Monday, January 14, 2008

A real-life teacher

Today I was in a second-grade class all day (subbing for a woman who went to seventh grade with me). Despite all my experience in schools and teaching pre-K, I must say that today was my very first full day as a paid grade school teacher. I've been an aide, a student teacher, and a pre-K teacher, and I've helped and observed in other classes before, but this was the first time I was the actual and sole teacher, no qualifications, for grade school class, all day.

I had a lot of help, both from the other grade teachers and from the kids themselves. The other teachers kindly went over my schedule, showed me where some supplies were, and so on. The kids knew their schedule backwards and forwards, so they only needed the slightest verbal prompt from me to go through their day. For example, I said, "Let's get started with the calendar now," and one kid popped up and put the right day and date on the board, and then another kid read them off. I said it was time for math, and one kid pops up with a previously prepared estimation project. And so on.

The day was mostly math teaching (parallel lines and simple geometric shapes), with a little journal writing by the morning group and reading to the afternoon group. (The kids wrote about what their dream day at school would be like --- mostly art and gym and recess --- and I read them Roald Dahl's The Magic Finger.)

For some reason, very few of the kids in either group could draw a quadrangle with no parallel sides. They just couldn't get their heads around it, possibly because they had a hard time fulfilling a negative request. I got a lot of parallelograms (uh, no), trapezoids (closer), even a few triangles (couldn't be more off) or some desultory crossed line segments (I take it back about the triangles). This after much review of both "parallel" and "quadrangle."

I'm not mocking the kids (well, much); it's a hard concept to grasp, and I'm not sure I explained it well. If I'd known what I'd be asked to do, I might have been able to think of a strategy or an example that worked.

Anyway, I liked being there a lot.


Michael5000 said...

Oh, interesting. I wonder what would happen if you tried it on adults? It being "draw a quadrangle with no parallel lines," that is. We're pretty conditioned to right angles by the built environment we live it; I bet that drawing out a completely irregular four-sided figure creates dissonance at any age for a moderne American. Just guessing, though.

Churlita said...

Congrats on your first "real" teaching day. It sounds like you did really well.