Teaching 2.5 hours of SAT prep after being up until 3 am at a bachelorette party, waking up at 7 am to drive 3 hours home, preparing for the class and then going right there to find that there is no board space, just a small easel with chart paper and magic markers and 15 kids in the class? Not the best day ever.
However, the kids did laugh at all (ok, most) of my hilarious jokes, so that made it better. I try to make my SAT classes as fun as possible because I know how miserable the kids are to be there – forced by their parents to lose a precious 2.5 weekend hours to take a class – during the summer (ugh!) It’s much different that the GRE classes that I teach, where the students are paying for the expensive class themselves and are highly motivated to do well/do all the homework.
Lately I’ve been thinking about having fun in the classroom. Harry Wong talks a lot about starting the year by procedur-ing students to death (my words obviously, not his). You’re supposed to spend the whole first day teaching the students all the rules and procedures of the classroom, and then you’re supposed to repeat all this throughout the first few weeks. He scares new teachers, telling them “What happens on the first days of school will be an accurate indicator of your success for the rest of the school year.” AHHHHH!!!! Like I’m not under enough pressure, right?
Anyway, you’re not supposed to do anything fun the first days because it gives kids the wrong idea or something. I completely bought into this my first year because I was scared to death of not being in control of my classroom. Really, I bought into everything that people told me, because I wanted something, ANYTHING to cling to.
Now that I have a year of teaching under my belt, I have a plan – but it’s my own plan that has to do with my students. Baltimore has a major attendance problem. I want my kids to want to come to school. I want them to leave on the first day and think that their math class was their favorite class – and I want them to keep that attitude throughout the year. Of course I don’t want discipline problems in my classroom, and of course I want there to be certain procedures that we follow, but I don’t think you need to shove that down kids’ throats the first day of school. Especially in high school, when students are shuffling from one class to another to hear teacher after teacher drone on about rules and procedures.
My plan this year is to give my kids a brief overview of the course and go over my one big rule (respecting yourself and others). But then we’re going to do an activity. As things come up, then I’ll introduce the procedures (what to do if you need a pass, calculator usage, etc), but I want to start off with an engaging activity so that kids are into being there.
So, that’s my plan. You know what my other plan is? To never, ever, sign up to teach an SAT prep class on a day after a bachelorette party. Ever.