Being Ms. B

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 28 2013

In which the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated

So far, being a third year teacher seems to be mostly about doing all of the things that I was too scared to do in my first two years.

For example, yesterday, I died.

Not really.  Obviously I’m still at least animated enough to type this blog post.

Still, my death did take place during my seventh period class.  As we were reviewing the writing process for a quest tomorrow, a child said, “what is revision anyway?”  I clutched my heart, staggered backwards, and fell on the floor.  A concerned young man leaned forward and said, “CPR?”  as I hoisted myself back to my feet and proceeded to deliver an impassioned review of the subject matter.

(By the way, I explained a “quest” to them as being what happened when a quiz and a test got married and had a baby.)

I don’t think I would have felt confident enough to fake my own death with previous groups of children.  I also, you know, introduced the concept of the writing process using individual tubs of play-doh.  (I stole that idea from a workshop.  Best lesson ever.)  And successfully tried a review using card stock and the concept of the game, “WAR.”

Basically, I’m a better, braver teacher than I used to be.    Some of that probably has to do with learning by doing… and experience… and maturity…  But to be honest, a lot of it has to do with finally understanding that teaching doesn’t have to be a constant universe of LIFE OR DEATH.

Really, what’s the worst thing that can happen in a play doh lesson?

  1. They don’t make the connection back to content?  It’s cool, we’ll come at it a different way, and at least kids got a chance to do something hands-on and different.
  2. A kid eats the play doh?  No worries, they let preschoolers play with that stuff, no one is going to die from some harmless craft product ingestion.
  3. A kid doesn’t clean up her play doh adequately?  They make wet wipes and lunch detentions for reasons.
  4. A kid throws his play doh at another kid?  Um, it’s play doh.  Hard to throw with accuracy, and not too deadly on impact.  Plus, super obvious to identify the thrower when every kid has a different color “doh.”  No mysterious second shooter conspiracy theories to be had there.
(*Side note: none of these things happened.  The lesson went well from a content standpoint, and no children were harmed or unduly disciplined in the making of this learning experience.)


I don’t want to make it sound like I’m not having moments of crippling young teacher anxiety.  Also, believe me, we still have days when we’re sitting in rows, facing forward, taking notes, listening to direct instruction, and pretending we like it; it’s not all play doh and card games and theatrical death scenes.

For me, the biggest challenge of this third year is the specter of burn out.  It haunts me while I plan, stalks me into the teacher’s lounge to make copies, and lurks in the deep, dark, three-year-old sunflower seed filled corners of my classroom.  So every day I’m trying to be braver, sillier, and more myself to keep the Burn Out Monster at bay.

Roll me up in heat resistant play dot – there are 37 more weeks to go.

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    Teaching by the arch

    St. Louis
    Middle School

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