Saturday, August 04, 2007

Phase 1 Complete

This past week of summer school was definitely the best of the summer. The kids were more congenial than usual, as if they'd finally realized that they could joke around with their teachers. They spent two days working hard on a very difficult problem--even the kids who usually just sit back and try to hide were actively engaged and blowing me away with their ideas. Even when we had a rough introduction to combinatorics, they responded with questions rather than just giving up.

Of course, we finally hit this stride in what happened to be the final week of summer school. Thursday was sad. Who knew that I could get so attached in only five short weeks? My teaching partner Kaitlyn and I agreed that we'd been unusually lucky with our class. Each kid was highly likable in his/her own unique way, something I can't necessarily say for every group of students I've worked with. And I think they liked the class too, at least as much as one can like being stuck in a classroom all summer. For their penultimate journal entry, we asked if they thought what they'd learned this summer would be useful for their future math classes. Their answers nearly brought me to tears.
"Yes, I used to be bad at math but now I know I'm good at it."
"Yes because I had fun doing math this summer."
"Yes because now I know how to make hard problems easy."

Wow. But I shouldn't have been surprised. I saw amazing changes over the five weeks. There was one boy who came in with a scowl on his face and wrote in his first journal entry that he SUCKS at math, but by the end was one of the only students to figure out their last big problem--and he was excited about it. A girl who spent the first week with her head on her desk and refusing to do anything but draw ended up spending the last week volunteering ideas and smiling and laughing. I'm not trying to say it was "Stand and Deliver" or anything, but it was real and it was powerful.

I am glad to be done with summer school in that I'm looking forward to moving on to everything that's coming next: 1-2 weeks of sleeping in and only having Stanford classes, starting my year-long placement in an environment that's been chosen to match my needs and personality, getting to take more curriculum & instruction. But I am seriously going to miss my Buchser class.

On Thursday, a number of the kids thanked me for teaching them this summer and gave me hugs goodbye. Ashly, one of my students, wisely pointed out that we'll probably never see each other again. I'll never know if this class actually does have any impact on their futures. Why did I choose a profession that's fraught so much finality?


Jen said...

The finality part is the hardest, I think. But never say never - I'm still in touch with my H.S. English teacher... And you never know when you'll run into one of them later. And it sounds like you did a fabulous job, which I knew you would ;-)

Linda said...

The great part will be when you run into one of these kids someday at a grocery store or in a park and they a) recognize you, b) seem thrilled to see you, and c) relate some recent success that may be tied to what you did with them. This is something that may not happen with this group but will happen with some class you teach. Maybe it already does with AG kids or others.
Great job, Geetha!
Now sleep a little and enjoy things before the reality of "real" teaching hits.