Friday, June 7, 2013

The YMCA School of Swimming, German, and Feisty Sharks

Long ago when we were wee 'uns and enrolled in a Backyard Swim class, my brother told me that at the YMCA, they just threw you in the pool and let you figure out how to stay afloat. Although that's not true (is it?), my student teaching felt a bit like being thrown in the deep end after having merely READ about swimming, with a university supervisor, master teacher, and my own rising panic all screaming, "Swim better!" as I flailed about in a pool with 30 smallish but feisty sharks. Consequently, whenever I have student teachers, I've always tried to make things easier for them.

My current student teacher began the semester boldly independent, sure that he could be an amazing teacher right away, mostly by building rapport with kids, which meant talking about football. Without realizing it, he began pretty much copying my day-to-day lesson style and sometimes whole presentations, using my examples and pauses, borrowing far more from me than he imagined, because lesson planning is time consuming and he was teaching, going to school, and working ten hours a week: "I liked the test you're giving, so I'm going to use a lot of it" meant he was pretty much going to change my joke question to one about the Philadelphia Eagles. I suggested activities, had him spin them his way, let him use my homework, and let him believe that he was mostly original.

So. Student Teacher realizes his 4th period is beginning to turn on him (the worst feeling) with only two more days of school, today and next Monday. Finals are over today. "What do you have planned for Monday?" I ask.

"I don't know."

"You better think of something, because the natives are restless." With no test to dangle over young teens and as a teacher without much life experience and with not much originality, he's in deep water.

He hemmed and hawed and hung about, and said, "I wonder what I could do? I wonder what would keep them involved? Hmmmm."

Yes, he was flailing, hoping I'd rescue him. "The internet is loaded with ideas, M." Suddenly, I was working for the YMCA.

"I know! I'll teach them to count in German!" He looked at me for feedback. (Teach them to count in GERMAN?!? OK, that'll be interesting to about ten of them. But twenty sharks'll kill you just as dead as thirty. "If you were thirteen, would that interest you?" is normally what I would ask, pushing him to fix his lessons until the answer was "yes.")

"What incentive will you use? I think you are going to have to cave and buy candy."

"Yes, that's what I was planning to do." I tell him I'm glad he thought of that, because middle schoolers will do anything for a Jolly Rancher, but I think he told a fib. I hate fibs: my brain thought, "You and your German lesson are on your own. After ninety days of Lola-designed, -modified or -approved lessons, you are going to have to apply what you've learned at Backyard Swim."

I'll be in the room so there will be no blood, but fifty-five minutes feels a lot longer when you see fins.


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