The Feeling of Bravery
Bravery is a tricky thing. At any moment it can flip to fear and back again without warning or reason. It’s the morning that’s most filled with anxious thoughts. I can easily fall prey to them as I transition out of sleep. That’s when I dwell on the worst case scenario of having no opportunities on the horizon and slipping into destitution.
The Sixth Grade
It’s 8:30 a.m., and I have just arrived at the charter school ready to face the eighth grade. I flashed back to my student teaching days when I spent an afternoon observing the eighth grade, and was convincing myself it’s not much different from high school which is where my experience lies. I took a breath and announced my arrival to the front desk receptionist.
Mandy, a young woman who was to be on my panel interview, came down and greeted me. She casually said, “This morning you’ll be observing the sixth grade.” I said with a question mark, “The sixth grade? I prepared an English lesson for the eighth grade.” “Yes,” Mandy acknowledged, “The sixth grade teacher suddenly quit. Our immediate need is to fill the open sixth grade position." In shock I replied, ”But my lesson plan is for the eighth grade.” “That’s alright,” Mandy assured me. “The sixth grade class can benefit from your lesson on adding detail to narrative writing.”
Since I was there, I decided to give it a try. I was escorted to my first class where I was an observer. I watched kids working intermittently between repeating insulting comments to one another and popping in and out of their chairs. If that wasn’t brave enough, I was about to deliver an eighth grade lesson plan to a group of high energy eleven and twelve year olds.
I entered the class that could be mine, took in the environment and readied my materials while the haggard teacher preceding me was concluding his lesson with the words, “Put your butts in your seats!” He seemed relieved to have me take the reigns for the next 50 minutes and left the room swiftly.
The principal, assistant principal, Mandy and 3 other unknown teachers came in to observe me. I had just begun my lesson when one little boy put his feet up on his desk and loudly asked, “Why are you here?” I answered him honestly and continued with the passage I was reading to exemplify plot, setting and character. Before I finished, two boys got out of their chairs. One grabbed a pass and told me he was going to the bathroom. The other stood up at his desk and chat with his friends. Then the first boy announced he didn’t like the story. Despite my attempts at classroom management, it went on much the same for the next 40 minutes.
In a nutshell, I spent the demonstration surviving it more than teaching it. I felt pretty beaten up by the end of that hour in the sixth grade.The assistant principal told me it was a challenging class as she escorted me to her office for the debriefing that followed. She ripped apart my lesson stating I didn't provide enough feedback, a clear conclusion, or allow the ESL students to share out their sentences. At that point, I had to ask her why the last teacher left suddenly. She squirreled around her response, but I was fairly certain she had been run off by that class. I personally believe it is a job better suited for a law enforcement professional.
I couldn’t wait to leave. I knew I didn’t want to teach there and was confident they felt the same about me. I stepped onto the sidewalk outside the school relieved, exhausted and disappointed as I had mustered the courage to teach the eighth grade, got tossed into the sixth grade, and the experience exceeded my worst expectations.