Dancing with Athena

Satisfactory Essays
Dancing with Athena

I shall always remember the new-kid-in-school feeling that came flooding back from childhood on my first day of student teaching. Having been in my share of new environments, I have learned deeply the power of a first impression. That first day I made it a point to look into the eyes of the young people in my classes, ignore the butterflies of trepidation fluttering in my gut, and smile bravely. Most students smiled back, some curious, others confident. Some appeared quietly guarded, while a fair number wore their seventh-grade brand of defiance and hostility on their sleeves like a badge. Over the course of my ten weeks with them, I learned to better read those faces. Students who appeared receptive or open might instead be thoroughly, benevolently disengaged. Some of those students who were quietly guarded at first needed only an invitation to open up. Others remained locked behind walls of resistance. This last disposition was the most challenging one for me to decipher into its constituent parts. Being always up for a challenge, I took it upon myself to discover my way into their bunker and understand their need for protection.

I ascertained quickly that my mentor teacher took a very traditional tact in her teaching style. The division of responsibility in her seventh-grade classroom was very clear. She engaged in what Bridging English authors Joseph O. and Lucy F.M. Milner, term “total lecture” and “linear explication,” while students engaged in individual seat work (347-8). That is, the teacher went over the lessons from the book, then students were expected to complete their exercises quietly in class, pass them in, and go on to the next period. Very little attention, in my opinion, was paid to the individual or community learning needs of children in this classroom. I observed no real opportunity for students to take ownership of their learning process.

Each group of students responded differently to this traditional approach. The “high achievers” class was frustrated and bored. The “inclusion” class, a group which included students with specific learning disabilities mainstreamed into a general education class, largely accepted the autocratic system and most functioned acceptably well within its expectations. The last two periods of the day were general education classes.
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