Countdown to Spring Break

This is part 2 to Holding up the celestial heavens like Atlas

Spring Break begins March 23, and I can’t even tell you how thirsty I am to get a break from the daily grind for a quick second. Lately the weeks have been increasingly more stressful and difficult. The toll of having two additional classes this trimester has come on strong within the past 2 weeks. I’ve been feeling irritable with my students. I’ve been getting 2/3 hours of sleep. Down from the 4/3 hours I’ve been used to. I know some fellows talk about getting 7 hours of sleep a night… But I’m just categorizing that under the Urban Legendz tab in my brain. I just don’t see how its possible, and kind of refuse to believe the laws of physics would allow such a thing. I need a full order of whatever fellowship steroids they’re on, stat!

Even though I’ve been on the edge, I’ve still learned a few lessons that I hope I can use to my benefit:

  1. Have faith that you will get whatever done, done. Wasting time does not solve problems! You are here for a reason. You can accomplish anything. Period. Don’t let self doubt get in the way of your destiny. This goes for teaching, living life, accomplishing goals, etc… I never would have thought I would have found an apartment this soon, especially given what I have to do this month. Low and behold. I will be moving from Washington Heights/Harlem to Fort Greene, Brooklyn in a few weeks. Its only because I halfway believed it was possible!
  2. ALWAYS push back on students who don’t want to participate in a lesson. Students, specifically teenagers, are naturally wired to dislike things you ask of them. Whether its following a school rule (take off your hat), engaging in a boring lesson (taking notes off of a powerpoint), engaging in a fun lesson (a game/activity you created to engage this specific student’s talents), watching their language (talking about strippers in class). It may seem easier to give up after the first few encounters with a stoney class full of students. But I find that anytime I try again, that next time, in perhaps a softer or less direct tone, students usually fall for the okey doke and start to do their work. Or at least answer the question on the board. That’s really all you need to get the momentum going back in a positive direction in class.
  3. Show your controlled frustration in class. My kids are my everything right now. But, they drive me crazy regularly. They’re angels maybe 3/5 of the week. The other 2/5 they’re a disrespectful, vulgar, impulsive, self sabotage, excitable, rambunctious crew. Sometimes they just drive me to throw my hands up to the sky, step back into a silent meditation at the front of a class, wail in frustration, growl in anger type of stunts. The expressions are always controlled as to not get out of hand. But real enough to show them that they’re being ridiculous and its disappointing me, and making me get upset. It doesn’t always work in the moment. But it does show them that I’m human. And their actions affect me and everyone in the class when they’re not helping to create a focused learning environment.
  4. When a student says “Forget them, they’re not paying attention, we’re trying to learn.” Believe her. Again. Don’t focus on students who aren’t engaging. Get them to be quiet and keep it moving for those that actually are trying to learn. (Work in progress)
  5. Don’t punish your engaged students by giving too much of time to your disengaged students. I took my students on a tour of Long Island University a few weeks ago. The day we were to go most students still had not turned in their permission slips. In an effort to “punish” them I was going to stay at school to make sure they didn’t enjoy a free period and focused on their work. Letting the other students attend the tour with their chaperone. Thankfully a fellow teacher shared that the students who had been on point should enjoy the experience of going on the tour with their teacher. And not have to just go with a chaperone. {In hindsight I really don’t know where my logic was in this situation.}
  6. Speak your mind. – Period. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind to your co workers or students. If your thoughts/ideas/observations come from love. Then they should be able to handle what you really think. At all times.
  7. Identify, develop, and demand your students be leaders in the classroom. Its how I’m planning on pushing many of the young black men in my classes to do more than the status quo. I want to test them in a way. Of course I need to build the necessary supports into the class and our check ins to make sure they feel strong enough to lead by setting the example, and not lead by following the example.
  8. Have students explain concepts to their peers in class. Interestingly enough some of the students who struggle on assessments can actually explain and remember concepts quite well in class. Use them to reinforce notes and theories in class. *Figure out a way to get students to translate knowledge in written form*
  9. Learn how to get quality one on one check ins with all students. Somehow you have to maximize the 30 – 120 seconds you get with each individual student during each lesson. I dont know if students get jealous, have no respect for shared time, or what. But my students dont really understand the concept that everyone needs equal time with the teacher to help with understanding concepts and independent work. Its a huge problem that has me frantically working around classrooms trying to get to each student. My one on one student time isn’t anywhere near as effective as I would like it to be. Work in progress.

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