Reflections from my first day at Central Middle School in KCK
“Learning is finding out what we already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.” — Richard Bach
I admit I experienced some trepidation when facing the big brick and limestone school that I am assigned to. My vague recollections of raging hormones, awkward physical presence, and the general disorderliness of middle school made me pause at the door. However, the interior contained lofty (albeit outdated) clean spaces, inviting classrooms, and orderly, uniformed children. My assignment is to interact with the 7th grade physical science class. My teacher’s classroom was full of bright colors on the walls, stuffed animals hanging from the ceiling tiles, and a few aquariums and cages with placid critters occupied with their own little worlds. The kids that I met today were fun, engaging, and did not seem to have the demonic streak I recall possessing myself at a similar age. However, I still reserve the right to be cautious in my new environment: the teachers and staff, while very friendly and efficient, clearly bear the burden of trying to educate the next generation with too few resources!
I am surprised with how complicated teaching is in this system. Class periods at Central are a full 90 minutes and I hoped to observe substantial learning in each one. Instead, the classes seemed rather unfocused—mostly due to all the school-wide requirements that had to be taken care of and the huge class sizes (up to 42!). Students are required to have perfectly organized binders for the day, with sections for each class. Unfortunately, this requires the teacher to help them number pages when they could be learning about Newton’s laws. Another surprise was the realization that some things we teach our kids in grade school are not exactly true. For example, we learned about matter today. One of the kids asked if anything at all would exist if there was no matter. I said no, because nothing they can experience would be present if there were no atoms, quarks, or other particles that make up matter in its four states: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Soon after, they learned that light and sound are not matter…so things would exist if there was not matter. While this is true, electromagnetic and sound waves do not have mass or volume, and therefore are not matter, if there was no matter, there would be nothing (in our experience) to either produce or perceive the non-matter states! I digress…but you get the point. I am already learning to consider very carefully before I speak. I expect I will learn many more simple, but profoundly important communication skills while working with this class—bring it on!