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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Experience of Teaching

Today was my first official day of teaching a 9th grade English class Inglewood, California.

            I walked out of my on campus apartment, carrying the 22 LMU red folders for the students, s and all of my supplies and notes that I had packed the night before, prepared for the little sliver of the reality of teaching. As I walked to my car, which was parked in the parking structure, I came across gold Toyota car, which had a flat tire.

            Of course, I was set into emergency panic mode, thinking that this would happen to me on my first day of teaching. I could not believe it! I was nervous I was going to have to call and report that I was unable to attend; however, Alex, my partner, was able to swing by and pick me up so we made it to the classroom by period 4.

            Luckily, Alex and I made it to the classroom with time to spare. The teacher was so welcoming and inviting from the moment we stepped inside. However, we were also hit with the reality that we were the ones in charge. She sat in the back of the classroom for most of the time and observed our teaching skills. It was odd not having another authoritative figure in the classroom helping guide discussion or readings.

            Nonetheless, Alex and I walked out of the classroom at 2:15PM with smiles.  The reactions and feedback we received from the 9th grade class were great. We chose Federico Garcia Lorca’s Arbole, Arbole. Alex and I decided to change up our lesson plan the night before and focus on a poem that reached out to those students who spoke Spanish (which was nearly 100% of the class).  We thought this was a good opportunity to start our teaching with a poem students felt comfortable addressing and reading, since we were also informed that their reading comprehension is not necessarily up to their grade level.

            In the beginning, we introduced ourselves once again to have the students feel comfortable with us teaching the first part of the class. We then gave our instructions to the class to read the poem (which we had printed out 34 copies) in both Spanish and in English (we also had both translations in two columns).  After giving the students approximately 5 minutes, Alex and I quickly started the discussion of what they had underlined and circled—which referenced any questions or concerns they might have had.  The students became very involved and interested with others comments and I felt a sense of ease come over me as I looked out onto all of the student’s faces, noticing that we were not failing as teachers, yet succeeding!

            After much discussion, Alex and I had two students read the poems aloud in Spanish and in English, prompting another conversation of the Spanish and English words Alex and I had picked out prior to teaching.  We asked which word sounded more like a tree, for example.  We picked a lot of color references as well to get the students thinking.

            One of my favorite parts of the class time was when we instructed them to write their own poem using either Spanish or English words, or a mixture of both about a beautiful, mysterious place.  We indicated that using Spanish words to help rhyme (like Garcia had done) might be of assistance or testing their limits on how much they can write and how detailed. One girl read her poem aloud and truly impressed everyone in the classroom. The teacher had suggested that she read her poem to the class, and Alex and I were able to certainly distinguish her as one of the strongest students in the class. Her vocabulary and seriousness of the experience exuded confidence, skill and her ability to excel in writing with the seven minutes or so that we gave the students to write.

            I was very proud of our teaching experience today.  Although it started off quite rough finding out that I had a flat tire, I was calmed when the students were actively participating in the poem we had prepared. I actually noticed that I can do well teaching with older children and not just younger children. With my previous experience of teaching young children, I went into this school thinking that I would not be able to relay the experience well to the students and that I would fail. However, I could tell that over time, Alex and I will get so familiar with the class and being up in front of them teaching, that it will soon become natural.  I am so excited to go back on Tuesday and to do more! 

Our time at the school today flew by, which I was nervous we would have too much time at the end. Additionally, I really think that as we continually go, I will really determine if this is the career I want to pursue. The excitement and energy I felt from the students made me want to stay for the rest of the day, instead of returning back to our University's campus.  And although we had a few students talk a lot in between instructions, I could tolerate it and I felt that I had the responsibility for each student to do well in our exercises and reading activities because I want them to learn as much as they can from us. 

- Monica Augustyn


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