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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 04 2011

Flashback, part II: Orientation, Day 1

Somewhere within the past 45 minutes, five weeks have passed. Four weeks in front of a classroom of students, at least forty sessions, eight phenomenal Instructional Leaders, one fabulous School Director, one incredible School Operations Manager, six Corps Member Advisors, one just for me and my eighteen lesson plans, three weekends, one wedding, one breakdown, one ER visit, two suitcases, and over a thousand miles back to Kansas City. Eighteen students, three collaborative members, seven CMA group members, one cohort, countless friends, and let’s not get started on the apparent institution that are Institute Crushes (yes, apparently they are a real thing…)

About two weeks ago I was informed that I am not, in fact, teaching High School ESL. In fact, I was informed that I would be teaching 7th and 8th grade French language and Social Studies in the French immersion programme at the Foreign Language Academy (often acronymised into FLA). Given a major in History, Technology and Society with a minor in French, there was something oddly fitting in its resonation. Coupled with the school’s 9-block proximity to my apartment and my deep-rooted conviction in a bilingual (or multilingual, rather) education, it wasn’t a difficult mental transition. A big one, yes, and I was notably reluctant to leave the phenomenal network of co-workers I had at East High School, but I was easily able to come to terms with the situation. In no small part thanks to a mind-bogglingly amazing support network at Institute – thank you Taylor and Kellan and Lauren and everyone who made Middle School Social Studies infinitely less daunting a prospect.

About 10 hours ago I was informed that I am not, in fact, teaching Middle School French and Social Studies. In fact, I was informed that I would be teaching 2nd grade in a self-contained classroom in the French immersion programme at the Foreign Language Academy. Given my original placement in Elementary Education and an already-passed Praxis, there was something resembling completion in coming full-circle. Coupled with the realisation that I’ll get to teach cursive and an earth-shattering mental recalibration, it was far more shocking a switch than either of the other two. Not necessarily a bigger one, admittedly, but there was something about it that shook my foundations far more thoroughly.

I believe it’s because, in a five-minute period, my small and strong foundation of secondary education was completely obliterated in favour of an elementary education curriculum and methodology that I now have six days to come to terms. Then I have to step foot into my classroom, meet my students’ families, and prepare for a year (or more) of second-grade education with the façade, or even a semblance of a façade, that I know what I’m doing in front of twenty-two 7-year-olds in classroom 220B.

Goodbye foundational knowledge, it was nice knowing you.

Stressful nights, planning full days for elementary school children in French, and Piaget’s cognitive development, welcome to my life.

This is going to be amazing. (No sarcasm, seriously.)

Changes, earth-shattering mental shifts aside, I’m thrilled.

Oh, and this definitely means I can’t wear pencil skirts. And I totally have an excuse not to wear heels. Maybe my students will actually be shorter than me now. Maybe.

On the bright side, at least I’ve got my mental awareness of literacy issues and second language specifics down. On the brighter side, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is most definitely within my reach.

One Response

  1. Lesson number 1
    Be flexible, quick on your feet and prepared for anything. One of the most important lessons to learn as a teacher.

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From ESL expectations to the realities of an Elementary French Immersion classroom

Kansas City
Elementary School
Elementary Education

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