Teaching in the D

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 30 2011

Planning Central (Institute)

So, today things finally got real(istic). We’re quickly learning which of the staff are awesome, helpful, or… well-intentioned. We had a great lesson planning workshop with an adorable and funny Curriculum Specialist (CS) who used clips from Miss Congeniality to demonstrate the principles of teaching. (For those of you familiar with the film, it was the sequence in which Sandra Bullock learns how to glide. For those of you who aren’t familiar, watch it!) Then we sat down and tried to come up with full lesson plans for our first class.

On the one hand, I’m so thrilled to be finally doing things which actually matter to my teaching. On the other hand, I’ve only seen one example of a completed TFA lesson plan (and the person leading the session admitted that the science example was bad because it was in an atypical form). This means I am basically flying blindly into the Earth Science standards… like topographic maps. For those of you not familiar with such things, they sometimes look like this:

A beautiful map which makes intuitive sense

Unfortunately, on the science exam that I’m helping these kids pass, it looks like this:

A total mess of math, ugly, and scribble

Yuck. Plus, my first three nearly-finished ideas for lessons had to go flying out the window due to concerns like “that symbol actually means something else” and “that could take the kids anywhere from five minutes to fifty”. Luckily, my CMA (Corps Member Adviser, a mix of college counselor + professor + academic dean + mentor) is a great guy and very willing to sit down and hash out exactly what needs to happen and what content should get covered. Over and over again, if necessary. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m on the brink of a mental breakdown because I got rather frustrated after realizing I had spent over an hour making a diagram that I couldn’t use any more. On the one hand, I greatly appreciate the attention. On the other hand, I don’t want him having a heart attack on my account.

On a lighter note, I went to my first ever indoor Asian market across from campus. St. John’s is a dry, large campus, so there’s a charming array of bars, banks, and groceries across the main street from campus. At the Asian market, I discovered a great variety of new fruits and vegetables (note: I have eaten at least one salad/full fruit every day since arriving here). I also learned the amazing number of pretzel+chocolate combinations (chocolate filled pretzel goldfish! Chocolate covered pretzel sticks! Chocolate covered chocolate filled pretzel rods!), and discovered that some people snack on dried squid and a great variety of pastes. All in all, a good cultural experience (although probably not as novel as JK’s, which you can read about at catflightoffancy.blogspot.com/2011/06/mitsu-wa-japan-in-new-jerseypart-i.html).

Saturday, I’m heading into the city for a full day of museums, shows, and other awesome. My hope is that people will be elsewhere for the 4th of July weekend, although this is probably a naively optimistic thought. But with that vision (and also the mirage of half-price tickets to Book of Mormon), I’m off to finish off my lesson!

6 Responses

  1. Tom Cook

    HI Honey,

    Thought I’d drop in and read a few. I will forward your blog note to Jim — he’ll be on summer vacation soon so he needs some reading materials.
    Love, Dad

  2. Colleen

    If I had known sending you away would make you eat fruits and vegetables, I would have tried to get this to happen sooner.

    I, for one, find the second map much easier to read, so I’m not really sure what you’re on about there. Shouldn’t you be more on the path of “teach the kids to read a map” than “coach the kids to pass a test?” Or am I being too hopeful about our schooling system again?

    Book of Mormon is a tempting treat…well worth the pain of lesson planning, hopefully? Keep on trucking.

    • hcook

      Apparently keeping me around skinny people who eat like I do but are under 100 pounds was the key.

      I think you’re being a bit too optimistic. I mean, I am going to teach them how to read the mathy kind of map. The other is actually social studies content, and I don’t really have time to cover it. So maybe I can both teach them to read it AND get them to go on to the next day?

      Thanks, dear!

    • Mindy

      I’ve heard Book of Mormon is actually kind of… bad.

  3. G rammy

    If you can get a ticket to “Anything Goes” grab it! Great fun!

  4. CC

    1. I’m pleased that you are reporting your produce intake.
    2. I didn’t realize you were so ignorant as to my people.
    3. Topography amuses me.

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About this Blog

One Girl's Teach for America Detroit Experience

Region
Detroit
Grade
High School
Subject
Science

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