Saturday, August 27, 2005

The first day just keeps getting closer and closer . . .

Today was our last training day for TFA. We are finally free to go into our classrooms and teach. In some ways I feel so prepared and in other ways I feel totally lost.

The things that I am feeling good about are all the things that TFA has been drilling into us for the entire summer: classroom management, investing students, high expectations. What I'm really at a loss for is what it is that I'm actually going to be teaching my students. I know that I am responsible for the English language acquisition of my students but I don't know how I'm supposed to go about teaching it. Should I do it in the context of English Language Arts, or should it be in the context of the content areas. And then there is the whole thing about significant academic gains. I know that I can track and take responsibility for their mastery of English (speaking, reading, writing and listening) but what about content areas. Today we had an ESL break out group and we were repeatedly told to not forget about the content areas. In many cases we (the ESL teachers) may be the only educator providing any comprehensible content to our students. We can't forget about the content areas. But how am I supposed to plan lessons around several content areas for nine different grade levels? Especially when I may have some students for just 180 minutes a week.

Another question that comes up is how do I plan my rules and procedures for such a wide grade span? It's hard (if not impossible) to come up with procedures that would be the same for Kindergarteners as well as 8th graders. Should I break the grades up into K-3, 4-8 when planning rules and procedures, or even into three groups? I think that I may have around 18 total students (if I can trust the school's web site). It's hard for me to envision how my classroom will look and sound when I don't know what the groupings will be like and how many students there will be in each group. I feel like a lot of management strategies that we have learned are geared to a classroom of 25+ students. How do I adapt that to a smaller group of four students who are stepping into a classroom for the first time in this country?

All summer I've been thinking that there would be this magical day when I would suddenly know what my situation would be like and then I could start planning. I'm starting to realize that that day isn't coming.

I was given some advice (and I know that a lot of other corps members are doing this too) to just plan for teaching procedures and classroom culture lessons in the first two weeks. Like I explained before, I'm feeling like I can't do even that. I'm scared that the first day is going to come and I'm just going to show up at school knowing nothing.

So, having worked through all these anxieties by putting them down on paper (or the computer screen) I do have some next steps. First, I hear that principals should be back at schools on Monday so I'm going to try and contact mine and finally speak to him for the first time since my interview. Second, today I was given the number for the ESL coordinator in my region. That could possible be a good person to get some information. Or at least ideas on what ESL teachers do in other schools.

... and, to add to all of the stress, I STILL haven't found a place to live. It's starting to get to the point of desperation.

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