It is 8:45 a.m. Two students squirm in their chairs, staring at their closed books. Seven minutes later, four more students trickle in. The teacher calls security about a disruptive student while all the others take advantage of the dead time by gabbing and throwing paper balls. Ten more minutes pass. I overhear some students planning the number of classes they can cut and still barely pass summer school. The student sitting in front of the class is sleeping again. “But I don’t wanna do this, mister. It’s so boring,” he says as he lifts his head. After another thirteen minutes pass, the teacher is finally ready to begin his lesson.
I am provoked to question why the students today are nothing like the ones I grew up with.
What’s scarier than observing this in someone else’s middle school classroom? Knowing that I will have to manage one in the upcoming fall.
I was shocked to see that this was a normal classroom day during summer school at MS 226 in Queens. And when I see things that are completely foreign from my middle school experience, I am provoked to question why the students today are nothing like the ones I grew up with. I am bothered that parents do not buy a pair of glasses for their student so they can see the words in the classroom. I am angry that students think it is okay to be disrespectful to their teachers. Of course, parents want better teachers to educate their children. Teachers want better parents to educate their children. See the problem here?
Three months ago, I never thought that I would become a teacher – ”let alone a math teacher in New York. But now that summer training is drawing to a close this week, I cannot help but think that my stumbling across the New York City Teaching Fellows Program (NYCTF) was not just a chance encounter but also a decision to be a part of a greater social movement. I am not just teaching math, but I am restoring equity in the classroom by recognizing multicultural characteristics. I am not just feeding the quadratic equation or mnemonic devices but I am guiding students to discover these formulas. I am not telling them that percentages and ratios are important, but I am showing how they are use to calculate the alarming crime statistics in New York City. Ultimately, I am trying to inspire them to recognize how prevalent math is in society and how knowledge of it is empowering.
I might never understand what spawned this new breed of children, but I now realize that there is a lot more planning involved in becoming a teacher than I had ever thought. How did my childhood teachers make teaching look so effortless? Or is classroom management, the new catchphrase ingrained in my mind, a new art I need to master through the course of several years observing veteran teachers?
Three months ago, I was still taking final exams in a large lecture hall. Now the tables have turned. It is less than a month before I will be greeting my own students. How many days will it take to plan my first week of lessons? My first month of lessons? How many times will I return to the teacher store to buy more construction paper and stickers? Do I have to color code everything to stay more organized?
So, this time, when I confront these questions in the classroom, I no longer look to the textbooks for guidance but reply upon intuition and strong management – ”which will become the foundation of a successful teacher in years to come.
Emily Peng is a recent graduate of the University of Delaware and a new addition to the New York City school system. You can find more information on Emily at my.asiancemagazine.com/emmyp7