Tuesday, September 06, 2005

first day of student teaching

This morning I went to my first day at the high school where I'll be doing my first semester of student teaching. I had looked up the school's address online and gave myself over an hour to get there - it seemed easy enough, take one subway line down to city hall and walk 10 or 15 minutes. Unfortunately, google's map showed me the completely wrong location for the address - the street I was on ends and starts up again further east. After walking for 20 minutes or so, in and out of projects and under the Brooklyn Bridge twice, I called the school (luckily, I wrote down its number last night, just in case). The man who picked up gave me directions for walking to the school, which was another 10 or 15 minutes away. (Luckily, I still arrived at the school 20 minutes early, which is basically insane. I don't think I am physically capable of arriving at places late.)

1. So many of the teachers were surprisingly young - or, surprisingly few of the teachers were middle-aged or older. They all seemed very friendly, and talked to one another like returning RA's used to at CTY.
2. The principal of the school, who I was told to contact when I arrived, just retired last week, and the new principal is extremely friendly and approachable. He was very apologetic for not really knowing what we should be doing today and tomorrow as student teachers, but thinks he'll have more of an idea as to which teacher we'll be working with. The other math student teacher and I met two of the math teachers who we might be working with, and just from talking to them for a few minutes, I know I'd have so much fun working with either of them.
3. I can't get a hold yet of how conservative the school is. Supposedly all the kids have to wear collared shirts - that seems very conservative. But, then, it's also a very very new (6, 7, 8 years old?) school with a very young staff and a small (but steadily growing) student body. I'm not sure if they teach the standard NYC curriculum or if they're exempt, and how focused they are on standardized tests. Their big thing seems to be getting the kids who graduate to go to college, which is awesome, but do they get there by test prep, or by motivating the kids and encouraging them to want to learn as much as possible?
4. I sat through a few hours of teacher orientation (we gave up around noon). We did a lot of group activities (I was in a group with the new principal, which would have been more intimidating if he wasn't so so funny), and one involved a reading from Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It talked about "priming" which is when someone gets in a kind of mindset by doing some sort of activity, without realizing it. For example, in an experiment where people were given a certain number of Trivial Pursuit questions to answer, they performed better when asked beforehand to think about what it'd be like to be a professor, than when they were asked beforehand to think about hooligans - thinking about professors put the first group in a "smart" kind of mindset. The interesting thing the article says may happen is that rich white kids from private schools might be outperforming minority students from inner-cities on tests like the SATs because they are all asked to fill in their race on the scantron beforehand, which puts them in the mindset of performing like they expect people of their race to perform. Some of the teachers in the room disagreed with this line of thought, thinking it's not true and it just doesn't happen, but it's still so interesting. If it's true, does that mean minority students' scores on standardized tests would improve if we simply didn't ask them to write down their minority before they take the exam? Does it also mean that as a teacher, I could improve my students' test scores by getting them in a "smart" mindset before they take their tests? (And doesn't that seem kind of creepy and unethical?)

My only class this afternoon was cancelled, so now all I have to do is go to the fellowship place to have my picture taken. It's good, I'm exhausted.