My residency at PS 316 takes place on the last period of the day when students are tired and their attention is on everything except us. My mentors, Max Allbee and Katie Issel Pitre, have acknowledged how especially challenging this period can be. I remember those days, being in second grade with one hour left before the bell rang to go home. So, I often try and put myself in the shoes of our students, and I try to think of a way to grab their attention and engage them in the activity.particularly long day, Katie pointed out to Javan, my trainee partner, and I that we should feel free to speak to the students during class. Having understood my role as that of an observer, but aware that I should participate more, I was not sure to what degree I should step in. At one of our TATIP Friday Debriefs, Max beautifully explained that it’s not about feeling pressured to take charge, rather they want us to step up but only to the degree that we feel comfortable doing so. That hit home. Next time I was in the classroom, I saw my chance to speak up. I noticed that Max was gathering reflections from the students and Javan was writing them down, but all eyes were on Max. I jumped in and addressed the students, pointing out that Javan was writing down all their comments on a whiteboard, and to take note of it, so they could see what they had said, which would get them reflecting on the day’s exercise. It felt good to raise my voice and address the class, and it was easier to do it again the next time. Soon Javan and I will be leading the class ourselves, and it felt good to make this small impression on them.
A different challenge I noticed during my first day in the residency involved one quiet student named Matthew. He seemed somewhat detached and lethargic. I didn’t address the matter, but it stayed in my mind. During the next session, while still only observing the class, I focused my attention on this particular student and took advantage of some one on one time. I took the time to talk to Mathew apart from the others and to see if I could find out what was going on with him. Katie and Max were preparing the class to read their poems aloud and I found Matthew was uncertain about reading his in front of everyone. I helped him figure out how to pronounce and read his poem, and he did very well when it was his turn to read. He perked up after that. At our most recent session on Tuesday, he raised his hand to answer the question about the drawing they had just done on the topic of collaboration. He said he drew people sharing tools while working on a project because in that sharing they were collaborating. It turns out that Matthew is a very smart guy.
During this same class, Javan and I helped a table understand and draw pictures around the three C’s: collaboration, community, & creativity. Max said that it would be better to hold the drawing-paper up and to get each student to state an idea of what they wanted to do, rather than just putting the paper down. Javan and I were doing well with the first C. On the second one (collaboration), I noticed one student drew two people fighting. Fighting is the opposite of collaboration, I noted, and suggested he draw other students separating them, which could be collaboration, and he did. By the third C, towards the end of class, I had trouble keep one student focused who kept wanting to grab markers from my hands and draw on other people’s drawings. Another student dropped her marker and was crawling under the table looking for it. The attention in the room seemed to be waning. Soon after, the exercises ended and Max and Katie drew everyone’s attention. As we stepped outside for the day, I was relieved to hear Max and Katie say that this was the most productive period these students had had so far.
I look forward to the challenge of teaching the class later on this month. My partner and I still have to coordinate meetings and brainstorm ideas and get our lesson plan together. In the classes between now and then, I look forward to getting to know the students better and asserting myself more in the classroom. We will have one more TATIP Debriefingbefore Javan and I teach the class, and I really look forward to how helpful these sessions are. It truly is nice to take some moments to re-gather with my colleagues, ask questions, and reflect on the challenges and rewards of our experiences. Max and Katie are really fantastic and amazing mentors, and I look forward to learning more from them.
-Paco Marquez, Poet, TATIP Trainee