Lessons and Learnings

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 24 2012

The Teacher I Want to Be

Through my own lack of know, I realized several weeks ago that I needed to complete 2 classroom visits/observations.  I quickly contacted my TFA contact in Baltimore and asked for the names of science education science teachers in the area.  With school ending, I knew I was down to the wire in terms of completing this task in time.  He sent my request to three people and I heard back from one.  A couple weeks ago, I went and visited a middle school classroom in Baltimore.

The experience was humbling and interesting all at the same time.  While obvious he cared about his student’s success and was doing well, you could tell teaching was new for him.  It was a great experience talking with him and understanding how he chose to approach learning with his kids and classroom management.  The class was small – like 4 students, and there was one teacher aid who pulled kids aside when they needed it.  All of the students were bright in  their own ways.  I can see everyone of those kids having their own successes in life.

In the  event to be tactful, I will say that it was a real eye opener.  Especially concerning faculty.  EVERYONE’S experience will be different – something I want to try and keep in mind as I approach the next year.  Teach for America, while a great cause, is NOT the reason I am doing this.  I want to teach.  I want kids to get that biology and science are important.  I will be a teacher at Baltimore City Schools first and a TFA corps member second.   While I do expect to learn the basics of classroom decorum from them, I am not looking to the end as the be all and end all of me becoming a great teacher. That is up to me and the initiative I take.

Which brings me to observation number two.  When I didn’t hear back from the other people who were contacted, I reached out again and was told that was all of the Baltimore barrel of SPED science teachers.  In a panic, I contacted a high school friend of mine who teaches at a school outside of DC.  She and I had an honest and open conversation about me teaching and she invited me in to see her classroom management (the year is done and she spent today packing up her room).  WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

She is strict, blunt, and demands appropriate English and manners.  When she needs to address something with a child, she pulls them aside and speaks to them like they are adults.  She is not only a little feared, you can tell she is greatly respected.  The students know if they tell her something, she doesn’t tell others.  She never berates them and tells them exactly where they stand with her.  She is the kind of teacher you know the students will remember forever.  When she tells them quiet, they listen.  When she asks one to do something, they line up asking if anyone else can help her.  Point blank, she is the kind of teacher I want to be.  Although the kids were around the same age both times, I heard not one curse word or mean word in her classroom.  The respect, seriously, was a dream.

It was in her classroom that I found what I had been hoping for – equal opportunities.  She knows almost all of her kids get free meals and have difficult lots in life.  But she never once felt sorry for them.  She doesn’t walk around treating them like they are glass – she treats them like what they are.  Kids at school.  Occasionally she helps those who don’t have the money for school supplies or projects, but that is kept between her and the student she helps.  That is the environment I can only dream to create in my classroom.

One the brighter side of things, I passed the Praxis II with flying colors (WOOOHOOO) and now I am able to move forward to complete the mounds of paperwork TFA has sent my way.  My advice to those thinking about applying – don’t wait until the final deadline.  There is a ton of paperwork I wish I had a month more to do…

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