I had a fever last night. Approximately halfway through today I started losing my voice. It’s nearly gone now. Teaching at the high school went fine, but after a few moments of silent work in between classes, I opened my mouth to say something to a student who came in to see me, and a croak came out. I’m not looking forward to closing the coffeeshop tonight, but I couldn’t find someone to cover in time & I desperately need the money.

On a brighter note, I can’t express how good Wes has been to me. He has been incredibly supportive, and our recent “dates” have usually involved thrilling evenings reading while I work on lesson plans, making tea, and (oh god) working knots out of my back (repair that I immediately disregard every morning when I pick up my five-million-pound backpack) and tricking me into getting sleep (here, drink this tea.. have a seat here on this couch…) The chances we do have to spend time together have been crazy. I think after these next few weeks are past I am going to snap out of the insanity and be astounded at what is happening here. For now I can just be grateful… and probably express my gratitude by getting him just as sick as I am.

I want to curl up somewhere and sleep forever. I almost couldn’t do it this morning, walking to the bus stop in the dark at 6:30, throat raw and nose dripping. But it’s amazing what a huge cup of really hot coffee and a few hours of speaking Spanish to high schoolers will do.

And it’s Friday.

And I’m going to drink a few gallons of hot, hot, hot tea, survive this closing shift, and sleep for a while.

… I realize how whiny this is. I was going to trash it but then realized that I probably will want to remember days and weeks like these, later on.

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5 Responses to Cold Front

  1. nkelber says:

    Ahh yes, I remember those days. There are jobs and there are Jobs. Teachers are the latter.

  2. justshanell says:

    I, too, remember this. And you know you dealt with it the right way, so I don’t need to tell you that. I can tell you it will be back – only it will be your department head, your students’ parents, your principal, who tell you the things that make you cry. But crying is good. It means you’re getting all of that crap out, and as soon as your face is dry, you’re going to start kicking ass.

    I still want you to come visit my kiddies and my classes. I think they’d appreciate another face in the room. But mostly, I think you need a nap 🙂

    Blogs are for whining, aren’t they? Isn’t this where we say all of those things we can’t say to students/parents/teachers/administrators?

  3. saracita says:

    Yes… now for the kicking ass part. 🙂

    I really would love to visit your classroom. This winter, perhaps. Let me know if there’s a particular unit or lesson you want a visitor for. 🙂

  4. nkelber says:

    You know, I make these witty puns because I’m starved for attention and positive reinforcement.. and yet even two teachers don’t notice. I feel so misunderstood. I’m going to put on my black lipstick now.

  5. saracita says:

    I apparently don’t get subtle humor.

    Jobs vs. Jobs? As in, biblical Job? Oooh, biblical scholar wit!

    Quit whining. I have a gold star for you. Remind me next time I see you.

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