On Tuesday, I taught my first of two lessons to Ms. Daniel's first two periods and they could not have been any different. Literally like night and day. And nothing could have prepared me for how either class went. I taught a lesson on tornado emergency preparedness, which started with a short lecture with the students taking notes using a guided notes worksheet and ended with the students creating a public service announcement (PSA) poster that depicted some of the concepts they learned in the lecture.
First period was incredibly quiet, engaged, and interested. They all took notes on their guided notes sheets, listened attentively, asked questions (although some of them were a little far-fetched, like, "What happens if a person gets sucked up by a tornado?"), and eagerly completed their PSA posters. This behavior was slightly surprising, especially since it was the week before Spring Break and because there are some notorious disruptive individuals in this class. This definitely helped my confidence going into second period...but boy was I in for a surprise.
Second period was the complete opposite of first period. They were talkative, unengaged, and looked downright bored for a lot of the class. There was very little class participation and just missing the interest that was present for first period. If that wasn't bad enough, a fight almost broke out between two boys who were bothering each other the entire class period. I don't know how she did it, but Ms. Daniel somehow managed to make it from the back of the room to in between the boys in the blink of an eye and separated the boys before any punches could actually be thrown. I was honestly scared and shocked when this happened, but what shocked me more was that the other students barely reacted. There was some chatter after the fact, but they all just went back to working on their posters as if nothing had really happened.
I learned a lot from this experience. One, that these students have the ability to be genuinely interested to learn and that they are capable of amazing work (pics of some posters are attached). Two, that these students grow up in a climate where fighting and confrontation is the norm, which hinders the learning they are (possibly secretly) yearning to do. And three, that I cannot assume that how one class or lesson goes will predict that the others will go equally as well. I need to strive to do my best every time I teach.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013
today, teaching refugee kids in Clarkston with Alek reminded me of my first lesson with Ms. Allen.
the important messages from C2C stick:
what also sticks are the people and the passion. i continue to learn from the people around me. being impressed by erin's honesty. picking up alek's class management line, "we know you are good listeners, but we need you to show us." and being inspired by the incredible spirit of each kid.
-lolly beck-pancer, MPH candidate, C2C 2012
one. keep it simple
two. set expectations high
three. appeal to different learning styles
four. check for understanding
keep your teeth strong. what is good for teeth?
three. brushing your teeth
we kept it simple. we had each child tell us again and again. water. vegetables. brushing your teeth. we had hand motions. we had a song. we had success.
the C2C skill set is invaluable. like a simple message, it sticks.
-lolly beck-pancer, MPH candidate, C2C 2012
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
“… Thank you all for participating in our workshop today. I welcome any feedback you have to make this session better.”
How the instructor probably saw me when I raised my hand at the workshop.
I don’t mean to sound like a know-it-all. I’m not. This teaching stuff is all pretty new to me. But Classroom to Community has seeped into every aspect of my life. Now, that I’ve entered my “professional life,” I’m sharing some teaching techniques with anyone who will listen. I feel exasperated when an instructor clearly didn’t “plan backward.” I have to hold myself back from shouting “If you can hear me, clap once!” in a meeting room full of talkative grownups. Luckily, I haven’t started handing out gold star stickers to good speakers when I attend a conference (but this takes a lot of self-control).
I raise my hand.
How the instructor probably saw me when I raised my hand at the workshop.
“I appreciated the interactive aspects of this workshop, but have you considered using ‘Think. Pair. Share.’ to increase participation?” I ask.
My question is met by a look of confusion.
C2C’s team and TFA’s Ms. Bryson have given me this repertoire of teaching tools, as well as a multitude of concrete skills. Look up state teaching standards, you say? Nothing easier. Design questions using Bloom’s taxonomy? Sure thing. But they’ve also given me something that no text book could provide: a reality check. I’d say that the greatest (and hardest) lesson from C2C came from directly facing barriers in health and education equity. These barriers aren’t just going to disappear. And many of the steps we need to take to address them aren’t easy.
Right now, I’m doing a fellowship at the Environmental Protection Agency. I’m learning about science communications, environmental education, spatial analysis and more. I’m gathering my skills and collecting experiences to help me grow some barrier-breaking strength and expertise.
Where am I going after this? I’m not sure. But having seen the faces of the kids whose fate is actually decided in large part by a broken system puts a little sense of urgency into putting my skills to good use.
-Gaelle Gourmelon, C2C 2012
Monday, March 25, 2013
You don’t know what a trap house is? You said you listen to Weezy and you don’t know what a trap house is? You never seen Boyz n the Hood?
Is that a movie??
