Ms. Singh in the Desert

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 06 2013

How I Became a Better Teacher in 8-12 Hours

I made a breakthrough this week. I became better at delivering lessons. A lot better. Any other week, the credit would have gone to my CMA, MTLD, or teachers-with-excellent-advice, but I have to admit that 95% of my professional development this week is because of him:

This is The Germ. A rhinovirus, I think. It causes the common cold. It doesn’t actually have fangs. It takes 8-12 hours to infect a human cell. And, sometime last week, it entered my body and did just that.

I stayed home with a fever on Monday, disheartened. After yelling, “I’ve explained this to you ten thousand times! Why don’t you know how to do it yet??” and “No no no no NO! You KNOW this!!” at my students’ work all weekend, I couldn’t understand why students were able to answer questions easily in class, but were having trouble doing the same thing on a test. Let me rephrase, I couldn’t understand why students were able to tell me the next step in solving a problem while I walked them through it during a lesson, but were having trouble doing it without my help the first time they ever had to–on a test.

I returned runny-nosed, droopy-eyed, and raspy-voiced on Tuesday.

As with everything else about my new job, I already knew how to fix it. I had to talk less. I even have this email saved from my incredible CMA, as a reminder:


And, as with everything else about my new job–I struggled with actually doing it. So, The Germ decided to do it for me. I didn’t talk for 90% of my lessons this week because I couldn’t.

I’d write a problem on the board, call one student up to start solving it, and watch from the back of the room. The student could pass along the marker after writing and explaining one step (“how Common Core of you,” says Mr.) Students could only ask me for help if three other students had no idea what to do.

Watching my students struggle was uncomfortable. I just wanted to explain the steps one more time. But I couldn’t. So I didn’t.

My students hated it. I hated it. But I think we are all better off because of it. Their scores are improving, and the way I’m teaching is headed in the right direction.

The Germ, too, is working relentlessly to ensure that one day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education. And it decided to start with me.


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