the ferrous wheel

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 01 2008

The first step

A couple of weeks ago I had my first look into what it might be like teaching high school students (it hardly counts, but it’s something!). For my pharmacology class we had to do a group presentation at a local high school on some aspect of drugs that we thought would be especially relevant for kids that age to learn about. So I ended up presenting on marijuana — the straight facts, none of the stuff that you might hear from a DARE educator back in the ’90s. Marijuana stays in your system for up to 2-3 weeks because of its lipophilicity and can be detected by drug tests months after you smoke. You have to smoke more than 100 g of hashish to die directly from a lethal overdose. Et cetera. The great thing was that the kids were amazingly receptive. They engaged us with questions throughout (“Is it true that acid makes your brain bleed?”), they fell silent before we even began presenting, and they participated when we wanted them to. I want to think that it was our collaborative teaching skills that made it successful, but I think it was mostly the fact that the kids themselves were so great (or the free candy?). I know that being a guest presenter is so different from having to manage a classroom on your own–I’m going to have more issues with discipline when I’m teaching for real next fall–but if my students are this engaged, this interested, I will adore teaching.

Also, I just finished the PRAXIS I exam. I don’t know about my writing score yet, but the other two sections were fine. If anything, I’m a little disgruntled that I had to take it in the first place, when all the other standardized tests I’ve taken are so similar (and harder, to boot). But – it’s a small price to pay for the privilege of being able to teach without being certified first.

These days I’ve been lying awake in bed a lot, wondering what it will be like to be a teacher. I imagine myself in front of a room of 30 kids, gesturing at a periodic table. In my best vision, I’m coming up with catch phrases for my students to learn about periodic trends. My students are following along, and when I call on each of them–James, how many valence electrons does carbon have?, they look at the periodic table, count across, and answer, Four, Miss C.. I imagine going to my students’ homes to meet their parents, feeling entirely out of place, but forcing myself to channel a teacher’s confidence, that sense of authority, so that the parents know their children are in good hands. How will I convince them that I am good news for their child’s education?

One Response

  1. Julia

    wow! that pharmacology lesson went well! i feel like student participation is the best, and when it’s this eager it means they are really into it. i also feel like usually ppl are kind of shy to tell you they enjoyed a lesson, so for each one person who tells you they enjoyed it or eagerly participates, there are 5 more shy people who secretly loved it but don’t like to talk in class.

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teaching kids to love science

D.C. Region
High School

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