Speak Up, Stupid!

I’ve been practice teaching in a grade five/six combined-class for the last three weeks, here in Mariposa. It’s been an interesting experience, and a lot of work. It’s all good work, but it’s a lot.

Anyway, today was my mid-point review, and so I’ve decided to take the night off and write about the last three weeks.

Image source: SHOUT! by Ian Sane, https://flic.kr/p/7hUoVF
SHOUT! by Ian Sane, https://flic.kr/p/7hUoVF

See the picture above? Yeah, you feel like a squawking bird when students aren’t listening to you.

On my review there were positive remarks, but the areas of improvement are a lot more fun to talk about. With that, I’ll highlight some of them below.

1. Needs to maintain control of the classroom.

Despite my best efforts, the students tend to veer off when I’m teaching. Some of them lay down on the carpet, others sit in a row and braid each others’ hair, and some just strike up more interesting conversations with whomever they happen to be sitting next to. The group is a chatty bunch, which is good because it means that they like each other most of the time. It’s awful when I’m trying to teach them something, however. I mean, I’ve spent over an hour planning a 30 minute lesson, and they can’t sit still and listen for 10 minutes. But, hey, they’re just kids, right?

You can’t swear in front of them.

I’ve tried using a talking-stick of sorts, a clapper that makes an awful and erratic clapping sound when you shake it, and have used my hands to clap but I can’t seem to produce any noise with my clammy palms. Next week I’m going to try a marble jar and a deck of cards.

I’ve even issued warnings, but the students don’t seem to take me seriously when I threaten them. They almost smirk as I’m writing down their first warning, smile when I’m writing down the second, and they have yet to have me issue a third.

2. Needs to follow up on consequences and/or issues already dealt with.

Basically, I’m a softy. I hesitate. I trust that the students know what they need to do and how to behave, and will actually do what they need to do and behave appropriately. I let the students get away with more than they should, and then enforce consequences too late. I’ve got other things to worry about, like when I’m actually going to be able to eat during my designated lunch period.

I also worry about holding in a fart and a pee until the end of the day. Sometimes, when I’ve got five free minutes, I’ll duck into the staff washroom and let one out slowly, to avoid a loud and obtrusive noise, while urinating. Classroom management is usually much easier after these brief, infrequent moments.

3. Is a soft-spoken speaker and occasionally speaks quickly and/or with a high-level vocabulary.

I can’t drink during the workday, so improving on this will be difficult, if not impossible.

Of all the things that people have said about me over the last 31 years (holy fuck, I’m nearly 31!), soft-spoken is not one of them. Speaking quickly and with a high-level vocabulary, sure. But, soft-spoken? I need to find my teacher voice.

When I do speak up, the students think that I’m yelling at them. When I don’t speak loudly enough, they start their own conversations. Where is the happy medium? My throat is scratchy and it cracks like it did until I was 27. I hated puberty, and I refuse to go back.

4. Strive to refine instructional print.

This means that I don’t write largely enough; my writing is neat, but not large enough. I have to use felt pens, whiteboard markers, chart paper, and whiteboards. Please cut me some slack. I’m trying my best. I could write them all handwritten notes, but that’d just be a waste of ink from the cheap pens that I’ve starting using. Catch-22. This is the definition of catch-22.

5. Mr. [Walter] displays a natural gift for being a teacher…[t]he students have taken to him in a manner few of my previous [sic.] candidates could boast.

My review ended with my associate teacher telling me that the kids really like me, and that I’ve built a strong rapport with them in a very short time. Like, they really like me.

***

Oh! I’m teaching a dance unit. The students are learning how to line dance and how to dance like Michael Jackson.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve found my calling.

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