One quote that is really affecting my teaching practice right now goes something like
"for 17 years we tell our kids to sit down, shut up, and then pick a career"
I feel like even in my very narrow, very limited professional development that I have been going through, there has to be more to education then producing obedient children. TFA puts a lot of emphasis on teaching us how to engage our students and to make them better humans but I want to know also how to get them to be more engaged. Middle schoolers especially need to interact, need to walk, to move, to be engaged, but why is it so hard to do that? Why am I so scared to have them do group work? Is it because I can't monitor them? Because I don't know exactly what they are doing? Yes and yes, but why should that be a problem. I am scared to do more group work and partner work because I feel that my students haven't gotten to the point where they realize why we are doing what we are doing and what effect it has on their learning. One of my big focuses this year has been on student ownership of learning and I feel that while I have gotten them to that point individually, when I put them in a group or partner setting, they begin to lose that and are more concerned with who did what at recess and why. I will expand on this more later but this is where I'm at so far.
I, like many of my fellow first year TFA corps members, am already planning for next year and thinking about what I can do to make my class more engaging:
I know that I need to set up my classroom culture even more from the beginning. My team teacher and I (I teach the kids ELA/SS and she teaches them Math/ Science) put a lot of emphasis on setting up the procedures and rules that I let classroom culture fall by the wayside. My kids know how to enter silently, sit silently, work at a noise level 0 or 1, take out and put away laptops, raise their hands, but they don't know how to positively affirm others, why they shouldn't speak over their classmates, why they shouldn't talk out of turn, what being respectful looks like. They know what obedience looks like but they don't know why they need to be doing it, or what effect it has on our classroom culture.
What I need to work on
What I think I'm strong at