As I’m conveniently residing in a Teach For America region (Mid-Atlantic), it was rather effortless to set up a couple of school visits to complete my classroom observations. I simply got in touch with the contact person listed in the pre-institute work book, and she put me in touch with the secondary math program director. Almost too easy.
I visited three Algebra I classrooms in two high schools in Philadelphia, and it was eye-opening, to say the least. All three classes were taught by first-year CMs, and the visit gave me a much better idea of what it will be like to actually head a class. I had had this vague notion that classroom management was an issue, but I didn’t realize just how much of an issue it was. I had had this idea that students would be struggling with the concepts because of inadequate preparation in earlier years, but it wasn’t really the math that was slowing their pace – it was the classroom disruptions, the distractions of cell phones and chatter about last night’s sports highlights, and the time the teachers needed to spend on correcting these behaviors and getting their students back on track.
Pre-institute reading is worthwhile and everything, but seeing people put what you’ve read about into practice is the most valuable part of this pre-institute work. After being in those classrooms, I could really begin to envision my own and see myself as a teacher.