Sunday, October 4, 2009


How are your own biases affecting your observations of the classroom?

My cooperating teacher (CT) has a very different approach to teaching math than I do, an approach which I perceive to be ineffective. As a result, I tend to view all that he does through a pretty negative lens. I am quick to see how things aren't working and slower to see the successes that some kids are experiencing.

At the same time, I am open to questioning the way in which I do things. My pedagogy is still not completely formed, and I see flaws in what I do as well. I am also realizing that one way of doing things will not reach all kids. So I am open to seeing that the way in which my CT designs his curriculum and works with kids may be more effective for some kids than the way in which I would choose to do things. I also recognize that he has more experience teaching math in a public high school than I do, and I believe I have a lot to learn about how to teach effectively in that context.

I know that one of our class objectives is to "observe and gather information without interpretation or judgment." I think I am still capable of doing this, but I would have to be intentional and give myself a concrete task like recording different types of statements teacher and student are saying or tallying behavior of various kinds. My automatic reaction is to judge what my CT is doing as right or wrong.

Coming from a private middle school to a public high school, I expect that the student body will be different from what I am used to. But I think for the most part, I am remaining open to my students and don't have many preconceived notions of them. I am finding that in general they are smart, kind, and willing to work. Many of them come in with preparation to be working at a higher level than the class is pitching to them right now.

I've had a couple of instances where I think some students are trying to test whether or not I am prejudging or stereotyping them. For example, I was talking to one student about the fact that her arm was sore from getting an HPV vaccination shot. An African-American male student at her table, with whom I've had a number of positive interactions, then said that his arm too was sore from being shot...with a (some type of gun/caliber--I can't remember). I'm not sure what kind of reaction I showed, though I'm sure my face revealed something. Inside I felt surprise that he said this, because I was nearly certain that he was joking and that his joking was about more than just being playful and because we have had so many positive interactions before this. He quickly said he was just kidding and then changed the subject. I found the situation to be kind of confusing, because I had the feeling that he was testing me to see what my reaction was. Was he wondering what kinds of preconceptions I, as a white teacher, might have about a male, African-American adolescent? I have no idea if I passed his test.

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