Friday, March 29, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities, er Classes

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.

~Heather Marsh (Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral Sciences & Health Education)

1 comment:

  1. Definitely true that you never know quite what to expect when you walk into a classroom! This is true of adults too -- I've done some trainings and had some very challenging participants. Although a physical fight hasn't broken out, I've been witness to some serious attitude (mostly to other participants and fortunately not to me)!

    Your takeaway about being surprised about the students' lack of response to such a disruption is so interesting to me. I'm interested to hear others' thoughts about things that surprised you in the classroom (both for teachers and Emory students).