A Journey to the Unexpected

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 19 2012

6th Period.

I took a moment to look around my classroom—just look. It’s not often that I have the opportunity to observe my own class, but my state advisor had offered to teach my class today as my kids review for the state test—now three instructional days away. It’s impossible to believe we’re almost there, but that’s a story for another day. It’s almost the end of April—171 days down, 15 to go.

What I saw today, unfortunately, didn’t surprise me. The teacher stopped mid-lesson, the classic “I’ll wait” strategy (it’s a ditch effort, she and I have tried most of the others), looking at her watch—and my students barely had a clue. A round-robin conversation of “What time is it?” “No, I think it’s 2:44!” “You have a watch on, what time is it?” bounced around the tables. One boy’s table laughed as he stuck a pencil through the gauge in his ear, another girl popped her feet up on the table to examine her mismatched neon socks. On the independent desk next to me, my dear Mr. T had written absolutely nothing. I can guarantee that at least eight students had no clue what they were even supposed to be doing. The most heartbreaking part was the one student with her nose buried in the dictionary, desperately trying to figure out what she was doing, and the three students with their eyes glued forward, waiting away painful moments of their futures. It was a scene from the beginning of Stand and Deliver, Kindergarten Cop, you name it.

All year, I’ve worked and waited for that moment to happen when the teacher stands up, scratches the chalkboard, blows the whistle, and the line is magically straight and silent.

It hasn’t.

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