Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I think I'm a teacher now

I had my first good teaching day! Here's what happened.

Yesterday, I ended up with 45-minute classes instead of 90 minutes. My co-teacher and I met and talked about needs and concerns, and decided that next week we could try 60-minute classes (which I'm far more comfortable with), and we'd just consider Monday a awkward, strange mistake in the past. Yesterday's classes were okay.

I busted out the Curso Competition chart: if a class section behaves well, they get star for the week. At the end of the semester, the section with the most stars gets a "surprise". (To be determined: I'm thinking a party with cake, Heather is thinking cookies.) The class gets one warning, where I write "CLASS" on the board if they're in peril of losing the week's star. Monday's G section were bad this week, but I also forgot to tell them about the chart, so I'll offer that if they can do 4 straight good weeks, I'll give them the extra star so they can catch up.

This chart turns out to be the secret sauce. Chilean kids are competitive by default; even when you don't set something up as a competition, they really want to be first. I've been running a matching exercise this week and I've almost gotten knocked over a few times by pairs of kids running at me to show they're done. The Curso Competition combines their natural worldview with positive reinforcement, so the class polices itself: if you can get their peers to tell them to shut the hell up, instead of you, that's way better.

Anyway. After a week of teaching, I have a better sense of how to present material, how to move around the classroom and keep them working, and how to respond to the flow of the class. I'm also remembering my Performance Mode of years past (now new and improved by actually being at ease in the world), and the kids buy into it. Seriously, I've spent 5 hours doing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and the Hokey-Pokey this week. Some of them take some time, but I keep looking at them periodically and they warm up to it, and then usually start enjoying themselves. I think they respond really well to my smiling lack of shame and the fact I care about them.

And then they learn stuff! I teach stuff and they learn it! And if they're not learning it, I slow down and they learn less stuff, but they still learn it. It's amazing.

There was one girl who couldn't remember "ears". I modeled the difference between just sitting there saying "ears," and actually grabbing your ears when you say "ears," so she started grabbing her ears just like I was (it gets the whole physicality kinetic memory mumble mumble engaged). Then, when they were leaving, I was doing a "ticket-to-leave," blocking the door until they identified a body part or its name from the card I drew. I happened to pull the picture of ears for her, and she looked frustrated for a moment, grabbed her ear and then said, "Ah! Ears!" and smiled before leaving at top speed. It was awesome.

Maybe I'm over a hump, maybe not. I still have to plan for 60-minute classes next week. But I think I know what successful teaching feels like now! Sweet.

1 comment:

  1. yay!! I'm happy for you and for your kids :-)