Tuesday, January 21, 1992

Both a pleasant and sad day. The first 3 classes were divided into 2 pieces, and she seemed impatient with each part (though I think I was the only one to notice). For the first 15 minutes they did an adjective exercise trying to think of synonyms for common adjectives (hot, smart, tall etc.) and they did a better job and worked harder than they have on anything else so far. Part two of the class was a very brief synopsis of the Trojan War (this counts for their mythology section in their objectives). The treatment was cursory and superficial in the book, and the class made it even more so. Why would anyone care about this stuff? Also, we had completely different kids from those we had on my first day.

I have many worries about this class ranging from whether anyone observing me will see anything positive to whether I can possibly stay awake in this environment. It is going to be a very dull period of observation followed by a very scary period of teaching. I know I could do it in a regular class, and in many ways this is simpler because less preparation is required, but not knowing who or how many kids may show up on any particular day makes the idea of actually teaching this crew frightening.

I did see Susan do a nifty piece of "teaching moment" teaching. One of the sentences with adjectives in it was about the women's movement, and none of the kids knew anything about it. So a few minutes were taken away from the district and school objectives and the lesson plan to discuss this issue. After the first hour class she incorporated this into the remaining lessons. It was also neat to see her teaching evolve as she moved through the subjects from hour to hour. Things that didn't work were discarded, things that did were kept, changed and rearranged. It was delightful, it is too bad the kids didn't see what was occurring, because they were "going through the motions" without putting any of their heart into their work. I am sure it isn't inevitable but that they need a little redirection. I am eager to try.

It is truly amazing that discipline isn't a problem. She is fairly lax with them, yet they do not talk back, act up or behave as many of the classes I substituted in did where there was a banter that was almost hatred between the kids (why is it that black kids get so much pleasure from insulting and taunting their mates--decency is not something they have any idea about?).

I have been rambling from "I can" to "I'm not sure I can" quite a bit, and I am sure that reflects my changing state of mind. I wish we were just tossed into the class rather than dipped in once a week for three weeks--it's hard to swim well with so little exposure to the water. Then, when we get there...teaching is a mystery, an art when practiced well and we are going in knowing that we cannot truly do well. And student teaching is probably harder now (if you're conscientious) than ever before--if we sigh and moan about the problems facing today's teens, they at least have a choice. Teachers have all these problems and fears thrust upon them with no choice. Life is uncertain, and a teacher's life is even more uncertain, which I suppose is good at least in the sense that I*ll be more likely to get a job. With all the changes in life that are occurring right now, and all the confusion that is assaulting me, I know that if I survive this I can survive anything. I found out yesterday that my last day on my current job will be the beginning of my final week of student teaching. Then it's back to tape pool and the loss of income and pleasure of my current job. I really need to get a teaching job this year, which means I really need to impress Susan as an excellent teacher-to-be. My mind is wandering again to the excitement of helping kids realize that life is theirs, even if they don't have the "advantages" that they are supposed to need (it would seem obvious that they are no inoculation though, since drugs, suicide, alcohol and sex are as prevalent among the rich as poor). But book have turned lives around, and I want kids to see the possibilities there are limited only by themselves. Literature is not a subject, it is a way of knowledge that can build a self unimpeded by the outside world. Can they see that? Will they be interested?

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