I sat at a lab bench with my after-school crew of 16-18 year olds. We ate warm pizza with warm Pepsi, discussing crack houses, dope houses, the general location where drugs are sold or made. We were in the throes of designing a survey on prevalent health issues at Washington High School.
I stopped typing and laughed at their general disgust of my naivety. Then, I laughed at myself. These kids could have been speaking of string theory in Mandarin and I would have felt smarter. But, oddly enough, my inadequacy really took me off guard. See, this survey isn’t my first rodeo in drug questionnaires, Biggie Smalls was my first true love, and I attended a high school at the intersection of 2 interstates (2 words: drug exchange). I’m not used to being schooled by 16-year-old kids on public health issues. But, it was awesome and I don’t think I would have always said that.
I am a 2012 graduate of C2C. A little over a year ago, I stepped into an APS classroom for the first time. I won’t say I never looked back. I won’t say it was a reach for the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of love. But I will say that my path is a little bit rockier, a little bit messier, and a little bit more enlightened because of it. When I came to Atlanta, I had an idealistic view of the world as a ripe and golden promise land. Give the kids all the knowledge! Give Africa all the condoms! Can’t stop, won’t stop.
But I failed.
Not because I didn’t make it rain condoms down in Africa, that’s probably not actually what they need. But because I gave up. Public Health programs aren’t perfect and I have no idea what I’m doing. That’s hard.
See, C2C got me thinking. I’m noticing the bigger issues, the structural inequalities that are more than “inconvenient.” I’m frustrated, I’m borderline (completely) desperate, and I’m so over red tape. But I’m also thankful because I’m not the only one. There are about 50 amazing men and women that have graced room 3001, and this is just the start.
The truth is, you’ll hate some moments. You’ll hate the stupid boxes on lesson plans that represent the vicious, stifling concept of being organized. You’ll hate that you don’t know the right answers or the dream solutions. But, it doesn’t matter. We’re all here because we dreamed of something bigger. This is one chance to prove, be it to yourself, that you still do.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Whether you are a teacher, a fellow C2C student, a C2C alum, or another fan of C2C reading this blog, please consider responding in the comments section below to one of the following prompts:
- What's the best/worst piece of advice you were given about teaching?
- Describe a humbling moment you've had as a teacher. What happened and what did you learn from the experience?
- How did you feel before you taught your first lesson?
- What's your favorite song to get you pumped up and feeling good about yourself?
Thank you for taking time to create a supportive community for C2C!
Ariela and Audra
(Photo: Erika Rees in the classroom of Mr. Scot Seitz, 2012)
Sunday, March 3, 2013
A few weeks ago in C2C we had the chance to take an improv comedy class. It was so much fun! I left the class with a stomach sore from laughing so hard. Then, last night we went to see an improv show by the troupe that gave our class. The audience would yell out topics for the troupe to do a sketch on, and the five members just started acting, without any sort of planning or discussion. Around intermission, I realized that every day I put my students in the same position as the comedy troupe. I yell a question out to them, and expect that all hands will shoot up in the air to give me the correct answer, just like the audience expects the troupe to immediately come up with a funny sketch.
But my student’s hands don’t all go up in the air. So I start randomly calling on students, and I can see the fear in some student’s eyes as they silently beg me not to call on them. My students are scared to take risks and are even more terrified of being wrong. The improv actors were funny last night because they weren’t scared of being wrong. Ok, I’ll admit there is no such thing as a wrong answer in comedy, but I don’t think they even cared if we laughed or not. The troupe was just up there doing their thing without fear of vulnerability or being ridiculed.
I need to figure out how to build this attitude and sense of confidence in my math class. I want my students to persevere in problem solving because they know that it is ok to make a mistake, and the mistake may lead them to the right answer. I want my students to know that there are multiple ways to solve a problem, so their answer might not look like their partners, and that is just fine. But our education system emphasizes multiple-choice questions, where there is only one right answer, and the way that you got to the answer does not matter. Within this confining system, it is hard to teach my students to enjoy the process of solving a problem; just like the improv actors enjoyed the sketch without worrying about the outcome.
Classroom culture is the key. I had a great time at the C2C improv class. But during last night’s show, I kept thinking how glad I was to be in the audience and not on the stage. At the improv class, on the other hand, I felt comfortable. I knew that everyone would support me and my partner would build upon my illogical ideas. Starting Monday, I am going to work on building a strong, enthusiastic and supportive classroom culture, where risks, mistakes, vulnerability, and impracticality are all encouraged.
But, I have a question for all the health care providers and health educators out there. How do you create a sense of trust and support when talking about something even more personal than math: health and the body? Even more, how do you do this when you don’t have the privilege to interact with your patients or students every day?
-Rachel Hollingsworth, 2011 TFA Corps Member