It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 31 2011

The First Day Of School!

A lot has happened since my last post.

When I got to my schools orientation last week I learned that since my school was overcrowded (there are 3,000 middle schoolers making it the most populated middle school in Texas) I would not have my own room. The 20 newest teachers are called ‘floaters’ meaning that we teach in rooms when other teachers are off. I will teach in four different rooms and two different floors.

The different floor thing is going to be a problem since floaters are issued carts to push their stuff on, but the building doesn’t have an elevator, so I won’t be able to really use the cart.

During orientation, all the floaters decorated their carts and we had a ‘cart parade’ which was a lot of fun. I measured everything on the cart and wrote the different measurements and the area and volume of all the things on the cart to give it a good math theme.

This is just the first obstacle, but not insurmountable. There are people who quit during institute, which is pretty crazy. What’s funny, is the standard way people quit. At the beginning of institute we were all given these giant binders with all the materials in it. When people quit, they generally did so in the middle of the night and their roommates would wake up and see the giant binder in the garbage. I’m not sure how many of the 750 of us quit already, but it wasn’t many.

Here’s a picture of me during my student teaching at institute.

The first day of school went pretty well.  On the drive from L.A. to Houston I talked a lot with the guy I drove down with, Bruce, about what to say on the first day.  He had a high school placement at Milby High and said he was going to ask the students to raise their hands if they are planning to go to college.  If anyone did not raise their hands, he was going to say.  “Everyone’s hands should be up since you are all capable of going to college.”  I’m teaching 6th grade math so after introducing myself, I tried to explain, as simply as possible, my educational philosophy.

I really believe that without critical thinking, school is pointless.  So what I did was I held up a calculator and said to the class “You probably think a calculator is pretty smart, but I know that you are smarter than a calculator.  Because all a calculator can do is multiply, add, divide, and subtract.  But if you ask a calculator a word problem, it can’t do it.  But you can.  You are smarter than a calculator.”  Then I went over the rules.

I made one major screw-up in one of my classes.  On the first day of school the day started with a two hour homeroom.  Floaters don’t have homerooms.  Then, since there wasn’t a lot of time left in the day, classes were just 20 minutes each.  So My period 1 and 3 went fine.  Then I had period 4.  They came and I did my 20 minute thing, but the bell didn’t ring yet, so I stretched it to 25 minutes when it did ring.  Then the kids went to lunch.  I hung out in the room since I didn’t have a class again until period 6.  Well, 25 more minutes went by, a bell rang and suddenly my period 4 class came back to the room.  When I asked why they were back, they explained that they had ‘B’ lunch.  Period 4 is divided into three 25 minute sections.  If you have ‘A’ lunch, you go to lunch for the first 25 minutes, and then have 50 minutes of class.  If you have ‘C’ lunch, you have class for 50 minutes and then lunch for 25 minutes.  If you have ‘B’ lunch, you have class for 25 minutes, then lunch for 25 minutes, then more class for 25 minutes.  This is true every day, including the first day of school.

I wish someone had warned me about this.  I improvised an ice-breaker where everyone gets a chance to talk about what they like about math and what they don’t like about math.

The kids were surprisingly quiet on the first day.  I think I got a good group!

One Response

  1. Ian

    I was just telling my wife about how my high school used to do that – 5th period was the long period, you dreaded being in the C lunch group

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The 'lost' blog of 1991 Corps Member Gary Rubinstein


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