In my 7 years of teaching, I’ve mostly taught mathematics and it’s still confusing for me to answer the question, “What do you teach?”
I taught an integrated 9th and 10th grade Algebra and Geometry course for 5 years and then switched to 11th grade to teach Algebra 2 and a surprise numeracy course, focused on supporting students with gaps in their mathematical education. At our school, 11th graders change their schedules at the semester and take an internship outside of school to expose them to the world of work in the United States. They also took an Early College course at our local community college. I ended up teaching sections of both of these classes, which was a fascinating look into what our 11th graders learn and the structures on that team that even those team members don’t necessarily see.
This year, we get a lot of kiddos and we get them early. Our PE classes are now offered year-long, but when students from both teams get put into the same section, we find ourselves over-enrolled. A new section is created of “Independent PE” for students who are older and have more credits (and can sign a waiver to waive the credits). I also end up teaching this section.
Because the class is basically a study hall, I have the freedom to design the course however I like. With limited time, I decide to survey the class. Many students say they want to learn more English. Some students (though notably, not all) want to go outside and play soccer and basketball. So we try and go outside, based on the weather and whether the actual PE teacher needs to take his class outside. I try and pull some of the English Language Development structures we have and modify some of the health curriculum that is offered to me. There are moments where I feel like students are engaged in asking each other questions and building friendships across differences and there are moments where I feel like the class is crashing and burning (to be fair, this is how I feel in most of my classes, so…)
A fun yet intriguing part of this course is getting to know the students. I am extremely lucky that all of them are 10th graders and, for better or for worse, know a little more English and have a little more experience with school. I start to have a sense of which students are more dedicated to school and which students want more support with English. And the students (as always) are able to read me right away. “Mister,” complains one student (on the third day), “we do the same thing every day. You put a picture on the board. Then you ask what do you notice? What do you wonder? Ask 4 people.” His voice sounds extremely close to mine. I suppose I don’t mind.