May Your Roads Reach

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 20 2012

First Encounter

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I will be student teaching this coming semester as a requirement of my graduate degree and certification process.  I just returned home from meeting my mentor teacher for the first time.  He will henceforth be referred to as Mr. T.

I should start by mentioning how nervous I was to have this meeting.  I’m entering completely unfamiliar territory, and it will basically determine my future.  When I arrived at the high school, I pulled into the parking lot and drove around looking for a visitor section.  And kept looking.  And kept looking.  I got nervous about the time (despite the fact that I was still 15 minutes early) and pulled into the maintenance staff section of the faculty and staff lot.  Walking toward the building, I noticed some other “adults” and followed them to the front door for visitor check-in.  On to the main office, and directions up to Mr. T’s room.  Left, right, left, catwalk, stairs, A52!  No, 852!  Found it.  Breathe.  I knocked on the door and saw a student.  I asked, “Is Mr. T here?”  “He’s right behind you,” she responded.  I turned around, and he sure was.

He introduced himself and then excused himself for a minute, which gave me some time to settle myself.  The student and I chatted–she’s a senior and planning on attending my rival university, so we easily made small talk.  I could tell she was one of his AP students.  Mr. T returned and asked if I minded if he go over her paper quickly with her.  I agreed, glad to get a chance to see how he interacts with students.  I listened to him coaching this student in how to better the argument in her literary analysis and had a moment of panic in which I considered the fact that I actually have no idea how to do any of this.  I can write literary analysis, but can I teach it?  What are the actual steps?  How do you construct a solid argument and support it?  Do I understand it well enough to explain it to others?  I tried to reassure myself that this is expected, given that this is supposed to be a time of practice for me and that he’s been teaching for over 20 years.

When he finished with her, we sat down and talked about the upcoming semester.  I’ll be teaching two sections of English 12, which is British Literature, and eventually I’ll pick up one section of AP Language.  This school has block scheduling, so there are only four blocks per day, and one is prep.  There will be about 32 students in each of the classes, which is HUGE.  He admitted his own struggles with classroom management this past semester, and I think he may have been impressed when I mentioned a possible strategy for handling cell phone use in class.  I haven’t mentioned that I will be working through TFA next year, so I don’t think he has any idea how interested I am in learning and experimenting with classroom management techniques.

Although British literature has never really been a huge interest of mine, I’m getting more excited about it.  He’s going to start the semester with Beowulf, so I’ll get to observe him teaching that.  I’ll be doing units on Shakespeare (specifically Macbeth and some sonnets), Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and one or two others of my choosing (he suggested either Romantic or Victorian lit).  He gave me a copy of Wuthering Heights and the anthology they use so I can start digging through them.  I think tomorrow I will buy my own copy of Wuthering Heights so I can write in it as I read.  I mentioned to him that I didn’t like it when I read it in high school, and he has faith that I’ll be impressed with it now.  I will also be teaching sentence structure, paragraph writing, literary analysis, argumentative writing, vocabulary, and some other topics mixed in as well.

Hopefully the amount of terror I feel is healthy and means I’m on the right track.  I’m coming to terms with the fact that this is their very last English class of high school, and for some of them, it may be their last English class ever.  Really puts on the pressure!

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