Teachin' For America

Thoughts and otherwise on one particular Teach for America experience.

Friday, March 31, 2006

But You Have To Live There To Get a Card

As you may or may not have noticed, it’s been a while. The job’s been hard, the job’s been fun, the job’s been touching and inspiring. Mainly the job’s been hard. There are, of course, countless things about which I could write at this point. Lemme see if I can come up with something good.

I am very, very jealous of my fellow teacher Ms. “Teague”. She teaches sixth-grade social studies and communication arts and the kids actually listen to her. I’m talking sit-down, eyes-on-me, follow-directions-the-first-time-they’re-given listen. It’s remarkable when you compare it to the chaos that typically besets myself and my TFA colleague, Mr. “Prosten”, when we are reckless enough to get in front of a classroom full of children and demand attention. Her classroom management, as we call it in the biz, is wonderful, and of that I am jealous. Ms. Teague’s teaching in other ways, however, has a tendency to make me appreciate some of the things I might do right.
I’m pretty sure that Ms. Teague means well. She doesn’t normally put in the preparation I would in order to teach a great lesson each day, but she does show a very genuine concern for her students. I think she might even be a little worried about whether or not they’re learning. So she’s a step above some people I’ve encountered in my brief teaching career. I’m not questioning Ms. Teague’s teaching on a human, emotional, caring level. It’s just that she doesn’t really seem to know what she’s talking about a lot of the time.
My students, for a few months anyway, were joining Ms. Teague’s class for social studies. We’d troop in, they’d sit looking alternately confused, bored, and mischievous, and I’d walk around keeping them in line and doing my best to help them comprehend material that was way, way over their heads. Social studies class on Ms. Teague’s part typically consisted of guiding the students through a reading of a section of the social studies book followed by a busy-work type activity to hang on the bulletin board and impress the principal. Even this- interpreting the history of the world as glossed-over for sixth-graders- often exceeded her capabilities as a scholar. I would often sit back and enjoy the hilarity of her frequent inaccuracies, mispronunciations, and general goof-ups. And, being the vigilant blogger that I am (or is it just the condescending prick that I am?), I took notes in order to record some of the best to share with you.
The social studies curriculum spent a considerable amount of time focused on Africa. The spotlight was on its ancient history but some mention was made of its modern nation-states. As a bright student, “Martin”, was reading aloud to the class about modern Africa one day, he came across the name of a country he could not immediately pronounce. “Li- lib- lie,” he stammered, doing his best to sound it out. Now I’m not sure if Ms. Teague had not been paying attention to the reading or if she just wanted Martin to examine the word more closely, but she eventually asked him to spell the name of the country he was having trouble with. “L-I-B-Y-A,” he articulated, evoking visions of Qaddafi and Tripoli for those in the know; visions which apparently did not appear to Ms. Teague.
Doing her best to help a student in obvious need of an educator’s assistance, Ms. Teague lifted her chin in the air as she so often does when doling out a pearl of wisdom, looked down her nose, and confidently and helpfully pronounced, “Libraria.” If you’re hearing that correctly in your head it will sound like a country where there is no talking allowed and the citizens are at the mercy of a government made up of prudish ladies with sweaters on their shoulders and small reading glasses on their noses. Feeling unsure of my place in the classroom, I didn’t correct her. Much better, I thought, to let the kids believe there was a country in Africa where they could check out books than risk alienating my ostensible “co-teacher.” So I silently shook my head, chuckled, and got out my little notebook.


Coming Soon: Ms. Teague’s comment that finally made me laugh out loud, giving me away and forcing me to correct her!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually laughed out loud in class reading this! Thanks for the laugh.

9:40 AM  
Blogger PM said...

As a teacher I cannot condone you reading my blog in class.

But as the author of an infrequently visited blog, I can certainly condone your reading it.

12:24 PM  

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