When I met with my cooperating teacher at the beginning of February, he told me that I would be observing for two weeks before taking over the 5 sections of Pre-Algebra. Two weeks, at that time, seemed like a sufficient amount of time to get accustomed to a new classroom and new students.
My first week of middle school, however, has come and gone. I'm learning the importance of setting clear expectations, of ensuring that the students always have something that they should be doing. I'm overwhelmed with names. First names. Last names. Nicknames.
One week from now, I am, essentially, going to be the teacher. And, I'm terrified. As I set down this weekend to start planning, I realized how much I don't know. My degree is in mathematics, so I know the content. But, I don't know how much material can be covered in one class period. Should I assign homework? If so, how much? And, what exactly does it look like to review for a state test?
If I had been given a topic to teach, I feel like I would be able to design a lesson to teach that topic. But, I have no single topic to teach. Instead, I have the entire 8th grade math curriculum to review in a matter of weeks. Next week, the students will take two practice tests. So, I will be able to use the results from these practice tests to determine which areas I need to focus my review on.
I have a stack of test review resources to help. And, my cooperating teacher has asked that I incorporate a set of 11 videos of test-taking strategies into my lesson plans. The videos were made by middle school math teachers in California. The students have already seen these videos earlier in the year, but they need to review them before taking the state test in April.
As of right now, my plan is to find sample test questions that each strategy can be used on. Then, each day, students will watch one video. After the video, they will be able to instantly apply what they have learned from the video to a set of sample test questions. I'm hoping that after several conversations with my cooperating teacher everything will fall into place.
In my cover letter, I have written that I believe that learning happens by doing, by trying, by making mistakes. And, I know that the same is true for learning how to be an effective teacher. After trying a certain technique or way of structuring a lesson, I will learn what works best. Not every lesson will be a complete success. But, I can learn something from every lesson that I teach.
Reality has set in. Two months from tomorrow, I will be walking across the stage to receive my diploma. I need to learn everything that I can in the next seven weeks to prepare me to assume my own classroom come August.