This week I had my first experience in a classroom-like setting without my CT and Jill, but instead with a TA with who I am not very familiar. Our Regents Chemistry class has officially split into two groups of about six students. On each day one group can be found in the classroom while the other half goes down to the cyber lounge to work online. The ‘teams,’ as Jill and I have dubbed them, alternate between classroom and cyber lounge and each of us are assigned to a single team so that they students have some continuity with teachers. Our CT will stay in the classroom everyday and give instruction or labs to supplement the online content.
Friday was Jill and mine first day of participating in the split class scenario. After Jill going down with the wrong team to the cyber lounge and us having to trade locations it was left to me and the cyber lounge TA to facilitate my students’ learning while also managing the other students in the cyber lounge’s noise. By the time I got to the cyber lounge all my students were splayed across the floor on bean bags or on the video rocker chairs. There was another group of about six or eight students who I recognized (because my placement is a small school) but who were not in my class. These students were on their phones (phones are not allowed at school and the administration collects them in the morning and redistributes them after the final bell rings) and watching loud music videos on their ChromeBooks. I felt like I should have done something about them having their phones because phones are prohibited at my placement; but, I also know that the students that leave early to go to MCC for classes are allowed to get their phones back early. So, maybe these students were leaving soon for the bus soon? However, at the end of the period they were still there so I should have said something or had the TA say something.
Following about five phone conversations, all of which lasted about ten minutes and included passing the phone among students, these students (that weren’t mine) proceeded to watch music videos riddled with inappropriate language and phrases on full volume while I gave them looks to turn it down and the TA asked them to quiet down. Other students, with bathroom passes or other passes, kept peaking their heads in to ask about job applications or what they were doing about that night’s football game or other unrelated things. The last disruption, that lasted to remainder of the 72 minute period, was the students decided to watch Hercules on full volume together.
Of my five students only one was pulled into this chaos. The student that was pulled in was clearly very close friends with the other students and is one of the lower performing students in the class. My other four students were relatively far from the chaos, with headphones in, working on the Chemistry classwork or other classwork they had prioritized higher. (On a side note; my CT is okay with the students working on other things in class, as long as they do their Chemistry work at home. This is because all of our content is done online, and so they don’t have to be in school to learn.) I walked around twice to check on the students’ progress and answer any questions they had. I was making sure they knew what lesson they should be through by Monday and that they had a classroom simulation on Monday that pertained to the lesson they should be working on now. This seemed to work really well with the four students who were away from the chaos. However, my one student who sucked into the chaos acknowledged me asking how she was doing, and said she was just about to start, but then never logged on. (I can check their activity through my account for the site.) One my second lap around she I told her that she is three lessons behind and needs to get going she did the “smile-nod-ignore” tactic.
At the end of the periodI gave my CT and Jill the full report of the horrendous period in the cyber lounge experience. We decided that no other students would be allowed in the cyber lounge during our class period, and that the student who refused to work despite my prompting would be banned from the cyber lounge for the next week so that she would be more motivated to catch up, and less distracted.
Being in the room without my CT but with a TA with whom I wasn’t very familiar with, was weird. I really struggled to find what exactly my role was and just how much power I had. The TA, after some reflection, seemed to really care less what was going on in the cyber lounge (as long as the students weren’t hurting each other). This fact alone makes me feel like I should have acted as though I had more power than I did. Next week when I’m back in there, it will obviously be different because the other students won’t be there, but clearly I need to take the reigns more. I imagine this is something that I will get better with with time but I was surprised at how much I sat back when there was another adult present in the room; especially because I don’t consider myself an adult, and because I felt as though I was in her domain and she would have more control over it than she did. Well, at least now I know.