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There were some really bright moments during my first semester too. I remember the first time my grade 10 class was completely silent. They actually quieted down and we working away diligently on one of my many worksheets that year, and then one student blurted out, "Oh my god we are quiet! I can’t believe it!" and broke the spell. It was really nice while it lasted though because I felt like it was possible to feel successful. I don’t know, but for some reason in my first few years as a teacher, I felt that silence in a classroom was critical to being successful, I’m less convinced now.
I also remember when one of my students who was extremely challenged learned something new in my class. He was actually a nice kid but very disobedient because he was always bored. He towered over me at 6 foot 4 inches and was in the 300 pound range, so he was physically intimidating. He struggled a lot in school, and by the age of 21 had amassed 0 credits in high school. His big accomplishment in math in my year? Realizing that the symbols shown to him in a math question were instructions to do something. I was so proud of him when he told me in class his discovery and the pride in his voice was evident. Sometimes the small things stick with you.
There was also the time we played Math Jeopardy in class with my really low achievers and at the end of the class one of the students said, "I really learned stuff today! Let’s do this again tomorrow!" and two of the other students agreed with her. Almost all of the students participated nicely and I really felt like I had engaged the class.
When my 10th grade students asked where I was going to be going for the Christmas holidays, I felt pretty good about that too, because it meant that despite their misbehaviour, they were curious about me. Curiousity about a teacher in NYC is pretty close to respect in my books.
I also had a couple of laughs although not in front of the students when I could help it. As part of a game, I asked the students to guess which city in Canada I was going to be visiting during the holidays (the correct answer was Vancouver). One of them said, "Winnipeg?" then "Toronto?" and I was pretty excited, these kids knew their geography! Unfortunately another student said, "Connecticut?" and it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud.