It was my third year in the classroom and I was looking for rules to break. These are the continued trials and tribulations of my teaching career. This is the ninth part of the story of how a military veteran, failed rock and roller, and single dad became a successful inner-city schoolteacher. This will become a book in the near future and I hope Steemit will help me strengthen this and prepare it for my co-writer and editor. Please comment if there is something you think I can elaborate on more, or if you think I am missing the mark, or if you have a question.
Now that I had seen standardized testing success and had the support of the school administration, I started experimenting in the classroom. My previous year’s experience taught me that preparing students for standardized testing could be done in a matter of weeks. That allowed me the freedom to try different things in the classroom. I wanted to bring a fun factor to the classroom but still intellectually challenge my students. So I tried to design activities that would be engaging.
My favorite activity from that year was a “mock trial” we had where students had to explain the judicial system. I was the Judge and students were divided into defense and prosecution. We put the Big Bad Wolf on trial. It was actually a lot of fun because there is a book called The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, so the wolf’s perspective is readily available. The most memorable moment was when one of the “attorneys” for the defense not only argued that his client was innocent but that the Three Little Pigs had tried to murder a member of an endangered species and blame their poor construction practices on an innocent passerby. The prosecuting attorney was very frustrated. I told that story to my fellow teachers at lunch that day.
No Soup For You or How I Really Messed Up
Speaking of lunch, I never was a fan of the staff lunchroom, so I ate my lunches in the cafeteria where the students were. In fact all of the male teachers on staff did. We usually talked sports or told tales about the funny things in class. Early in the school year, at breakfast I was sitting with the other staff members and a member of the corporate side decided that the students were being unruly and that they would not get breakfast. Here is an excerpt from an interview I had with one of my co-workers about the incident:
BMW: Discuss the incident at [the historical school] where a new [corporate] Administrator said, “We’re not having breakfast today.” Could you talk about that and why it was a moment to learn from?
Jeriah: Well, what you’re referring to is, a lot of our kids, the only meal that [they] got was the one they [had] at school. Not all of the kids were talking, but the [corporate] admin said that everyone was going to not get breakfast. I got upset and argued in front of everyone saying, “no you guys will get breakfast.”
BMW: I remember I left because I was on a plan of action and you just shook your head at me and I realized later that I had just screwed up. You brought up names of people that weren’t eating outside of school.
Jeriah: There were students on Fridays that would go to the [Eastend] office to get bags of food for the weekends. So, now we’re going to deny breakfast when they may not have had dinner the previous night?
It was a lesson I never forgot. You have to make sure that a student’s basic needs are met before you can teach them. Hungry students don’t learn.
Back in the classroom I was encouraging students to learn outside of the box. We held a session of Congress, researched an issue and wrote a letter to an elected representative (including determining if it was a local, state or national issue) and participated in several online activities including a stock market game. What I verified was that students always loved to be on computers and were engaged in learning when they were on them and properly supervised. The architecture of the school (it was an 80-year-old building) prohibited effective use of computers for a lot of things, but the kernels of an idea were being formed.
That year was amazing for a lot of reasons. First I was on a team with three other men, our classrooms were all next to each other and students went directly from one room to the next. All of us had gone through the “Eastend Crucible” and were seen as part of the support network that students counted on. The four teachers also hung out a lot. So I was doing a lot of listening (being the most inexperienced of the four) and stealing ideas. We had very few classroom management problems because students were in well run classrooms.
Mr. Enoch was the English teacher and I remember a conversation I had with him in the middle of the year. I would hear students talking about the other teachers in my classroom, it was apparent that they thought the world of the other three. I have to admit I was jealous. I really wanted students to love me like they loved the three of them. I remember talking to Mr. Enoch about it; he started to laugh when I brought it up. Here I was opening my heart up and he was laughing at me. He said, “so you don’t hear what they say about you?” I said no, still clueless as to what he was talking about. He responded, “everything they say about me in your classroom, they say about you in mine.” I remember I just started to grin, my love of the school culture was starting to pay off. I was very grateful that he let me know.
At the end of that school year, my students participated in the Civics and Economics standardized tests and finished first in the city. With a 96% pass rate and over a third of them passing advanced, I had affirmed that my unorthodox methods were a new way to educate children of poverty. One time may have been a fluke, but now I had repeated my success and I was beginning to push hard against the constraints of traditional education. Never let an iconoclast know that his radical methods work, he will go even further off of the allowable script.
Peace, love, and rock and roll!
Part 01 of the Series
Part 02 of the Series
Part 03 of the Series
Part 04 of the Series
Part 05 of the Series
Part 05.5 of the Series
Part 06 of the Series
Part 07 of the Series
Part 08 of the Series
Part 09 of the Series
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Hello! I am Mike K. I am an educator, lifelong student, military vet and wannabe musician. I have a love of history, economics, philosophy and motorcycles. I am quickly moving from minarchy to Christian anarchy philosophically and want people to stop meddling. My debut CD should be out soon!
Riding in Tennessee with my son on the Green Eyed Snake